Dozens of construction firms in watchdog’s spotlight

Dozens of construction firms in watchdog’s spotlight

More than 60 construction companies, including some 20 foreign groups, are being summoned for questioning by Greece’s Competition Commission in the context of a long and extensive investigation being conducted into the phenomena of public work tender distortion and cartel practices on the discounts offered, resulting in losses for the Greek state.

Well-informed sources say the construction firms have already started receiving the commission’s preliminary report so that they can prepare their response, as the watchdog’s plenary has planned to discuss the report on July 21, which is probably when the hearing of the case will also start.

Given the volume of the report which the companies’ legal departments have to handle (averaging at 1,000 pages per firm), contacts and talks have already started for an extension to be given so the companies will have adequate preparation time. The report is not binding for the independent authority’s plenary.

The investigation starts from 1989 and, according to sources, has identified the responsibility of certain political figures as well. It covers almost all construction enterprises that have undertaken a public project since then, including all foreign groups with activities in Greece. Therefore the watchdog considers most of the sector’s companies accountable and is not just focusing on the three or four majors that have dominated the market in the last few decades.

In February 2013, Competition Commission officers raided the offices of construction companies and confiscated documents, correspondence and computer hard discs, in the context of an investigation that came in response to a complaint to the watchdog by another major construction firm.

The case is seen as the most sensitive the Competition Commission has handled to date. As the issue touches on the distortion of tenders for projects co-funded by the European Union, many people fear that it may lead to a demand by Brussels for subsidy returns to the EU coffers.

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