As speculation over an alleged anti-competition pact between Afriquia, Total, and Vivo Energy grows, the Competition Council “washes its hands” of rumors.
Rabat – As Moroccan energy companies and concerned observers await the report of the Competition Council (CC) on monopoly and anti-competition tendencies in Morocco’senergy market, news articles have circulated about the supposed existence of “secret pact” between some companies.
According to the reports, a fraudulent pact between “three major actors” in the Moroccan energy sector has been the source of most of the pricing crisis as well as other disruptions the Moroccan market has witnessed of late.
The three major actors are Afriquia, Total, and Vivo Energy.
In an article published in July on the contentious topic, Medias 24, a leading Moroccan economy-focused publication, appeared to suggest that the Competition Council has already reached its conclusion as to whether the three companies have breached the market’s governing regulations in terms of market competition and pricing.
“Today, we know a bit more” about the controversial topic, the article said. It went to detail, citing “sources close to the dossier,” how the council has uncovered the links between the three fraudulent companies and what the body plans to do to ensure that all three companies are severely punished.
“The council has already notified the concerned companies of its findings and has accorded them two months to respond” to the findings, according to Medias 24.
In another article on September 17, the paper revealed that, when confronted with the damning evidence against them, all the three companies acknowledged the existence of deal and said they are ready to cooperate with the council. The companies want to “negotiate” less painful sanctions on the basis of “non-contestation” whereby they plead guilty in hopes of alleging the council’s punitive measures, according to the article.
Building on this narrative, Moroccan outlet Le desk ran an article that pointed fingers at Aziz Akhannouch, Morocco’s Agriculture Minister and a shareholder in one of the companies, for his alleged involvement in the anti-competition pact at the heart of the system ailing the Moroccan energy sector. The pact, the article indicated, as it went on to lambast Akhannouch for having a hand in the “secret pact,” has been the source of the pricing instability witnessed of late in the Moroccan energy sector.
The reports garnered strong reactions on various social platforms.
Many commenters have vented their frustration at the existence of such a “ruinous” and “shameful” pact between three leading companies in the Moroccan market. Most commenters were particularly angry with Akhannouch, pointing out that his status as a minister comes with a principled commitment to promoting the public good.
One commenter, Youssef Chaoui, citing Medias September 17’s report, said yesterday in a Facebook post: “Afriquia, a subsidiary of Akwa Group, a company owned by Aziz Akhannouch, has just been found guilty in an ongoing investigation into anti-competition practices and pricing. The companies have recognized the facts and are opting for a non-contestation procedure. Now, the question everyone should be asking is: Is it acceptable to have a minister be involved with a company that cheats on the people?”
In response to the rumored findings and the public outrage against Akhannouch and his alleged accomplices, the council was quick to issue a statement to clarify where it currently stands with the ongoing investigations.
The statement, published earlier today, emphasizes that the investigation is still ongoing. While it suspects the existence of anti-competition practices in Morocco’s energy sector, the council noted, it has not yet reached any conclusions and cannot therefore give conclusive details on the identity of the companies or officials involved in the fraudulent practices.
In the statement, the council firmly “washed its hands of responsibility” in the findings and figures contained in the news reports that have been circulating.