The Ohio Department of Transportation may have overpaid salt companies between $47 million and $59 million over the past decade.
Anticompetitive practices by two road salt companies and a misinterpretation of state law by the highway department cost Ohio tens of millions of dollars over 10 years, the state watchdog concluded Jan. 6.
The investigation by the state inspector general's office also determined that Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc. and Chicago-based Morton Salt Co. violated a commitment to use Ohio salt by substituting salt mined elsewhere.
The Ohio Department of Transportation may have overpaid the companies between $47 million and $59 million over the past decade, the report said, calling the companies' activities a "duopoly" of salt contracts.
"Although we failed to find evidence that the two companies communicated on salt bids, we did find evidence that Cargill's and Morton's practices have created a duopoly in Ohio's salt market," the report said.
Morton Salt said in a statement that the report's conclusions "are not supported by the facts" and that the company conducts business with integrity and within the law.
"In Ohio, and everywhere else, we compete independently and fairly under the bidding procedures set out by the relevant procurement officials," it said.
Cargill called the conclusions disappointing and pointed to the lack of a finding that the companies communicated with each other.
"Cargill never did or would talk with its competitors about bids," Cargill spokesman Mark Klein said.
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