Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has refuted the allegation that close to R100 million has been spent with nothing to show for it on the Centurion Aerospace Village (CAV), a vehicle for small and medium-sized businesses to enter the aerospace sector.
On Thursday opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow deputy minister of economic development Patrick Atkinson said CAV, envisaged as “a primary incubator of innovation and opportunity for growth and job creation” was “a vacant plot of barren land, characterised by a few piles of sand and enclosed by a rusted barbed wire fence,” seven years after it was launched.
In response the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the CAV was “fully operational with one tenant at present, a global supplier of aircraft components”.
Atkinson said the company referred to was Aerosud and it was not part of the CAV. Aerosud is headquartered on land adjacent to that identified for the CAV on the eastern side of AFB Waterkloof.
He added that R95 million had been spent to date on establishing what is supposed to be a high-tech manufacturing industrial park. DTI’s response to this is “supplier parks and clusters of this nature have a long start-up phase where provision of infrastructure of critical to success. For this reason, continued installation of bulk earthworks infrastructure will continue and pave the way for the entry of more tenants and the development of a successful supplier park”.
A forensic report into the CAV, commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry, and a heavily redacted copy of which was obtained by the DA following a Promotion of Access to Information Act request, reveals allegations of fraud, corruption and reckless tender awards, Atkinson said.
In the report a R65 million tender for bulk earthworks is said to be irregular as 10 of the 11 bidders were disqualified for spurious reasons. Other irregularities include the appointment of five service providers to the value of just under R85 million and that CAV management could not account for expenditure totalling R1 142 177.
When it was first launched in 2008, then Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa said the CAV would create a “significant number of jobs” and see small companies integrated into the aerospace industry.
Atkinson said there were no signs of this with only barren, fenced land and a fading sign to indicate the CAV.