Centurion Aerospace Village has nothing to show for $7m spent

When the Centurion Aerospace Village (CAV) was launched in 2008, it signified a South Africa that was moving forward into the 21st century with a project to grow its aerospace and aviation industries.

Now, seven years later, it has been revealed that despite 95m South African Rand ($7.1m, £4.5m, Aud$9.9)  being spent on the project, there remains no commercial activity nor any of the 1,000 jobs which were promised at the site.

The Centurion Aerospace Village was first initiated by South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in 2006 and gathered steam two years later.

It now seems the millions of rand invested on the CAV have been squandered with nothing to show for it.

Investigation by the Democratic Alliance

The Democratic Alliance’s deputy economic development spokesperson, Patrick Atkinson, highlighted the travesty of such a promising project as the CAV in a prepared statement delivered outside the site last week.

“Sadly, all that exists seven years later is a vacant plot of barren land, characterised only by a few piles of sand and enclosed by a rusted barbed wire fence,” he said.

Atkinson said he first became aware of the CAV after a parliamentary oversight visit to private aircraft components company Aerosud in January, where MP’s were told of the adjacent CAV that the DTI had been promising to create.

Atkinson responded by following up with inquiries during sittings of parliament.

“I then submitted a parliamentary question to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, asking the annual breakdown of the costs of establishing the CAV since its inception, the figure totalled 95 million [rand],” he said.

“I submitted a further parliamentary question asking the minister who the first so-called tenant was that allegedly moved in to the village in January 2012, he responded by saying Aerosud, a senior executive at Aerosud denied such a claim.”

Atkinson said he came to the conclusion that Aerosud has owned the land adjacent to the CAV for the past 15 years and does not form part of the CAV.

As a result of Atkinson’s inquiries and an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, the Democratic Alliance received a heavily redacted and censored forensic report into spending details on the Centurion Aerospace Village, which produced some disturbing findings.

Among the reports’ findings were a reasonable suspicion of fraud and corruption in catering expenditure alone of around R1.14m ($105,000), with a recommendation that the DTI report these activities to the police.

The report also found that a tender of R65m ($4.8m) for bulk earthworks and infrastructure was irregularly awarded with 10 of 11 bidders disqualified for false reasons, with the report highlighting that the disqualification of the  bidders would ‘not withstand scrutiny if challenged in a court of law’.

Findings of the report also included that approval by the CAV’s board, executive committee and management could not be found for the appointment of five service providers to the value of R84.99m ($6.3m).

Specifics refuted

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has indicated a ‘turn-around strategy’ was been put in place for the CAV when the discrepencies first came to light. He said the new direction encompassed a strengthened management and financial framework and the appointment of a suitable CEO as well as strengthening of the board members.

A further statement from the DTI described the allegations of the Democratic Alliance as ‘inaccurate’ and said the CAV was fully operational.

‘At present there is one tenant, a company which is a global supplier of aircraft components. The company concerned was awarded a tender to supply Airbus in an open international tender, requiring globally competitive capabilities,’ said the statement.

‘The CAV is well place to attract further tenants in the aerospace and defence manufacturing and related services sector. Supplier parks and clusters of this nature have a long start-up phase where the provision of infrastructure is critical to their success.’

The statement also said that disciplinary action and criminal proceedings had already been taken against one Chief Director of the CAV and a former DTI employee and that a case was opened with the South African Police Services at the Sunnyside Police Station in December 2013.

Centurion Aerospace Village from Orange Orbit Productions on Vimeo.