DA claims on aerospace village baseless - DTI

Adam Wakefield, News24

Johannesburg - Democratic Alliance claims regarding the use of public money at the Centurion Aerospace Village (CAV) are baseless, the department of trade and industry said on Tuesday.

"The CAV is fully operational. At present there is one tenant, a company which is a global supplier of aircraft components," spokesperson Sidwell Medupe said in a statement.

Medupe said the company concerned was awarded a tender to supply an Airbus in an "open international tender".

Last week on Thursday, DA deputy economic development spokesperson Patrick Atkinson claimed all that existed at the CAV was a "vacant plot of land", seven years after its launch.

He said after parliamentary questions were posed to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, it was revealed that between the 2010/11 and 2014/15 financial years, costs totalled around R95m.

Davies's reply showed the DTI had commissioned a forensic report into the financial and administrative management of the CAV.

The report's findings, dated June 18 2014, included a tender of R65m for bulk earthworks and infrastructure being irregularly awarded with 10 of the 11 bidders disqualified for false reasons.

Medupe, on the same day, said the CAV was well placed to attract further tenants in the aerospace and defence sectors.

"Supplier parks and clusters of this nature have a long start-up phase where the provision of infrastructure is critical to their success," he said.

"It is for this reason that the continued installation of the bulk earthworks infrastructure will continue and pave the way for the entry of more tenants and the development of a successful supplier park."

'DTI pursuing criminal charges'

A total of R94m was transferred to the CAV, of which R67m had been utilised for bulk infrastructure and the construction of buildings.

"When the DTI first became aware of possible irregularities at the Centurion Aerospace Village (CAV) project, it immediately instituted an internal audit in August 2012," Medupe said.

"Thereafter an independent forensic audit was commissioned in July 2013. The final forensic audit reports were presented to the DTI in August 2014."

Disciplinary action was initiated against staff, including the immediate dismissal of the director responsible for the programme, though the employee concerned resigned prior to being dismissed.

"Nevertheless the DTI is pursuing criminal charges against the individual concerned with the intention of recovering funds as recommended in the audit," Medupe said.

"The legal services section of the DTI currently awaits a pre-trial conference date for these proceedings."

Disciplinary action was taken against a chief director, and a similar action was currently underway with another for neglecting their duties.

Criminal proceedings were also underway against a former department employee and a company, with a case opened at the Sunnyside police station in December 2013.

Davies said the department was fully committed towards the development of the CAV into a leading supplier park in the aerospace, defence, manufacturing, and service sector.

"It is important that in exercising their important constitutional oversight functions, opposition parties avoid the temptation to behave recklessly with freely available facts," he said.

Source http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/DA-claims-on-aerospace-village-ba...