South African Quality Institute(SAQI); South African Bureau of Standards (SABS): Annual Report; briefing on Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP) by National Research Foundation

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Trade, Industry and Competition

27 May 2002
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Meeting report

TRADE AND INDUSTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
29 May 2002
SOUTH AFRICAN QUALITY INSTITUTE(SAQI); SOUTH AFRICAN BUREAU OF STANDARDS (SABS): ANNUAL REPORT; BRIEFING ON TECHNOLOGY AND HUMAN RESOURCES FOR INDUSTRY PROGRAMME (THRIP) BY NATIONAL RESEARCH FOUNDATION

Chair:
Ms C September (ANC) [acting]

Documents Handed out:
Presentation by South African Quality Institute
Presentation by the National Research Foundation on THRIP
Presentation by the South African Bureau of Standards

SUMMARY
The South African Bureau of Standards as well as the South African Quality Institute briefed the Committee on their programmes and objectives. The NRF's presentation focused on the THRIP programme and highlighted their biggest challenge, which was to ensure that historically black universities and technikons were getting an improved share of the funds which currently are dominated by the historically white universities. The SAQI also highlighted issues of their relevance in terms of ensuring product quality. The challenge is for the institute to ensure that quality goods instead of counterfeits are provided on the market. The SABS also highlighted programmes which are part of the commercial branch of the institute. These include the standards division, international programmes as well as research and development.

MINUTES
Briefing by National Research Foundation
Dr Rocky Skeef, an NRF official, pointed out that as part of the Institute's structure, the NRF president reports to the Board and an organisation they are accountable to the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology(DACST). National research facilities under their control include the Ithemba Labs, SAAO, HartRao.

Three key functions of a research agency are: building a knowledge base, mission driven funding, and knowledge management. THRIP is aligned with key government/DTI policies.
THRIP is a key role player in the realisation of the following emerging policies like integrated manufacturing strategy as well as a macroeconomic reform strategy. He added that strengthening support for these programmes is an ongoing process. He also pointed out that THRIP objectives include facilitating the supply of aggregate high-level skills for industry amongst other things.

Dr Skeef explained THRIP funding criteria which includes the general access formula. This is R1 THRIP for R2 industry if all THRIP criteria are met. The special access formula on the other hand is R1 for R1 where at least one of the following THRIP priorities apply. At least five students involved of which 50% are black or female. He also pointed out that this project is mainly based in institutions of higher learning.

He informed the Committee that historically white universities by far dominated the funding with 78% going towards them whilst historically black universities and technikons have 4% each respectively. This is a situation which needs to be addressed by building capacity in the case of historically black institutions and also a refocus towards greater technikon funding as well.

Dr Skeef outlined some of THRIP’s successes. These include those in the automotive industry where the design and development of new Inlet Manifold with the University of Stellenbosch, Gemtech and Volkswagen South Africa yielded a total investment of R 1.3 billion. The outcome has been that Gemtech was awarded a R25 million-export contract to China for 2000 by VWSA with likelihood for renewal. In conclusion, he noted that the NRF is an important role player in the realisation of key government policy and THRIP is well positioned to enable these objectives in the medium to long term and should be funded more to make a more meaningful contribution in this regard.

Briefing by South African Quality Institute
Mr Roney Ndala, Managing Director of the South African Quality Institute, began his presentation by pointing out that the SQAM (Standards, Quality Assurance and Metrology) infrastructure includes physical metrology, standards development and conformity assessment amongst other things. He informed the Committee that the focus of the presentation will be on quality and in this regard, SQAM promotes quality of products, service and systems as a philosophy to improve business performance.

He noted that quality refers to fitness of purpose but is often used as a measure of reliability.
SQAM promotes quality awareness through quality forums, quality policy and the SAQI to advice government on quality policy and so forth.

The vision of SAQI is to be the driver of quality contributing towards the global competitiveness of the South African economy and the region as a whole. The objectives of the Institute include the following: to study, understand and define what is needed to support and make the National Quality System effective; facilitate the transfer of quality technologies and methodologies; manage SAQI effectively; and efficiently amongst other things.

SAQI services include health checks to measure the pulse of an organisation, quality forums to network with other business people and so forth. He also pointed out that SAQI has a newsletter called Workplace Quality which is designed for SMME's, workers and government Departments, etc on issues of quality. There would be a national quality week on 11-15 November 2002.

SAQI partners include the Association of Small Group Activities (ASGA); South African Society for Quality (SASQ); South African Auditors Training Certification Association (SAATCA) amongst others.

They have also established a close working relationship with the Proudly South African Campaign and Enterprise South Africa in Tshwane, whose focus is on competencies identified for growth. Lastly he pointed out that SAQI also links SMME's with big companies like Unilever through products.

Briefing by South African Bureau of Standards
Dr Randall Carolissen from the South African Bureau of Standards explained the context of the presentation: the social, economic and political relevance of the SABS.

In this regard, he pointed out as a start that the enabling legislation for the SABS to carry out its mandate includes the Standards Act of 1993, Trade Metrology Act of 1973 and the Road Traffic Act of 1996 amongst others.

He referred to the business context, which is shaped amongst other things by the globalisation process, people development, presidential imperatives, the Internet revolution, and so forth. Thirdly, he also talked about the regulatory context which includes the benefits like reduced disputation and transportation costs, consumer protection, etc. The regulatory appointments of the SABS include ICASA for telecommunications, SITA for information technology and NGB for gambling.

Lastly specific regulatory activities include, homologation and type approval, surveillance of requirements of (72) compulsory specifications, consignment specifications as well as verification amongst other things.

The scope of the activities from 1 April to 30 November 2001 included 20 812 audits or inspections; homologation for 44 trucks, cars and busses as well as sanctions which include 122 court cases,1594 warnings and 333 embargoes amongst other issues.

In the standards division, he pointed out that two alliances are important. The first one deals with the SABS resolution to continue and develop its membership of international standards organisations like IEC and ETSI amongst other things. It is also to take part in international standardisation forums like CAC, PASC, etc.

The second alliance is to increase involvement and take leadership in the SADCSTAN mechanisms to further the harmonisation of standards and technical regulations within SADC and operate the SADCSTAN secretariat. Activities in this division include, ongoing attention to the process time for the development of standards and maintaining them at better than international norms, ongoing transformation of the standards legacy into electronic format, etc. Presidential imperatives in this regard include SMME's development, Human Resources Development, HIV-AIDS, etc

Human Resources Development applies to SABS employees, industry, SADC, SMME'S as well as government institutions amongst others. The products and courses to improve competitiveness herein include SABS ISO 9001, SABS ISO 14000, etc.

He also talked about international programmes, which include international liaison in terms of which the SABS is a UN ECE working party 29 partner, also Codex Alimentarius membership, the NEPAD programme, etc.

Research and development projects include a National HIV/AIDS Management Standard, the effect of EMF of cell phones on human and animal tissues and systems. Also future fuel octane grading system for South Africa, a code of practice for commercial operators for the observation of marine mammals and other marine life as well as a standard for sisal fibers used in the automotive industry.

In conclusion, he pointed out that the SABS seeks to underpin social imperatives, lower technical barriers to trade, improve on international competitiveness, improve investors confidence through regulatory reforms and protect the interests of developing nations at international policy formulation forums.

Discussion
Ms F Mahomed (ANC) asked how these bodies encourage human resource development, incubation as well as address issues of gender and racial divides?

Dr Skeef noted that although a specific breakdown was not part of this presentation, the policy on these no longer operates according to the previous racial breakdown as we know them.

Mr P Nefolovhodwe (AZAPO) noted that it has become difficult for small-scale business to match the requisite formula for THRIP. How far has THRIP gone in improving access for these small businesses? Are there any NRF initiated research projects to tap into the development of SMME's?

Dr Skeef responded that they acknowledge the SMME funding problem, but the underlying philosophy of the THRIP programme is ensuring they get optimum output from the resources put in. To try and address the SMME finance problem, TIPTOP has been established. If a SMME proves to be viable, the TIPTOP programme will for instance subsidise the costs like the salary of a specialist which they might have hired to advise them on business.

Addressing SAQI Mr Nefolovhodwe asked whether there are procedures for an emerging entrepreneur like a chicken rearing farmer to be evaluated by SAQI so as to be competitive in the market?

He asked the SABS how long after one received SABS accreditation does the SABS check on the maintenance of the standards.

Ms B Ntuli (ANC) asked the SABS how they assist people who have access to low quality material like garments but want to be competitive in supplying the retail markets?

Mr S Rasmeni (ANC) asked, in the context of the Integrated Human Resource Development Strategy, what the THRIP programme is doing to help the Department of Labour in promoting skills development. He also asked the SABS what they do on issues of consumer protection.

Advocate Madasa (UCDP) asked the SABS what ‘quality’ is and asked if there is a danger of duplication of roles between them and the SAQI?

Ms C September (ANC) asked how the organisations co-operate on projects that overlap?

Dr Carolissen pointed out that this co-ordination is admittedly difficult. But there is a programme of the Department of Arts, Culture. Science and Technology which has begun to address these issues. He also pointed out that they have forums for multi-lateral engagements which they use in this regard.

Regarding quality, he pointed out that the SABS is encouraging the ‘first from the start approach’ where entrepreneurs are encouraged to have approved /accredited supply channels.

On consumer protection, he pointed out that previously, as part of the tendering process, a tender needed to be SABS approved. This was scrapped in the face of political correct measures like Black Economic Empowerment. However, quality problems in the building industry have necessitated a re-look into the situation. The DTI has approached the SABS to set up a consumer protection forum in this regard. On the issue of monitoring standards, he noted that two types of schemes are in operation, the first one is a service test which takes place three times a year and a second is a product test. Failure to comply in this regard means removal of the particular product or service.

Mr Ndala responded to the danger of overlapping activities by pointing out that as DTI institutions they have a forum through which they engage each other on issues of common or potential interest. On quality he pointed out that as he said earlier it can be defined as an object’s fitness of purpose.

Advocate Madasa (UCDP) asked the NRF what they intend to do to reverse the disproportionate funding criteria which currently favours the historically white universities.

Mr S Rasmeni (ANC) asked, in the context of the Integrated Human Resource Development Strategy, what the THRIP programme is doing to help the Department of Labour in promoting skills development.

Dr Skeef pointed out that the innovation fund is a programme for benefiting society through the technology developed as it is in turn used in the communities in various ways. Regarding the skewed funding of institutions of higher learning, he pointed out that as THRIP, they tried to reserve funds for the historically black institutions. However, the problem has been that of capacity, so this firstly needs to be rectified and then improvements can be expected in the funding allocations.

On the issue of skills development, he pointed out that it is important to remember that THRIP is about higher education training, but having said this, the Department of Labour has provided finance for science and engineering students, especially for those already involved in these industries.

He rounded off by saying that regarding incubators, the country is weak in this field and unfortunately it is also an issue which is outside the mandate of THRIP.

The meeting was adjourned.

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