Human Sciences Research Council Board: Adoption of nominee shortlist & Committee Report

Science and Technology

07 July 2009
Chairperson: Mr E Ngcobo (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson welcomed the Minister of Science and Technology to the meeting. The Department of Science and Technology reported that the Department had taken the Committee’s concerns and proposals in regard to the shortlist of candidates for appointment to the Board of the Human Sciences Research Council back to the Advisory Panel, who, during a teleconference, had agreed to include another four names suggested by the Department, four candidates from the existing board and three from other African countries, thus increasing the size and representivity of the shortlist, as required by the Committee. The majority of Members indicated their satisfaction with the revised shortlist. The Democratic Alliance, whilst accepting the procedure, still wished to note its reservations on three candidates. Since this would not be included in the Committee’s Report, the Democratic Alliance would make a declaration in the National Assembly once the Report had been introduced. The majority of Members resolved to accept the shortlist, and also resolved to adopt the Committee’s Report, as amended to clarify one point.

It was, however, noted that the Report could not be tabled for adoption by the National Assembly in the current session of Parliament, since this was the last day and it was not included in the agenda. The Minister of Science and Technology, Hon Naledi Pandor, indicated to the Committee that delays in the finalisation of the Board appointments would leave the Human Sciences Research Council in an invidious position, since the extension of the board’s term of office had been until the end of April only, and this could create problems. The Chairperson assured the Minister that he would pursue the matter with the Office of the Speaker and the ANC’s Chief Whip to address the challenge.

Meeting report

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC): Nomination and shortlist of candidates for appointment to the Board: Briefing by the Department of Science and Technology (DST)
The Chairperson acknowledged the presence of Hon Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology.

Dr Phil Mjwara, Director General, Department of Science and Technology, reported back to Members that the Department of Science and Technology had reconstituted the Minister’s Advisory Panel, as had been requested by the Committee, to reconsider the short list of the candidates nominated for appointment to the Board of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in terms of Section 5 of the HSRC Act, No 17 of 2008.  Although it had not been possible to get a representative from either the Department of Education or the Presidency, the remaining members of the Advisory Panel had a teleconference, which enabled most of them to link with the Department and reconsider the names for short listing, as well as the Committee’s comments.

Dr Mjwara noted that the original shortlist provided to the Committee had consisted of nine names. The Committee had said that it wanted a larger list. The Department set out the five names that it proposed for addition to the shortlist, but noted that one of these had regrettably since then passed away as a result of illness, leaving four names to be added. These names had addressed some of the concerns of the Committee. There were also four possible candidates who served on the existing Board and who had indicated their willingness to be appointed, and these names were set out. The Human Sciences Research Council Act (the Act) provided for three nominations of candidates from the rest of the continent, from which one could be selected, and these too were specified. The Department thus felt that this revised shortlist was a reasonable number from which a Board of between six and eleven members could finally be appointed.

The Chairperson said that he had looked through the list and through all the sections of the Act pertaining to Board appointments, and was satisfied that the Department had done what the Committee had requested.

Mr P Smith (IFP) concurred that the Department had done what the Committee had asked. He still believed that it was preferable to have a larger rather than a smaller shortlist, to give the Minister more choice.

Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) submitted that she was satisfied because there was now good gender representation in the shortlist.

Ms M Shinn (DA) submitted that the current list was more balanced than the previous one, and recorded her approval.

Ms S Kalyan (DA) requested clarity whether her party would be allowed to comment and make its reservations about the list known before the Minister finally approved that list.

The Chairperson responded that the Minister was present, so that she could comment.

Ms Kalyan submitted that her party, the Democratic Alliance, was happy with the process that had been followed, but had some reservations about certain nominees. A named candidate had a degree that was not in a purely scientific field, and there were some reservations whether this qualification would add value to the HSRC Board. The DA also had strong reservations about the ability of one of the new nominees and one of the existing Board Members to serve the HSRC, given the Act’s requirements for qualifications and experience.

The Chairperson responded that these comments had been noted.

The Chairperson moved that the Committee should adopt the shortlist of candidates for nomination to the Board, and this was duly done by the majority of Members.

The Chairperson asked that the Committee move to adopt the Report on the short listing, which would be forwarded to the Officer of the Speaker.

Ms L Jacobus (ANC) asked when the Committee' report would be considered, pointing out that this was the last day of the current session, and that the joint sitting had been scheduled to consider only one item.

Hon Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology, submitted that if the report was not concluded by the National Assembly on that day the HSRC would continue without a Board. The Board’s tenure had already expired last year, but had been extended to April of this year. To require the Board to wait until August would put the HSRC in an ambiguous position, and would make matters difficult for the executive. She wondered if the Chairperson could not approach the Office of the Speaker or the ANC’s Chief Whip to try to ensure that the matter could be dealt with.

The Chairperson expressed regret over the dilemma, stating that similar situations had arisen before but that he would approach the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chief Whip to find out what could be done. He too was worried about the lacuna until August if the shortlist of the Board could not be confirmed during this session.

Mr Smith (ANC) expressed surprise at the fact that there was no Board currently in place. He had been given to understand, from the Department's briefing at a previous meeting, that although the Board's term had indeed expired, members had agreed to stay on until they were replaced.

The Chairperson also asked for clarity on whether the Board was still in place, although he knew their replacement was long overdue.

Minister Pandor responded that the Board's term had been extended to 30 April only.

A DA Member asked whether the reservations would be added to the Committee's Report

The Chairperson responded that the DA's concerns would be minuted, but the draft Report would not be altered.

Ms L Jacobus (ANC) noted that the Chairperson was correct in saying that it would be minuted, but also pointed out that these concerns would not be included in the Report, as this was contrary to the usual practice in Committee Reports.

Ms Kalyan said that in this case, once the Report had been tabled in Parliament, the DA would make a declaration.

Ms Jacobus referred the Committee to paragraph 2 of the Report. She commented that it was not quite clear what “the Department’s restrictions” were. She suggested this too be set out in the Minutes.

Minister Pandor suggested that perhaps the Report should be amended, to clarify this point. She proposed that the last line of paragraph 2 should read that the Committee was concerned that the list that was submitted by the Department did not take account of the full set of criteria set out in the Act ,and that the Committee had recommended that the number be increased. This seemed to express the views of the Committee more clearly.

Members agreed with this suggestion, and adopted the Report, as amended in this respect.

The meeting was adjourned.

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