Meeting SummaryDelegates of the Islamic Republic of Iran parliament met with the Public Works and Science and Technology Portfolio Committee to establish friendly working cooperation between South Africa and Iran with focus on information on Development and Construction. Since the collapse of Apartheid in
The National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) noted that its 2009/10 targets had not been met for PhD graduates in Science, Engineering and Technology; Global Research Publications; US registered patents; High-Tech Manufacturing exports; and the percentage of Knowledge-Based jobs in the workforce.
NACI had delivered key advice on the implications of the African Science and Technology Bilateral Agreements on the South African economy and National System of Innovation; the impact of public understanding of Technology; the funding environment of SA Biotechnology; comparative studies of Biotechnology capacity; Technology balance of payments as a Science and Technology indicator; the Department of Science and Technology’s 10 year Innovation Plan; and the Green Paper on National Strategic Planning.
NACI’s advice for the Biotechnology Sector included improvement of career pathways and support through the Department of Trade and Industry’s Technology and Human Resources for Industry (THRIP) programme. NACI also advised that the Department of Science and Technology should facilitate meetings of National Biotechnology Advisory Committee with officials from the Departments of Agriculture, Health, Forestry and Fisheries; establish a Monitoring and Evaluation System for the Biotechnology Sector; and compile a biennial electronic database for all relevant Biotechnology Funds and supporters.
NACI’s view on the 10-year Innovation Plan was that cost estimates should be included in the Implementation Plan; Grand Challenges should be prioritised over the Medium Term Strategic Framework; and that as custodian, the Department of Science and Technology should adopt a cross-cutting Strategic Framework to ensure that priorities of the plan were congruent with priorities of other line departments.
The way forward for NACI was for the NACI Act to be amended to allow for the independence of NACI to optimise its influence; to develop its profile; to encourage capacity for in-house research; for alignment and engagement with the National Planning Commission; and for broader advice on strategies and challenges in Science and Technology.
Members asked why the 10-year Innovation Plan had failed to meet its targets and if the targets would be re-set; if NACI was re-examining fundamental questions on the Space and Energy Grand Challenges; and if the Biotechnology Strategy had any chance of achieving its goal of becoming one of the top three Biotechnology countries. In response, NACI explained that the immediate problem was related to the development of the Technology Innovation Agency which caused four Biotechnology Innovation Centres to be closed. Thus, people in the pipeline for Biotech jobs saw very little prospect in the long term.
Members also asked what the various public perceptions of Biotechnology were; what impact the Dinaledi Education Project had on matriculation results and how NACI advised the Department of Basic Education to improve the matriculation results; and if NACI could provide detail on the race, gender and class of graduates who decided not to pursue post graduate training in Science and Technology.
Members asked how NACI would contribute towards the new Ministerial Review Committee; how NACI would align the Space Council with the Space Agency’s legislation and ambitions; if NACI had advised on Eskom’s Build Programme and how South Africa would cut 40% of gas emissions by 2020 when Eskom’s Build Programme included building fossil fuel based stations until 2017; if Biotechnology had a policy about GMO products; and for clarification on what needed to be revised in the National Research Foundation model.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) then presented its Annual Report and audited Financial Statements 2009/10. Highlights included the launch of SumbandilaSat, completion of the KAT-7, a precursor array for construction of the MeerKAT, implementation of DST’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies RDI Strategy (HySA). DST continued to fund the South African Nuclear Human Asset and Research Programme to develop the appropriate human asset and research activities and a draft document was in preparation for Bioeconomy to include human, agriculture, aquatic, industrial, mining and environmental aspects of the Bioeconomy. The discovery of Australopithecus Sediba was a scientific breakthrough for the African Origins Platform and expected to yield up to 40 scientific publications.
The Technology Innovation Agency Board of Directors and interim Chief Executive Officer had been appointed and draft regulations of the National Intellectual Property Management Office were published for public comment.
DST continued to generate funding from various international sources for capacity and research development and DST’s postdoctoral programme supported 43 postdoctoral fellows at Higher Education Institutions and 287 Honours students in Science, Engineering and Technology. DST’s Youth-Into-Science initiative supported 204 950 students.
The South African Research Network (SANReN) facilitated collaboration between the major research institutions and DST continued to support programmes which brought income from raw materials such as the Flourochemicals and Titanium.
DST continued to spend 98% of its budget and had achieved an unqualified audit.
Meeting with visiting Delegation from the Parliament of the Islamic
The Chairperson welcomed the Iranian Parliamentary Delegation on Construction and Development. Dr Mohammed Reza Alborzi, Deputy Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in
Mr Mohammed Ali Rezaee (Member of Parliament): Head of Urban Construction and Development Committee; Islamic Republic of Iran asked for statistics on SA’s housing problem and how SA was solving housing challenges.
Mr C Kekana (ANC; Portfolio Committee on Public Works) said that SA’s unemployment rate was 21% and that the government provided money for housing for these people. Between 1995 and 2010, 2.4 million houses had been built and it was projected that a further 30 years was required to accommodate the backlog of housing in SA.
The Chairperson said that the DST had a 10-year Innovation Plan to create a ‘Knowledge Economy’ through, amongst other avenues, development in technology, education, health, security and housing. The Department of Public Works (DPW) constructed and maintained the buildings.
Mr Mohammad Hossein Moghimi (Member of Parliament): Commission on Development of Construction asked how Technology and Innovation in SA had progressed construction and development of housing projects.
The Chairperson acknowledged
Ms M Shinn (DA; Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology) added that the CSIR technology had enabled relatively fast construction of comfortable, low income housing of 40 square metres which used, on average, a ton less concrete than previous methods of building. A pilot settlement in Kleinmond, near
Dr Alborzi asked if the government was paid before or after construction of the housing.
Ms Shinn said that the Reconstruction and Development Housing Project for poor people in SA, was financed by the government.
Mr Moghimi asked if SA experienced urban periphery problems around major cities, what solutions were adopted to improve these problems and how older buildings were maintained. He noticed that
Mr Doman (DA; Portfolio Committee on Public Works) said that SA had a problem of urbanisation. People were flocking to the cities and required housing and schools. Municipalities assisted with building and creating services to improve the living conditions during the urbanisation process. He explained that the Department of Public Works erected and maintained government buildings such as parliament, schools and post offices through private contractors, providing jobs to citizens which in turn affected the economy. Half a million temporary jobs, such as cleaning of side-walks, were also created. Two challenges were maintaining the Asset Register - when land and buildings were sold or rebuilt, and the issue of tenders, where huge amounts of money were made available for tendering of buildings under the pressure of time.
Mr Moghimi also asked for input on the status of SA’s inter- and intra-city public transportation.
Ms M Dunjwa (ANC; Portfolio Committee on Science & Technology) said that questions on rural development and on improving the state of public transport would be more competently answered by the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlement and the Portfolio Committee on Transport, respectively. Apart from the underground Gautrain in
Mr Kekana said that upgrading of the transport infrastructure, including airports and seaports for the World Cup, had aided SA’s economic growth potential. With the global decline, the transport infrastructure was not coping.
The Chairperson said that on their visit to
Dr Alborzi said that one of the important incentives for progress and freedom for the Iranian people from the Tsarist regime had been external sanctions and pressure.
Ms Dunjwa asked how the 13 universities impacted on social conditions in
Dr Alborzi said that currently there were three million students at universities in
Mr Kekana asked if
Dr Alborzi said that the current rate of unemployment was 10% and was expected to be 7% by the end of the 5-year Economic Plan.
Mr Kekana asked who owned
Dr Alborzi said that their oil reserves were now nationalised with government owning all petrol and oil reserves.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation for sharing information and for their will to establish a good working relationship and looked forward to continued engagement during their visit to
Dr Alborzi said that through the discussion of issues with the Committee it was clear that a friendship group for exchange of information could be achieved. An official invitation to the honourable Members for their visit to
National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) 2009/10 Annual Report and audited Financial Statements
Dr Khungeka Njobe, Council Member of NACI; Group Executive: Research and Development Outcomes and Strategic Human Capital Development, explained that NACI consisted of Council Members who served NACI on a part-time basis supported by a full-time body, the Secretariat, which was headed by a senior official, Professor Krish Bharuth-Ram. Dr Steve Lennon, who was the Chair of NACI and worked part-time for Eskom, could not be present at the meeting. The NACI Act stipulated that a CEO would act as the Director-General of NACI, but in practical terms, currently the Head of the Secretariat led the day to day activities. The Act had to be amended to clarify the role of the Head of the Secretariat.
Professor Krish Bharuth-Ram, Head of NACI Secretariat; NACI said that the mandate of NACI was to advise the Minister of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and through her Cabinet advise on the role and contribution of Innovation in improving the quality of life of South Africans and promoting economic development and international competitiveness.
NACI’s advice to DST emanated from NACI Councilors’ consensus view and was extracted from discussions, workshops and national and international studies. Five specialist Advisory Committees assisted Council in generating advice. These were the National Biotechnology Advisory Committee (NBAC), Science, Engineering and Technology for Women Committee (SET4W), Indicators’ Reference Group (IRG), Innovation for Development Committee (INNOV4DEV) and the NACI Council for Higher Education Task Team (NACI-CHE). Advice was directed at coordination, stimulation of and within the National System of Innovation (NSI); the structure, governance and coordination of the S&T system; revision of Innovation policy; strategies for promotion of Technology Innovation; identification of Research and Development (R&D) priorities; and funding of the S&T system.
General Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) had steadily increased from 1990 to R19 billion in 2007. NACI’s target for 2015 was R35.8 billion and for 2018 it was R53.1 billion. As a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product, Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D aimed to be 1.5% by 2015 and 2% by 2018.
Output results of GERD
Matriculate mathematics results were not encouraging. In 2009, of the total of matriculates sitting the exams, only 5% of matriculates passed with 70% or above and only 16% of matriculates passed with 50% or above.
The number of Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) graduates at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) continued to increase and it appeared it would reach the target of 35% of all graduates at all HEIs by 2018. However, SET PhD graduates (700 graduates in 2010) would fall well short of the target of 3000 by 2018. The number of Global Research Publications and US registered patents also fell short of NACI’s target for 2018.
High-Tech Manufacturing exports of Total Manufacturing Exports had not increased significantly and the percentage of Workforce in Knowledge-Based jobs had increased from 10% in 200 to around 19% in 2010. If the trend continued, the target of 50% would not be reached. At best the percent of Knowledge-Based jobs in the workforce would reach 25% by 2018.
Key advice was delivered on: implications of African S&T bi-lateral agreements on SA economy and NSI; the impact of public understanding of Technology; funding environment of SA Biotechnology; Biotechnology capacity – comparative studies; Technology balance of payments as an S&T indicator; DST’s 10 year Innovation Plan; and the Green Paper on National Strategic Planning. Of the advice given by NACI between 2004 and 2009, 19 out of 26 sets of advice were utilised in policy and/or strategic development.
NACI’s advice for the Biotechnology Sector included the need to improve career pathways for graduates as well as support for students through the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)’s Technology and Human Resources for Industry (THRIP) programme. NACI also advised that DST should facilitate meetings of the National Biotechnology Advisory Committee (NBAC) with officials from the Departments of Agriculture, Health, Forestry and Fisheries; establish a Monitoring and Evaluation System for the Biotechnology Sector; and compile biennial electronic data base for all relevant biotech funders and supporters.
NACI’s view on the 10-year Innovation Plan was that cost estimates should be included in the Implementation Plan; Grand Challenges should be prioritised over the Medium Term Strategic Framework; and that DST, as custodian, should adopt a cross-cutting Strategic Framework to ensure that priorities of the Innovation Plan were congruent with priorities of other line Departments.
Expenditure of 2009/10 amounted to R13 785 000. This was a substantial increase compared to the previous year and was mainly due to the relocation of NACI office from DST to premises in Persequor Technopark in September 2009.
The way forward for NACI was for the NACI Act to be amended for the independence of NACI so that it could optimise its influence; develop its profile to encourage capacity for in-house research; align and engage with the National Planning Commission; and for broader advice on strategies and challenges in S&T.
Ms Shinn asked if the 10-year Innovation Plan was failing to meet its targets because it was over-optimistic in light of what could be achieved with available resources and education back-log. She also asked if NACI would re-set the Plan, or if matriculates, post graduates and research chairs would be fast-tracked.
Dr Njobe said that the targets were ambitious but that countries SA was competing with were performing at those targets. NACI would revise them down, but the vision for the country was to aim to be at the level of SA’s competitors. NACI advised on how to improve performance to achieve targets and in doing so had to interrogate inefficiencies. A huge gap in terms of targets was coordination of systems to achieve the targets. The Minister had started to pull together a S&T Innovation Committee so that players in S&T Innovation could work together more closely. External factors, such the global economic climate, had reduced the spend on R&D. The question on what to do about the targets of the 10-year Innovation Plan going forward was currently being debated by NACI.
Ms Shinn asked if the Biotechnology Strategy had any chance of achieving its goal of becoming one of the top three Biotechnology countries by 2018.
Professor Jennifer Thomson, Council Member of NACI; Molecular and Cell Biology at UCT, said that this goal had been quietly dropped. A recent highly specific question-based NACI workshop identified gaps in the pipeline, the most obvious being job opportunities in the Biotechnology field. The immediate problem was related to the development of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) which caused four Biotechnology Innovation Centres to be closed. Thus, people in the pipeline for Biotech jobs saw very little prospect in the long term. Furthermore, should the targets for PhD students be met, the problem persisted that there were few jobs in Biotech available. The other problem was the Regulatory Framework for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) which prevented product from reaching the market. Without people and product, SA would never be a leading country in Biotechnology.
Ms Shinn asked if the budget had increased for the current year.
Professor Bharuth-Ram said that the budget had not increased although his position as Head of Secretariat had created an extra item in the budget. Going forward, NACI planned to increase in-house expertise to minimise out-sourcing of research and had already requested additional posts for NACI to Human Resources at DST.
Ms Shinn asked if NACI was re-examining fundamental questions on Space and Energy outlined in their respective Grand Challenges as NACI had responded to the Budget Speech earlier in the year that their relevance to SA required review.
Dr Njobe said that the 10-year Grand Challenge at the time of the new Government reflected the priorities of the Government at that time. NACI was asked to give advice to the Minister when there were no implementation plans in place. One of the outcomes of the exercise was that further analysis would be necessary once implementation plans had been detailed. NACI would advise the Minister on aligning current priorities, their relevance and their projected relevance at the end of the 10-year Plan.
Ms Shinn said that she had noted that only one member of NACI had been included in the Ministerial Review Committee. She asked what contribution NACI would be making towards the Review Committee.
Dr Njobe said Professor Cheryl De La Rey, who was one of the longest serving members of NACI, was on the Review Committee and would ensure a strong link with NACI. A few days previously, NACI had deliberated extensively on the input it would make to the Review Committee. NACI would systemically forward all relevant information on its research and advice to the Review Committee.
Professor Bharuth-Ram added that the Chairman of NACI had presented to the Ministerial Committee on the work that NACI had done in the past and would continue to engage with them.
Ms Dunjwa asked what the various public perceptions of Biotechnology were.
Professor Thomson said that public perception was almost non-existent. NACI was planning a project to use the media to educate the public on Biotechnology.
Ms Mocumi asked how NACI was encouraging learners to follow science and mathematics subjects in order to become engineers and technicians.
Ms Dunjwa asked what impact the Dinaledi Education Project had on assisting students with their matriculation results and how NACI advised the Department of Basic Education to improve the matriculation results.
Professor Bharuth-Ram said that the Dinaledi Schools had been a dramatic success and the challenge was to implement the project on a national scale. This would require funding and teachers with the required skills. He was pleased to note that the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHE) and DST were working closely to solve problems. While the number of first degree S&T graduates was adequate, there was a huge drop in the number of S&T post graduates. NACI had advised that where there was cross-cutting of responsibilities, the Minister and officials of the Department should work together towards a coordinated national solution to the problems. It was pleasing that at the last NACI –CHE Task Team meeting, the Director General from the DHE attended and made a presentation to NACI.
Ms Mocumi asked if the NACI budget was audited.
Professor Bharuth-Ram said that NACI Finance Management was a sub-department of the DST and therefore NACI did not have separate audited finance statements. The DST Finance Officer ensured that NACI strictly followed the dictates of the Public Finance management Act (PFMA).
Ms Dunjwa asked if NACI could provide a detailed data list on drop-outs of graduates in terms of race, gender and class.
Professor Bharuth-Ram said that it was an excellent request and NACI would set in motion obtaining the required data.
The Chairperson asked why the Space Council was floating alone under the DTI and how NACI would align the Space Council with the development of legislation on the Space Agency and DST’s ambitions for the development of S&T. The Space Council was an affiliate of the Astronautical Body which was bringing the 62nd International Astronautical Congress to SA the following year. If the Congress was to be organised by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) which had no competence with S&T, DST’s role would be unclear and the conference would possibly be chaotic. He urged NACI to intervene.
Professor Bharuth-Ram said that he was aware of the Congress and was part of the team, including the Director General from DST, which won the bid to host the Congress in
The Chairperson asked if NACI had advised the Minister or Cabinet on Climate Change and on Space Technology, as SA would be hosting both the Cop 17 on Climate Change and the Space Technology Congress in SA the following year. He expected that NACI would play an important role in these two conferences and also that Parliament would be addressed on the progress.
Dr Njobe said that NACI had been involved with Climate Change but that the National Committee on Climate together with its stakeholders covered the advice space in that respect. NACI had not really engaged on Space issues and the Member’s comments would be fed back to the NACI Council for engagement.
The Chairperson said that he was made to believe that the DTI was organising the Congress.
Professor Bharuth-Ram said that this particular issue was one of the problems NACI had identified. In NACI’s recommendations to all departments, it strongly recommended a coordinated approach to national priorities. All departments should sit at one meeting and come out with a National Plan with clear responsibilities for each department.
The Chairperson asked if NACI had advised DST on Eskom’s Build Programme whereby two new nuclear power stations were in the pipeline to be built. PBMR had failed because of bad planning, not bad technology and NACI was tasked with standards to safeguard the Government against mistakes second time round with nuclear engagement. He also questioned how SA would cut gas emissions by 40% by 2020 (Cop 16 commitment) when Eskom’s Build Programme would include mainly building of fossil fuel based stations until 2017. He believed that NACI should already have commented on the lack of renewable energy being used in the country.
Professor Bharuth-Ram said that the Department of Energy had released the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2) document for comment the previous week. The Plan advocated that by 2032, 16% of energy would be nuclear energy, 18% energy would be renewable and coal would be reduced to 48% (from over 90%).
NACI and the Education Committee of the Nuclear Industry Association of SA together had made predictions as to what skills were required for a viable Nuclear Energy Programme that was safe, secure and used a large percentage of locally manufactured parts to succeed. Two scenarios had been proposed: one for an additional 10 Gigawatts and another for additional 90 Gigawatts of nuclear power by 2032. Once the IRP document was officially finalised, they would revisit their Resource Plan. They were already working on Capacity Development Programmes for S&T skills required in the Energy Industry through coordinating University Programmes on Nuclear Energy Engineering as well as at Universities which did not offer Engineering but offered other S&T skills.
The Chairperson asked if Biotechnology had a policy about society-sensitive issues, such as with GMO products.
Professor Thomson said that the Biotechnology GMO Act had been revised and a body within the Department of Agriculture as well as a multi-Departmental Executive Committee and a Registrar were involved with policy decisions.
The Chairperson asked what criteria NACI used to create the 2018 targets for each category outlined in the Annual Report.
Dr Njobe said that the 2018 targets were in the 10-year Innovation Plan.
Professor Bharuth-Ram added that the 10-year Innovation Plan was set by comparing SA’s economic development with similar size developing countries and then comparing PhD graduate output. There was a strong correlation between a country’s economy and its PhD graduate rate. On doing these comparisons, it was found that SA had to increase its PhD output five-fold. Without funding for crucial training of quality graduates, all economic development plans would fall short.
The Chairperson said that NACI had indicated that the National Research Foundation (NRF) model needed revising. He asked for clarification on what needed to be revised. The target for PhD graduates would not be realised as long as disadvantaged people needed to feed their families. There were many pockets of government funding for skills development. These were not making a meaningful impact because they were not competent at directing what was required for equipping the people of SA with skills and for developing a knowledge economy. He believed NRF should have the responsibility of pooling the pockets of government funding and direct skills development and the human capital knowledge economy. He suggested that NACI advise that all departments with the same problem should be channeled through one professional body with the personnel and competency to deal with those issues and thereby realise value for money.
Dr Njobe said that NACI did not perform a full review of the NRF funding but rather on how it related to African Countries based on the Bilateral Agreements with DST. NACI suggested that instead of a one-size-fits-all scenario, each country should be treated differently and tailor-funded appropriately.
The Chairperson said that on their visit to the CSIR, they found that there were many focused researchers on various Renewable Energy Technologies but that the research was uncoordinated. He had asked researchers at CSIR why they had not extended their research to development of wind farms to harness the energy of SA’s stormy seas and CSIR had replied that their research only went as far as it was funded. He felt that it was the role of NACI to approach the Minister to make funds available for harnessing Renewable Energy from the ocean.
Dr Njobe said that NACI was beginning to address the issue of Renewable Energy and NACI’s intervention would be in the following year’s report. The strategic questions asked by Members helped NACI identify where they could intervene. The Director-General from DST would possibly answer some of the questions in more detail in the next presentation.
Department of Science & Technology Annual Report & Financial Statements 2009/10
Dr Phil Mjwara: Director General: DST, outlined DST’s key objectives which were to develop innovation capacity of the science system and contribute to socio-economic development, to develop human capital for Research Development and Innovation (RDI) to build world-class infrastructure and position SA as a strategic international RDI partner and destination. Sub-programmes of RDI were Space Science; Hydrogen and Energy; Innovation Instruments and Planning; and Biotechnology and Health.
The launch of SumbandilaSat in September 2009 in
All seven dishes of the MeerKAT precursor array (known as KAT-7) were now in place and the first phase of the MeerKAT construction in 2010 had created 600 local jobs. The MeerKAT was the reference design for the mid-band Square Kilometer Array (SKA) which would be the world’s largest radio telescope. The SKA project was expected to cost €1.5 billion. KAT-7. At the 2009 bid, DST secured SADC support to host the international SKA Project. 19 countries and 55 scientific institutions had joined the project and DST was in the process of commissioning the dishes. If
The KAT-7, a precursor array for construction of the MeerKAT, was completed in early 2010. The first phase of the MeerKAT construction in 2010 had created 600 local jobs.
DST’s hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies RDI Strategy (HySA) was implemented and a R100 million fund was launched by Anglo Platinum to promote commercialisation of Platinum Group Metal technologies.
DST continued to fund the South African Nuclear Human Asset and Research Programme (R15 million) to develop the appropriate human asset and research activities.
A draft document was in preparation for Bioeconomy, which in the past was referred as ‘farmer-to-farmer’, to be re-structured to include human, agriculture, aquatic, industrial, mining and environmental aspects. The South African HIV/AIDS and Innovation Platform (SHARP) was launched to consolidate and promote pioneering research in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
DST was still trying to build capacity to accelerate the commercialisation of DST’s R&D. The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) Board of Directors and interim CEO were appointed and the entities had been integrated into TIA. Draft regulations of the National Intellectual Property Management Office were published for public comment and DST was currently rolling out the offices of technology transfer.
DST’s International Cooperation and Resources (ICR) had continued to progress and had secured R338 million from foreign sources, which was R108 million over target and had identified 100 new bilateral projects. Co-funded projects in Africa included partnerships with
The Australian Government’s Overseas Aid Programme provided expertise for future science centres and USAID had approved R1.2 million for Science and Technology capacity development initiatives.
DST’s postdoctoral programme supported 43 postdoctoral fellows (63% white, 37% black, 63% female and 37% male) at higher education institutions, 287 Honours students in science, engineering and technology (87% black and 58% female). DST’s Youth-Into-Science initiative supported 204950 students.
The discovery of a hominid species, Australopithecus Sediba, which was almost two million years old, was a scientific breakthrough for the African Origins Platform and expected to yield up to 40 scientific publications.
DST successfully implemented the National Nanotechnology Strategy for Research and Public Engagement and together with the National Research Foundation (NRF) successfully established the High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy Centre at
The South African Research Network (SANReN), DST’s high bandwidth research network had been finalised. It connected all major cities and facilitated collaboration between the major research institutions around those cities. (see pg 12 of the presentation).
DST collaborated with other government Departments to optimise R&D and the socio-economic impact of Science and Technology in the country. Service delivery achievements included wire mesh networks of broadband roll-out in
DST continued to support programmes which brought income from raw materials such as the Flourochemicals (for aerospace) and Titanium (export of final product) and Titanium Dioxide (paint industry).
DST continued to spend 98% of its budget and had achieved an unqualified audit. In conclusion, DST had met most of its targets and Human Capital Development continued to be a priority.
The Chairperson asked for clarification on how DST’s complete audit was unqualified when the
Ms Shinn asked if the Annual Report had been structured differently to previous years where the targets and shortfalls were clearer and why 56 reports were incomplete.
Dr Mjwara said that he was aware that it was difficult to monitor and track targets without the full report and that all the information would be made available to the Committee. The format was changed to decrease costs as the number of pages would increase from 117 to 320 pages if all the tables were included. In DST’s rush job to fast track predetermined quarterly objectives and targets, 56 reports were not aligned with the Corporate Strategy. Internal process mechanisms to track and monitor performance was started this year. The Auditor-General stipulated that these had to be indicated upfront and that they would not express an opinion until 2011/2012. This year they would only indicate their view, which they did, in the Annual Report.
Ms Shinn asked if under-expenditure of R20 million in Administration, R15 million in International Resources, and the R27.5 million in Socio-Economic programme was due to the DST being under-sourced or unable to keep up with the pace.
Dr Mjwara said that under-expenditure was partly because DST was a victim of its own success. Due to the recession in 2009, each government department was asked to identify where they could make savings. DST’s DG had identified where DST could save. R80 million was saved due to minimisation of travel and catering and was returned to the fiscus. In addition, DST had under-spent on its budget because reports from entities had to be satisfactory before DST allocated money to them. Sometimes reports from Institutions and Universities were delayed. The CFO could elaborate on the percentage breakdown for Good and Services and what was to be transferred at a later stage.
Ms Malekgoloane Malapane, Chief Financial Officer: DST, said that currently the way that the financials were classified was ‘per programme’. She would do the calculations and provide them to the Committee the following day.
Ms Shinn asked why high level positions were vacant.
Dr Mjwara said that DST had advertised for the CEO position and a candidate was found, but on reference check the candidate was not suitable. The position for R&D had subsequently been filled. Other high level profile people who had left had taken higher paying jobs. One person had become the CEO at the South African Bureau of Standards and another had become Group Executive at the Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA.
Ms Shinn asked why the Department of Defence (R34 000) and the Presidency (R44 000) had not paid the DST for DST’s services.
Ms Malapane said that debt was always in the process of being collected or created, and DST was consistent with debt collection. DST’s debt arose from inter-governmental debt that related mostly to employees leaving DST and joining other departments.
Ms Shinn asked for clarification on why people at high levels of Biotechnology had left DST when the Biotech Strategy was for
Dr Mjwara said that in DST’s view, the migration of Biotech Innovation Centres into TIA should not have affected the development of the Biotech Strategy (now called Bioeconomy). There had been no instruction from DST to the Board of the TIA that the Biotech Programmes had to be scaled down. In fact, the aspirations for Biotechnology in SA had increased. DST was revising the Biotechnology Strategy to examine which programmes had worked or not worked and a Biotechnology audit was being conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council.
Ms Shinn asked if DST was committed to meeting the target for the number of Research Chairs over the medium framework. She had sent a letter to DST asking for a progress report and the likelihood of the Research Chairs target being met.
Dr Mjwara said that Research Chairs was an initiative instrument which was working well in terms of building the research capacity within Higher Education Institutions. DST would seek additional funding within DST and Institutions where there was not sufficient funding. DST would make useful announcements on the progress within the following months.
Dr Molapo Qhobela, Deputy Director-General: Human Capital and Knowledge Systems, DST, added that there was an unwavering commitment to grow the number of Research Chairs, to grow the support given to the established research communities and to change the equity profile of the research community to ensure that it talked to research which did not only support the National Research Development Strategy but responded to the needs of the country as a whole.
Ms Dunjwa asked who was involved in the public engagement of the Nanotechnology Public Engagement Plan and if ‘public’ referred to public in Higher Education Institutions or the public in the rural areas.
Dr Mjwara said that DST was finalising its Space Strategy and would share the documents with the Committee before finalising it. DST was sensitive about what technology could be shared with the South African public as well as internationally. The Agency for Advancement of Science and Technology had the responsibility of finalising the contract which aimed to raise awareness to the general public.
Mr Nonkanyana asked if there was a strategy in place to preserve state secrets.
Dr Mjwara said that all departments funded by the state were expected to protect all information and that DST did not share highly classified information internationally.
Mr Nonkanyana asked if the South African National Research Network (SANReN) Connectivity roll-out programme was urban-biased.
Dr Mjwara said that DST had identified that the programme was urban-biased and DST was engaging with the Department of Higher Education and Training to ensure that the rural areas and historically disadvantaged people would benefit. In the following months DST would announce its plan to address this gap.
Dr Qhobela added that access to opportunity required infrastructure-equity and DST believed that every University and Campus and all museums in the country should be connected to the network. In due course, the Minister would announce the roll-out which would include these additions to the network.
Mr Nonkanyana asked if there was a strategy to address Indigenous Knowledge.
Dr Mjwara said that DST had developed a wealth of activities in the area of Indigenous Knowledge as indicated in the Annual Report. Students could now enroll in a BA in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) degree at the
The IKS Expo each year enabled Indigenous Knowledge holders to meet with Universities to identify areas to exploit and to codify knowledge. DST was happy to facilitate a Committee visit to the African Traditional Medicine Unit at the
The Chairperson asked for clarification on the role of the Space Council in the DST.
Dr Mjwara said that this was both a legacy and a logical issue. The Space Council was established under the Non-Proliferation Unit at DTI with the regulatory function to ensure that the country adhered to the peaceful use of Space. Space could be used to launch harmless objects, such as a satellite or for the launch of deadly weapons. DST felt that a body outside of DST should monitor the Space Council’s peaceful use of Space.
The meeting was adjourned.
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