Three entities of the Department of Science and Technology presented their annual performance plans, although the presentations were very brief, due to time constraints. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) noted successful projects in defence and security, energy, natural environment, built environment, industry, education and health. Two projects singled out for specific mention were the development of radar technology to identify threats along the borders, and, in the transport sector, the development of sensors that could detect cracks along railway lines. CSIR would continue to assist disadvantaged schools through Information and Communication technology. CSIR was also holding discussions with SABC to increase visibility in the media. The challenges included recruitment of disabled staff, budget constraints and communication. Members questioned why CSIR had been described as analogous to companies, and noted that investments would be attracted from the private sector only if it had a stronger communication campaign and was more visible. It was noted that the Committee could now, in terms of the Money Bills Act, influence budget legislation, and both CSIR and the South African National Space Agency were urged to communicate their funding needs in specific terms to the Committee. Members asked about the targets for employment of females and the disabled, the percentage of the fiscal grant, and cooperation with the Department of Basic Education, with one Member commenting that she believed CSIR should be able to make input into the content of the school curriculum. They also asked what informed its work, and whether this was linked to government priorities.
The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) noted that it played an important role in assisting young entrepreneurs, between the ages of 18-30, and entrepreneurial businesses, by giving sound advice, funding, commercial and technical expertise and access to technology, in order to develop their ideas into something that was commercially viable. Fronting was identified as a challenge, with older people attempting to access services from TIA, and lack of infrastructure development was another serious problem; this was the main problem hindering further development of the electric car in
The South African National Space Agency (SANSA), noted the development of the Informal Settlements Atlas for the Department of Human Settlements in
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Annual Performance Plan 2012/13
Mr Sibusiso Sibisi, Chief Executive Officer, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, outlined only the most important aspects of the Annual Performance Plan, since all presenters were asked by the Chairperson to keep their presentations very brief, given the shortage of time.
He noted that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had made progress in areas of defence and security, energy, natural environment, built environment, industry, education and health. Under each of these items, he gave examples of projects that had been initiated by CSIR (see attached presentation for full details). He briefly noted, in the defence and security arena, development of radar technology to identify threats along the borders, and, in the transport sector, the development of sensors that could detect cracks along railway lines.
Mr Sibisi said that CSIR faced challenges in recruiting disabled staff and women, and budget constraints. He also noted that communication was a stumbling block.
He concluded that CSIR would continue to assist disadvantaged schools through Information and Communication technology. CSIR was also holding discussions with SABC to increase visibility in the media.
The Chairperson questioned the presenter on why CSIR was portrayed as a company that worked in the background. He asked how CSIR would attract investments from the private sector without communicating its work achievements.
Ms Rachel Chikwamba, Executive, CSIR, responded that CSIR occupied a sizeable space in the media. She stated that it did have a stakeholder strategy.
The Chairperson emphasised that CSIR needed to be more visible to attract more funding. He did not agree that it was appropriate to compare the CSIR with other international companies, such as those producing MP3 players in
The Chairperson also noted that the new budget legislation adopted in 2009 allowed for Parliament to propose budgetary amendments and urged CSIR to communication fully with the Portfolio Committee so that all its needs could be addressed.
Ms S Plaatjie (COPE) asked as to why only the figures for females had been mentioned in the presentation.
Mr Sibisi said that, historically, CSIR had been dominated by white males, so the achievement of 34% of women in the organisation was significant, and warranted a mention.
Ms Plaatjie asked what percentage of females still required to be appointed before the targets were reached.
The Chairperson asked for specific numbers.
A representative of CSIR said that since the target was 50% women, the representation of women must increase by 16%.
Ms P Mocumi (ANC) complained about the unnumbered slides, saying that this made it difficult to refer to specific slides. She asked about the percentage of disabled people in the organisation.
Dr Hoffie Maree, Group Executive, CSIR, responded that CSIR had 1% disabled employees, which fell below the 2% target, but noted that CSIR did develop technology to cater for disabled people.
Ms Mocumi wanted to know about the percentage of the Parliamentary grant allocation.
Mr Sibisi responded that this percentage allocation really depended on the activities being undertaken at any particular time. CSIR directed its activities to areas in which the greatest impact could be made. For instance, it was currently concentrating on water treatment plants, which were needed in high density areas, and noted that significant progress had been made in developing anaerobic organisms that could process solid sewage at a greater pace.
Ms J Kloppers-Lourens (DA) asked if there was any cooperation with the Department of Basic Education in developing syllabus and content. She also asked for comment on education, specifically in the science field.
Mr Sibisi explained that developing curriculum was not in the scope of CSIR. In the education field, CSIR rather directed its efforts to connecting ICT to schools who were under-resourced. It also assisted in offering tutor programmes, through the internet, to support schoolchildren, after school hours, but emphasised that the intention of CSIR was to support, and not compete with, teachers in the schools.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens believed that it was a shortcoming that CSIR was not dealing with the content.
The Chairperson asked as to what informed CSIR on developments, and questioned whether its programmes showed links with the government priorities.
Mr Sibisi responded that CSIR was guided by the millennium developmental goals. He also noted priorities in heath, noting that drugs were being developed to fight malaria and HIV/Aids.
Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) Annual Performance Plans 2012
Mr Simphiwe Duma, Chief Executive Officer, Technology Innovation Agency, presented the Annual Performance Plans 2012/13, outlining the key focus areas and the role played by TIA in achieving Government’s developmental plans. He noted that TIA played an important role in assisting young entrepreneurs, between the ages of 18-30, and entrepreneurial businesses, by giving sound advice, funding, commercial and technical expertise and access to technology, in order to develop their ideas into something that was commercially viable. Mr Duma explained that this would create employment and help grow the economy. Drugs development to fight priority diseases was also listed as a positive step in achieving a long and healthy life for all South Africans.
Mr Duma noted that there were several challenges faced by TIA. Fronting had been identified as a growing problem, since older people tended to recruit young people to apply for funding. The lack of infrastructure development was a hindrance to innovation. Mr Duma noted, as one of the main achievements, the development of the electronic vehicle, but said that far more needed to be done in building the infrastructure for charging batteries, and this remained a challenge. Finally, funding was a problem. The number of businesses or entrepreneurs whose projects still did not succeed needed to be reduced.
Ms Mocumi wanted to know the staff complement of the TIA.
Mr Duma responded that TIA had more than 200 staff members, and he noted that its vacancy rate was quite low.
Ms Mocumi asked if there were other challenges faced by TIA, apart from those mentioned.
Mr Duma added that communication was a challenge.
Ms Mocumi asked why National Treasury did not appear to be more aware of the needs of TIA.
Mr Duma said TIA had increased its efforts to be noticed by National Treasury.
Ms Plaatjie asked what measures TIA had in place to assist entrepreneurs or businesses that faced problems whilst trying to develop their products.
Mr Duma said that some of these projects failed simply because those running them were not working hard enough. However, TIA had several programmes that attempted to understand the problems and to give assistance.
Ms Plaatjie asked, how many projects had been funded by the TIA.
Professor S Mayatula (ANC) raised a question about products and services.
Mr Duma said TIA assisted people with ideas and linked them with institutions that did the same work, who could help promote and develop them.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens whether the TIA had a mandate to assist with infrastructure. She also asked TIA to give some recent examples of matters in which it had assisted.
Mr Duma used the development of the electrical car in South Africa as an example of TIA’s assistance, and noted that this had not failed, but that infrastructure needed to be built up to assist entrepreneurs further.
South African National Space Agency (SANSA) Annual Performance Plan 2012/13.
Mr Sandile Malinga, Chief Executive Officer, South African National Space Agency, noted the comment of one of the Members earlier, and apologised in advance for the fact that his slides were also not numbered. He noted the Chairperson’s comment on time constraints and would outline only the major achievements of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA). SANSA had built an Informal Settlements Atlas for the Department of Human Settlements in
SANSA was also involved in skills development, through offering internships and conducting summer schools at universities. It was, in addition, involved in educational programmes for educators and learners.
Mr Malinga briefly highlighted the major challenges faced by SANSA, saying that these related to lack of funding and skills shortages.
Ms Plaatjies asked if there were any other challenges. She wanted to know whether SANSA visited the schools and promoted career guidance sessions.
Mr Malinga responded by saying that identifying the brightest students who may wish to enter the industry was a challenge. SANSA had a programme of inviting schools to visit, and also had a mobile school that went around the communities to increase knowledge, although it was recognised that SANSA still had to increase its footprint.
Ms Mocumi again complained about the unnumbered slides. She asked SANSA how many disabled people it employed.
Mr Malinga noted that SANSA had only one disabled employee at the moment, and had tried to get some applications, via the institutions for the disabled, but had not found any suitably qualified candidates. He also noted that SANSA had very few vacancies at the moment.
Ms Mocumi asked for the exact location of this Atlas project in
Mr Malinga said the Atlas covered the whole of
Ms Mocumi asked for the target of learner figures, and asked also for an indication of the criteria for choosing learners, and whether SANSA reached its target for learners and educators.
Mr Malinga responded that SANSA had exceeded its target of reaching 4000 learners and 200 educators, and had since increased these targets, hoping to reach 10 000 learners and 400 educators. The criteria for identifying learners depended on the locations and the different programmes of SANSA. SANSA visited rural and disadvantaged schools.
Professor Mayatula asked why
Ms Kloppers-Lourens was also surprised by the fact that
The Chairperson emphasised the need for increasing
Mr Malinga said
The Chairperson again noted that the Committee was able, in terms of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act, to influence budgets.
Mr Malinga said that he would report further to the Committee and would interact with it to address the funding problems.
The meeting was adjourned.
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