The Council for Science and Industrial Research (CSIR) briefed Members on its Annual Performance Plan (APP) 2013/14. The Council reviewed its staff demographics in terms of numbers, gender and race. In terms of collaboration programmes, CSIR collaborated with the national Departments of Science and Technology, Trade and Industry, Defence and Military Veterans, Health, Communications, Water Affairs, Environmental Affairs, and Home Affairs. In support of national initiatives the CSIR supported the National Health Insurance (NHI) by building a multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (TB) ward at Catherine Booth Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal.
The CSIR explained Research, Development and Innovation (RD&) for uptake and impact where there was enterprise creation for development through the Intaba jam factory. The challenge was to create decent employment, poverty reduction, and sustainability of rural communities. The development of science and technology sought to create sustainable enterprises and encourage agro-processing and the green economy. The outcome was that 349 project beneficiaries and 34 people were trained and mentored between April and December 2012.
The CSIR noted that Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest frequency of fires in the world. There were enormous losses in the agriculture sector and infrastructure destruction. CSIR's heavy vehicle simulator for accelerated pavement testing facility had generated more than R200 million in foreign revenue. 11 units were operating worldwide, which enabled improvements of road construction. As to technology that prevented derailments, Transnet installed ultrasonic broken rail detectors on the Sishen-Saldanha iron ore railway. CSIR was making 2 000 units for a 756 km stretch of railway, and commercialisation was under way.
CSIR also explained that the Satellite Application Centre transferred 45 Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) staff members to South African National Space Agency (SANSA). CSIR income sources included royalty income, which it believed was modest, as well as international funding, South African public sector and private sector funding, and the Parliamentary Grant. In terms of good governance and corporate citizenship, risk management and fraud prevention was in place at CSIR.
Members were very disappointed because they believed that CSIR had presented too much technical text and had not made it clear whether it was presenting an Annual Performance Plan or something else, since there was a presentation tabled before the Committee and also document sent prior to that meeting. Members had been expected to familiarise themselves with the latter but had found it difficult to understand. Few questions of clarity were asked, but the Committee unanimously agreed that CSIR should go back and compile a proper report and present it to the Committee next week.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) briefed Members on shortlisted candidates for appointment to the Board of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA). A shortlist was given to the Committee for its consideration. Members debated the procedure of shortlisting and appointing board members to TIA Board, together with consultation between the Department and the Committee. After careful discussion they agreed that DST should go back and return with its shortlist of names and the Committee would carefully consider them before recommending names to the Minister.
Council for Science and Industrial Research (CSIR) Annual Performance Plan Presentation
Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, CSIR CEO, said that there were 2 428 members of staff, of whom 1 595 were in the Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) base; there were 297 holders of doctoral degrees, with 93 staff members supported for doctoral studies; and 503 staff members held master’s degrees, while 104 were supported for master's studies. 48.3% of SET base were black and 34.6% of the SET base were female. (see map, slide 2)
CSIR collaborated with the national Departments of Science and Technology, Trade and Industry, Defence and Military Veterans, Health, Communications, Water Affairs, Environmental Affairs, and Home Affairs. It also collaborated with State-owned Entities (SOEs) such as Transnet, Eskom, Denel, the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), and Joburg Water. In the continent it collaborated with SANBio, African Laser Centre, and New Path for African Development (NEPAD) Water Centres of Excellence. The entity partnered with and received funds from, among others, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), the Gates Foundation, UN-Aid, Airbus, LG, the Chinese Academy of Science, the King Abdul-Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Riyadh, Boeing, General Dynamics, Aerosud, Du Pont, and Nestlé. (Slide 3)
Supporting national initiatives
The CSIR supported the National Health Insurance (NHI) by way of the Infrastructure Unit Systems Support Project on acquiring, operating and maintaining health care facilities (See slide 5). He noted the building a multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (TB) ward at Catherine Booth Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal. There was an Infrastructure Unit Systems Support Project on acquiring operating and maintaining health care facilitates. The CSIR had implemented eHealth with regard to health information systems and electronic collection of household data.
It worked with the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission (PICC) Infrastructure Plan on Strategic Integrated Projects (SIP) where SIP 14 gave support to Higher Education Infrastructure, SIP 15 gave support to expanding access to communication technology - developing a roadmap for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Research, Development and Innovation (RD&I) and National Cyberinfrastructure. SIP 18 was dedicated to water and sanitation through technical support. (See slide 4)
Research, Development and Innovation (RD&I)
There was enterprise creation for development through the Intaba jam factory, in KwaZulu-Natal. The challenge was to create decent employment, poverty reduction and sustainability of rural communities. The development of science and technology solutions sought to create sustainable enterprises and encouraged agro-processing and green economy. The outcome was that there were 349 project beneficiaries and 34 people were trained and mentored between April and December 2012. Green components for aerospace required lighter parts for less fuel. The CSIR made a panel for Airbus that met all the specifications in terms of strength, weight, fire/smoke/toxicity, and a joint patent was filed. CSIR also worked with the automotive industry, for example Volkswagen on a vehicle parcel tray (kenaf). On the natural fibre hub CSIR collaborated with industry and the Eastern Cape provincial government. (See slides 5-6)
Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest frequency of fires in the world. There were enormous losses in the agriculture and infrastructure destruction. The advanced fire information project was used by Eskom, Working for Fire, farmers, and disaster management authorities in South Africa and Mozambique. A pilot project located in California would start soon. In relation to the national freshwater ecosystem priority areas, there was a collaboration project in which agreed freshwater priorities for South Africa were set. Cape Nature, Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Department of Environmental Affairs, and the Department of Water Affairs used the project. CSIR’s heavy vehicle simulator for accelerated pavement testing facility had generated more than R200 million in foreign revenue, and had 11 units operating world-wide which enabled improvements of road construction. With regard to the technology that prevented derailments, Transnet installed ultrasonic broken rail detectors on the Sishen-Saldanha iron ore railway. CSIR was making 2 000 units for a 756 km stretch of railway and commercialisation was under way. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) had funded further product improvement. (See slides 7-12)
Publications, indicators of scientific excellence, and patents
The presentation document also included information on CSIR's excellence in science publishing. (See slide 13); information on publication equivalents: indicators of scientific excellence (see bar chart, slide 15) and cumulative patents (see bar chart, slide 16).
The CEO said that the Satellite Application Centre transferred 45 SET staff members to the South African National Space Agency (SANSA). (See bar chart, slide 14)
CSIR income sources included royalty income which CSIR believed was modest, international funding, South African public sector and private sector funding, and the Parliamentary Grant. (See bar chart, slide 18)
The presentation also included information on contract R&D income: perception of value (see bar chart, slide 17).
Governance and risk management
In terms of good governance and corporate citizenship, risk management and fraud prevention were in place at CSIR. Good corporate governance improved operational excellence and quality and compliance to relevant International Standards Organisation (ISO) standards. Corporate citizenship maintained Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) level 2 status in the medium term, focussed on safety, continued an employee well-being programme, and continued the role of the HIV/AIDS Committee. (See slide 19)
Ms M Dunjwa (ANC) said that the document from the CSIR was too much technical for Members to understand. She requested CSIR make it clearer and simpler so that they could understand the technical issues that were discussed in it.
She noted the mandate of CSIR was research and development but its marketing strategy was not visible to the communities that CSIR sought to assist through science and technology.
She asked whether CSIR did not think that it had a responsibility to tell the Government departments that it was there to assist them to achieve their mandates because she did not think the doors of CSIR were open enough to make departments and municipalities understand that they could utilise its services.
She also asked why CSIR had found it difficult to source income from the private sector. Was it poor marketing strategy?
Dr J Kloppers-Lourens (DA) asked CSIR to explain its preferred focus in 2013 and what other current functions resided with the CSIR.
She said that that presentation did not look like a presentation from CSIR but it was like some school project. She was not impressed by with the cartoons in the report, and there should be fewer photographs, abbreviations and acronyms.
She agreed with Ms Dunjwa that Members needed more explanation because the report was too technical and definitions had to be explained. Members were not familiar with all the abbreviations and acronyms in the presentation that were not referred to and explained.
She asked where the Department of Basic Education (DBE) was in terms of collaboration with the CSIR because the collaborative programme with national departments was mentioned in the report, together with mention of schools that had no internet service. Was there no interaction or collaboration with DBE?
She asked why only 34 people were trained by CSIR - were they many or few.
She also asked for an explanation on the pilot project that was located in California.
She asked why CSIR used the word “modest” in reference to royalties.
Ms S Molau-Plaatjie (COPE) asked what the specific target was on the female staff component and if CSIR had progressed far in reaching that target.
She asked whether the Multi-Drug Resistant TB project was located only in KwaZulu-Natal or if CSIR was going to rollout this new project to other provinces.
She also asked whether CSIR was managing in terms of its current staff, since the 45 SET staff members were transferred to the South African National Space Agency (SANSA). Alternatively, was CSIR considering appointing new staff members to fill that gap?
Mr P Smith (IFP) thanked the CSIR for its work and the passion it showed for its projects. But he was disappointed with that report because it was meant to be an Annual Performance Plan (APP) and there were 28 slides in that report while only five talked to the APP.
He complained that from slide 14 upwards the report contained graphs with no numbers that reflected performance targets. This did not help Members to understand the performance of the CSIR and it was very disappointing. For example, the slide 14 forecast was very flat and he asked why it was flat for five years.
Mr Smith noted that the cumulative patents were very sharp in gradient from zero in 2005/06 to approximately 250 by 2017/18, and the targets for the next five years appeared to be lower than what had been achieved in the previous five years, and there were no indication of numbers. In the previous years it seemed that CSIR had been doing just over 20 patents per year and current target had fallen to 18.
Mr Smith also noted that, in terms of sources of income, it appeared as if CSIR had a target of R100 million, which increased for the next five years, but again he was not very happy with the graph and the clarity of the information. It was unbelievable that the entire CSIR organisation had only four performance targets. He asked about new projects in the pipeline and knowledge transfer, because there were projects with which CSIR was busy and it was unbelievable that a big organisation such as CSIR could have only four performance targets. It was very disappointing.
Ms P Mocumi (ANC) asked whether that report was really the APP of the CSIR.
She asked whether the staff demographics reported did indeed reflect the demographics of the CSIR in terms of race and gender because it did not indicate in numbers how many women were supported for master’s degree studies.
She asked what the figure of 48.3% was because she could not understand it in terms of traditional calculations, and also what the 34.6% figure was.
She asked who the 349 project beneficiaries were, in which project they were involved, and in which part of the country the project was located. She also asked who the 34 students trained were, what their project was, and where they were trained.
She asked where in South Africa the 756 km stretch of railway was constructed.
Ms J Terblanche (DA) thanked CSIR for its presentation and agreed that more information was needed. However, she enjoyed the cartoons displayed in the report.
She asked for more information on the pilot project in California.
She was pleased with the CSIR’s demographics as reported. It was proper that people were taken on merit not because they were female or male, and CSIR was a respected institution which was doing a great job for the country.
She asked what mechanisms were put in place to alert the police about the illegal mining that was taking place.
She asked if the heavy simulation vehicle was involved in any project throughout the country.
Ms Mocumi said that the demographics assisted in knowing whether women were represented in research projects and, if there were no women, Members had to ask why women were not represented.
The Chairperson was also disappointed with the presentation because did not reflect Government priorities and was not aligned to the National Development Plan (NDP) and other strategic goals of Government.
Dr Sibisi welcomed and appreciated the robust interaction and questions. The presentation that was tabled before the Committee was not the APP, but CSIR had sent prior to the meeting a detailed document, which explained the APP and CSIR thought that Members had already studied it. The best one could do in presenting to the Committee was to highlight few areas of CSIR’s work, its thinking and planning.
Ms Dunjwa interjected that Members had read the document, but when she had objected that the presentation was technical she was not even referring to that document but to the presentation. She would have expected also that the presentation would have included cross-references to that document. This was the second time that Dr Sibisi was responding in such a manner to Members’ questions.
She proposed that CSIR should go away with the documents that it had tabled and prepare a proper presentation.
The Chairperson said that it was important for the CSIR to observe the protocols of Parliament appreciate that Members of Parliament (MPs) were not necessarily scientists but policy makers and the material that CSIR had put before the Committee was very complex. Therefore, it was better to simplify it and make it readily understandable to enable Members to engage properly in terms of policy making.
Dr Klopper-Laurens said that the presentation should have been more user friendly. Members needed text that was explanatory and they would need more information. The document was thick and technical, and difficult to read. Members required the two documents to be merged into one or cross-referenced when presenting. Members were not trying to be difficult but they wanted to do their work as best as they could, and they did not want to ask funny questions but sometimes they were forced to be robust because of the nature of the presentation. Therefore, it would be best for CSIR to go back and prepare itself with a presentation of a better quality.
Mr Smith concurred with his colleagues that CSIR should go back and prepare a better presentation that would be more understandable and clearer to Members.
The Chairperson said that if Members agreed that the presentation should be aligned to the document it meant that CSIR needed to reappear before the Committee.
Mr Smith proposed that CSIR should align and merge the documents and return with one document to present to the Committee.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had now agreed that the two documents should be aligned and merged, and that CSIR should come back and present one document to the Committee.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation from CSIR for its presentation and was looking forward to see it at the next presentation on the APP.
DST Reconstitution of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) Board presentation
Mr Thulani Mavuso, DST Chief Operations Officer (COO), said that the presentation outline consisted of the term of office of the TIA Board, composition of the TIA Board, legislative process of reconstitution of the TIA Board, current process, shortlisted candidates, and conclusion.
Term of office and composition of the Board
The current TIA Board was appointed for 4 years from 1 May 2009 to 30 April 2013. The new board should be in place from 1 May 2013. The Minister initiated the process of reconstituting the board as outlined by the TIA Act. Section 5(1) of the Act outlined the composition of the board as follows: - that the board would consist of a Chairperson, not less that six members and no more than nine, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Agency as an ex officio member.
Legislative process of reconstitution of the Board
Section 5 of the Act outlined the process as follows: - that the Minister should appoint a panel to compile a shortlist of candidates; a shortlist should be compiled after a transparent and competitive process; board members were appointed in consultation with the National Assembly; and board members appointed in terms of their knowledge and experience in technology innovation, technology management, intellectual property, commercialisation and business skills. Section 8 of the Act stipulated that members of the board held office for a period of four years and were eligible for reappointment on expiry of their terms; when reappointing members of the board, the Minister should ensure that the term of office of members of the board would not expire at the same time; and members could not serve more than two consecutive terms.
The Minister was to inform the TIA Board members that their term expired in April and request them to indicate their availability for the second term; publish an advert in the national newspapers and the Government Gazette; in addition, publish the adverts on the DST and TIA websites; and appoint a panel to compile a shortlist of candidates. The panel was constituted by the following members: - Chairperson: Dr Phil Mjwara (DG), Members: Dr Val Munsami (DDG: Research, Development and Innovation (RDI)); Ms Nkuli Shinga (Chief Director (CD): Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)); Prof Richard Levin (DG: Public Service Commission (PSC)); Mr David Mmakola (CD: DST); and Mr Martin Mulcahy (Special Advisor).
The DST received 69 public nominations with seven members from the current TIA Board available for the second term. A shortlist of 20 candidates was compiled from the received nominations. Criteria included: - Expertise, including finance, risk management and legal, human resources or intellectual property. In order to comply with section 8 of the TIA Act, the panel considered the following members of the current board: - Ms Fundiswa Roli, Ms Marjorie Pyoos, Dr Patrick Ngwenya; and Ms Helen Brown. A list of shortlisted candidates had been sent to National Intelligence Agency (NIA) for vetting to ensure that the appointed candidates complied with section 6 of the TIA Act.
Mr Mavuso concluded that the appointment process of new board was in line with the prescripts of the Act, and it was therefore recommended that the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology consider a shortlist presented in line with section 5 of the TIA Act.
Mr Smith asked for clarity on whether the minimum of board members was six members plus the chairperson or six members excluding the chairperson, and whether again the maximum was nine including the chairperson or nine without the chairperson.
He asked whether, on the side of the Department, was there any indication of preferred candidates.
Dr Klopper-Lourens asked if there was any score card that the DST used to examine candidates’ performance during the current term.
She asked why members of the board could not be appointed for a third term because it was stated in the Act that they should run for two terms for the interest of good governance.
She also asked how the DST selected the specific newspaper publications such as Sunday Times, for publishing the names of candidates because DST had not mentioned other newspaper that reported in other languages, for example the Rapport newspaper.
The Chairperson said that it was not fair to ask those questions because it was a matter that the Committee had to consider as stipulated in the Act so that the Committee could take the necessary decision. The only thing that Members needed to do was to agree on the names that were given to them by the Department so that they take them to the Minister because they had to act in consultation with the department.
Mr Smith asked what exactly consultation meant in this regard.
The Chairperson replied that what the Department had done was its choice because it had said that those were the names that it had chosen and it wished the Committee to consider those names. If not the Committee should tell the DST why it had not accepted the DST’s choice and the Committee could give reasons for not agreeing with that choice. This was what the Minister should consider. It was not a give and take situation but a recommendation from Parliament based on names and information received.
Mr Smith was missing something in terms of that procedure because it was not the Members’ role to approve the shortlist but to confer with the Minister to approve the board members.
He proposed that the Department should bring its shortlist no matter how big so that it could discuss what proposals it was bringing to the Committee. Stage 2 would be the appointment of the board. Therefore, the Committee needed to know the Committee’s point of departure, so as to have a mutual engagement on the names.
Mr Mvuso noted what Mr Smith said and the DST would consult and on that basis produce the finalised shortlist to be considered by the Committee.
The Chairperson thanked the departmental delegation for the presentation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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