The Department of Science and Technology (DST) briefed the Committee on the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) Act Repeal Bill [B6B-2013]. The Bill made possible the incorporation of AISA into the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). Prior to 1994 AISA was intended to serve the previous government as a portal to the African continent, providing policy advice and access to those in other African countries willing to associate with apartheid South Africa. Since then attempts had been made to reconceptualise AISA as an instrument whose research outputs and evidence based policy briefs would inform South African policy on the African continent. When the DST was established in 2004 the responsibility for the administration of the AISA Act became the responsibility of the Minister of Science and Technology as it was now regarded as a research institute. Informed by the 2010 institutional review of AISA, the DST identified a fundamental strategic mismatch in the role and functions of AISA vis-à-vis the DST’s core mandate. The 2010 review had recommended a substantive structural reorganisation to give more effect to the research (core) business of AISA. The DST decided to incorporate AISA into the HSRC. One of the reasons for the incorporation of AISA into the HSRC was that there were significant overlaps between the respective mandates and operational activities of both AISA and the HSRC. All the employees of AISA would be transferred to the HSRC in accordance with Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act (No. 66 of 1995), on the same terms and conditions of employment, including remuneration and other benefits.
Members were concerned about the job security of AISA employees after incorporation into the HSRC. If staff members of AISA were to stay on, would they hold the same posts and titles? Another concern was whether after incorporation there would be a duplication of posts and that a rationalisation of staff would be a consideration in the future. The point was made that often when entities merged problems tend to crop up. Members wanted assurances that mechanisms were in place to deal with such problems if and when they emerged. Why had it taken so long for the decision to be made to incorporate AISA into the HSRC? The feeling was that essentially there had been two institutions performing more or less the same work. Members were interested in the cost implications of the incorporation and the logistics of where AISA employees would be accommodated. Was there any opposition to the incorporation? Members finally also wished to have assurances that the Bill was in fact a Section 75 Bill.
Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) Act Repeal Bill [B6B-2013]: DST briefing
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) briefed the Committee on the Africa Institute of South Africa Act Repeal Bill. The delegation from the Department comprised of Mr Thulani Mavuso, DST Chief Operations Officer, Ms Nombuyiselo Mokoena, DST Deputy Director General: Corporate Services, Mr Brian Muthwa, DST Head of Legal Services, and Ms Nandi Tsetsane, DST Assistant Director DST.
Mr Thulani Mavuso, DST Chief Operations Officer, said that the Bill made it possible for the incorporation of AISA into the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). He at the outset provided a brief background on AISA. Prior to 1994 AISA was intended to serve the previous government as a portal to the African continent, providing policy advice and access to those in other African countries willing to associate with apartheid South Africa. Since then attempts had been made to reconceptualise AISA as an instrument whose research outputs and evidence based policy briefs would inform South African policy on the African continent. When the DST was established in 2004 the responsibility for the administration of the AISA Act became the responsibility of the Minister of Science and Technology as it was now regarded as a research institute. Informed by the 2010 institutional review of AISA, the DST identified a fundamental strategic mismatch in the role and functions of AISA vis-à-vis the DST’s core mandate. The 2010 review had recommended a substantive structural reorganisation to give more effect to the research (core) business of AISA. One of the reasons for the incorporation of AISA into the HSRC was that there were significant overlaps between the respective mandates and operational activities of both AISA and the HSRC. The DST believed that there was potential to cause unnecessary duplication, which would result in the inefficient deployment of resources and an unhelpful competition between the two institutions. Initially the DST considered a merger of the two institutions but given the relative sizes of the respective institutions it was considered prudent to incorporate AISA into the HSRC. AISA was a much smaller institution than the HSRC. Operational management and oversight relating to the incorporation was managed by a team comprising members of the senior management of the DST, AISA and the HSRC. All the employees of AISA would be transferred to the HSRC in accordance with Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act (No. 66 of 1995), on the same terms and conditions of employment, including remuneration and other benefits.
On consultation, the Minister of Science and Technology had met with the AISA Council on 03 June 2012 to discuss the decision to incorporate AISA into the HSRC. The Minister had sent detailed correspondence to AISA and the HSRC regarding the incorporation proposal on 06 June 2012. The AISA management and staff had met with the Minister on the 10 July 2012 to discuss the incorporation issue. The HSRC Chairperson and the Chief Executive Officer were consulted by the Minister as well. The Draft Repeal Bill was published for public comment for a period of 30 days on 24 August 2012. Cabinet had approved the Draft Repeal Bill on the 27 February 2013. The Bill was certified by the Office of the Chief State Law Adviser on the 8 March 2013. The Bill had been introduced to Parliament on the 15 March 2013. The Bill had been approved by the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology in June 2013.
Ms D Rantho (ANC, Eastern Cape) was concerned about the statement made during the briefing that the employees of both entities would not be affected by the merging of the two entities. So essentially what was being said was that no employees would be losing their jobs. She noted that when an individual was employed such person came with a certain level of expertise. If the two entities were to be merged what was to happen if the expertise of an employee was no longer relevant. How were such employees going to be accommodated? She also asked whether the merging would not affect the positions of certain employees.
Regarding the team in charge of doing the incorporation, what were they looking for?
Mr Mavuso conceded that there would be employees of AISA who had job titles that would fall away after the incorporation. For example the Chief Financial Officer of AISA would not be a Chief Financial Officer in the HSRC but would be the manager of finances of the unit to be formed within the HSRC. AISA after incorporation would thus form a unit within the HSRC. The roles of employees of AISA would continue within this unit of the HSRC.
Ms Nombuyiselo Mokoena, DST Deputy Director General: Corporate Services, responded that the incorporation committee was made up of the Chief Executive Officer of both AISA and the HSRC and representatives from the DST. If expertise needed was not available then it would be outsourced. The idea was to minimise post incorporation problems.
Mr Brian Muthwa, DST Head of Legal Services, added that the incorporation process was twofold. The one part was the current process on the Bill and the second part was the administrative process by the incorporation committee during transition. All issues such as budgets and research would be seen to. The current process was embarked on because there was assurance that the administrative process was ready.
Mr M de Villiers (DA, Western Cape) pointed out that normally when two entities merged into one, problems tended to surface. There were after all senior and junior employees to consider. He asked whether within the DST there would be a separate programme to accommodate the entity. Would the Chief Executive Officer and other top management of AISA keep their job titles after the merger? What was to happen if problems emerged after the merger? There was always the chance of unforeseen things happening. Problems tend to come up. Was there a committee of some sort to foresee and take care of problems that might come up before the merger was complete? Regarding expertise of staff, would people continue with their existing work or would they have different roles?
Mr Mavuso explained that the contract of the Chief Executive Officer of AISA had expired in 2012. The contract had not been renewed and an Executive Director within AISA had been acting as Chief Executive Officer ever since. Once the incorporation was complete there would be an Executive Director heading the unit within the HSRC.
Regarding employees having different roles he stated that most of AISA’s employees were researchers. Managers currently with AISA would continue in management positions within the unit.
He noted that there was an incorporations committee, which would deal with problems that came up. In the long term, the DST did not foresee any problems cropping up. The DST had an oversight role over the HSRC.
Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) asked why it had taken such a long time from 1994 up until the present for the incorporation to take place. There was a duplication of work between the HSRC and AISA for all this time. The two institutions had existed parallel to one another for so long. He asked what the cost implications of the merger were. After the incorporation would there not be a duplication of posts?
Mr Mavuso said that a merger had been considered for a while, but given the huge difference in sizes of the two institutions it was decided that incorporating AISA into the HSRC was the best option. AISA only had 56 staff members whereas the HSRC had 500 employees.
He emphasised that it was not a merger but an incorporation. The process had taken so long because there was a great deal of debate. AISA initially was intended to be a research body for the Department of International Relations and Foreign Affairs (DIRCO). It was decided to place AISA with the Department of Arts and Culture. AISA, however, kept on moving to its default role, which it had prior to 1994. It had administrative and governance problems. The 2010 review provided a much clearer picture. It should be a research institute. After the 2010 review there were three options for AISA. It could firstly either go back to DIRCO, secondly remain an independent entity, or thirdly be incorporated into the HSRC. The third option was chosen.
He explained that AISA would be incorporated within the HSRC with its existing budget. The budget would remain for three years after incorporation. After the three-year period the HSRC would ensure that it becomes a viable unit within its structure. On the issue of duplication of roles he noted that most institutions have similar corporate functions. There could be shared services amongst institutions.
Mr De Villiers pointed out that both the AISA and the HSRC had their own buildings in which they were housed. When the incorporation was complete, would the offices of AISA become the offices of the unit to be created within the HSRC? Was it correct that the budget of AISA would continue as it was for the next three years? Once the three-year period was over what was to prevent a rationalisation of staff from taking place. Another concern was whether there would be officials whom would merely be piggy backing on the three-year budget. The briefing had nevertheless made it clear that there would be no redundancy of staff. The Committee needed assurances of what was being said.
Mr Mavuso noted that AISA would remain in the office building in which it was housed, after the incorporation. The HSRC had offices all over South Africa. In years to come there was nothing to preclude everyone to be housed in the same building.
The Chairperson agreed that the Committee was concerned about the possibility of job losses due to the incorporation. However a process was being followed and like any process of change there sometimes were unintended consequences.
Mr Mavuso pointed out that AISA had a small staff complement. Over time one needed to re-skill people. The HSRC would review its strategies and demands. Retrenchments were not on the cards. The staff of the HSRC was its assets. Researchers were seen as the resources of the HSRC.
Ms Rantho wished to have an assurance that the Bill was in fact a Section 75 Bill. Were there any institutions against the Bill? Were there any chances of court action? Usually when mergers took place and Acts were repealed it often led to court action.
Mr Mavuso responded that once the incorporation was complete the assets and liabilities of AISA would revert to the HSRC. He said that at present there were no legal challenges. Normally labour issues led to court action. All issues of labour had been dealt with. The DST was comfortable that issues and concerns had been dealt with.
Mr De Villiers asked whether there were any challenges that the Bill should be a Section 76 Bill. He directed his question to the Parliamentary Legal Adviser and Mr Ashley Williams, Legal Researcher: The Office of the Chief State Law Adviser.
Both the Parliamentary Legal Adviser and Mr Williams confirmed that there was no legal challenge and that it was a Section 75 Bill.
The meeting was adjourned.
No related documents
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.