The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) briefed the Committee on its Annual Report 2012/13. The Committee was provided with a governance report, which covered ethical leadership, a sustainability report, risk management review, Information Technology (IT) governance, legislative compliance and stakeholder engagement. The audited financial performance of the HSRC for 2012/13 was an unqualified clean audit opinion issued by the Auditor-General of SA (AGSA).
No audit adjustments were processed to the HSRC’s annual financial statements. One audit finding had been raised by the AGSA. As at March 2013 actual total revenue was R396 million and actual total expenditure was R400 million. Members were also provided with a breakdown of performance indicators. Overall performance sat at 87%, 48 of a total of 59 of the HSRC’s annual targets for 2012/13 had been met. The number of peer-reviewed publications in internationally accredited scientific journals increased from 1.68 in 2011/12 to 1.77 in 2012/13. Members were provided with further figures on performance against targets. Challenges noted were that data sets of research studies required certainty about medium/long term funding. This uncertainty meant that some studies could not be undertaken or repeated as planned. Some longitudinal and repeat surveys were dependent on foreign funding although they were integral to national policy design and outcome evaluation. The HSRC also needed better equipment and infrastructure to support longitudinal and repeat surveys. Another challenge was to ensure closer alignment in key areas between the social science and humanities research/data needs of the National Development Plan and the long term research agenda of the HSRC. The HSRC still needed a Capex budget to solve challenges with its building in Pretoria.
Members pointed out that entities of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) tend to work in silos. What was the relationship between the HSRC and other entities? Members also asked why the HSRC had employed foreigners in critical skills. Were there no South Africans who could fill those posts?
The controversial issue of fracking also came up and whether the HSRC had done any research on it, as outcomes of the research should inform policy making. The Committee also queried the rationale around the HSRC’s awarding of rewards to employees where they had exceeded targets. It was further asked whether the HSRC had done research over the issue of whether education should be declared an essential service.
The Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) briefed the Committee on its Annual Report 2012/13.The Department of Science and Technology had decided to incorporate AISA into the Human Sciences Research Council. The AISA Repeal Bill passed through Parliament and had awaited National Council of Provinces approval on the 19 September 2013. The proposed date of incorporation was 1 April 2014. Amongst the objectives of AISA was to promote knowledge and understanding of African affairs through leading social scientists acting in concert and across various disciplines and through training and education on African affairs. The Committee was provided with a breakdown of audited research targets, outputs and outcomes pertaining to various performance indicators. AISA obtained an unqualified audit report for 2012/13.There were 23 audit findings in 2012/13 as compared to 36 in 2011/12. The budgeted estimated revenue for AISA was just over R37m, the actual revenue received was just over R35m. Budgeted expenditure was just over R37m and actual expenditure was R31m.
Members asked for responses to comments made by the Auditor-General of SA that AISA’s targets were not smart, not reasonable, and not measurable and not time bound. Leadership of AISA had apparently also not done what it was supposed to. The Committee would have liked to have seen AISA housed under the Department of International Relations and Cooperation as it had in the past done much research for the then Department of Foreign Affairs. However the decision to incorporate AISA into the HSRC had already been taken. Members questioned the efforts of AISA in marketing itself to the masses as not much has been heard or seen of AISA at grassroots level.
The Chairperson handed both the HSRC and AISA a Committee Document containing recommendations made by the Committee regarding their respective Annual Reports 2012/13.
Briefing by Human Sciences Research Council Briefing on its Annual Report
The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) briefed the Committee on its Annual Report 2012/13. The delegation comprised of Mr Udesh Pillay, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Ms Priya Singh, the Chief Financial Officer, 1Ms Faith Kobo, the Chief Risk Officer, Prof Demetre Labadarios, the Executive Director, and Prof Alinah Kelo Segobye, the Deputy Executive Director.
Mr Pillay provided a governance report, which covered ethical leadership, a sustainability report, risk management review, IT governance, legislative compliance and stakeholder engagement.
The HSRC Board had approved the HSRC Code of Ethics and the Code of Conduct, which was circulated amongst staff members. There was also an Anti-Corruption Strategy that had been approved by the Board that provided a framework for the management of ethics risks across the HSRC.
On governance, there was financial sustainability due to multi-year funding. There was also a social responsibility review. The HSRC had a Risk Management Plan that had been implemented. Legislative compliance levels were more or less on the high side for the years 2011/12 and 2012/13 with an improvement in 2012/13. The IT unit completed a Price Waterhouse Coopers self-assessment on IT governance focus areas. Areas of improvement were identified and a roadmap was drawn up to address problem areas.
Ms Singh continued by laying out the audited financial performance of the HSRC for 2012/13. There was an unqualified clean audit opinion issued by the Auditor-General of SA (AGSA). No audit adjustments were processed to the HSRC’s annual financial statements. One audit finding had been raised by the AGSA. As at March 2013, actual total revenue was R396 million and actual total expenditure was R400 million.
Ms Kobo continued with a breakdown of performance indicators. Overall performance sat at 87%, 48 out of a total of 59 of the HSRC’s annual targets for 2012/13 had been met. The number of peer-reviewed publications in internationally accredited scientific journals increased from 1.68 in 2011/12 to 1.77 in 2012/13. Members were provided with further figures on performance against targets.
Mr Pillay noted some highlights of the HSRC as a global player. The HSRC was hosting the interim Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA (BRICS) Think Tank, Chaired the BRICS Think Tank Council for all five countries and preparing a vision and strategy document. It had also co-chaired the UNAIDS Investment Framework and was a member of the Global Advisory on HIV and Sex Education (UNESCO).
Some highlights of the HSRC itself was that it had established a dedicated Research Data Management Centre (RDMC) which brought together cross cutting support functions to ensure that data intensive research was managed well with high quality and good value for money. It was also supporting evidence-informed policy making (contributions to key policy design issues for National Health Insurance).
Challenges noted was that data sets of research studies required certainty about medium/long term funding. This uncertainty meant that some studies could not be undertaken or repeated as planned. Some longitudinal and repeat surveys were dependent on foreign funding although they were integral to national policy design and outcome evaluation. The HSRC also needed better equipment and infrastructure to support longitudinal and repeat surveys. Another challenge was to ensure closer alignment in key areas between the social science and humanities research/data needs of the National Development Plan and the long term research agenda of the HSRC. The HSRC still needed a Capital expenditure (Capex) budget to solve challenges with its building in Pretoria.
Ms M Dunjwa (ANC) referred to a comment made by Mr Pillay that the HSRC needed more funding because its building was about to collapse. On page 163 of the Annual Report reference was made to Black males and Black females, did those categories include Indians and Coloureds? In top management positions there seemed to be no Coloured males. What was the HSRC’s relationship with the National Research Foundation? The Committee experienced that entities of DST tended to work in silos. The HSRC, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) should be working together. Why were foreign workers in the HSRC part of critical skills? Could those skills not be found in South Africa? She asked did the HSRC encourage municipalities to employ disabled persons.
Mr Pillay responded that the building that the HSRC was housed in needed refurbishment. There was an annual Capex allocation for maintenance of the building. The amount was however not enough and talks were taking place about a possible relocation. The HSRC however did prefer to be located in town as it currently was. He confirmed that Blacks included Indians and Coloureds. On the point of no Coloured males in top management, the HSRC tried to employ persons from all spectrums. The HSRC could however do better. He noted that foreign researchers brought critical skills to the HSRC. They did a great deal of research in sub Saharan Africa. The HSRC had many bilateral agreements with African countries.
Prof Labadarios said that the HSRC had researchers from Zambia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and from Kenya as well.
Mr Pillay conceded that the relationship between the HSRC and the National Research Foundation could be a closer one. The HSRC nevertheless had a good relationship with science councils. The HSRC had recently spoken more with the National Research Foundation. The National Research Foundation was not only a funding agency but also did research. The HSRC also had an emerging relationship with the Technology Innovation Agency. The HSRC did communicate its research to all government departments. Research was published in informal journals, which were passed on to government departments.
Ms Kobo stated that there were 36 foreign nationals employed by the HSRC. Twenty were male and sixteen were female.
Ms J Kloppers-Lourens (DA) informed all present that while the meeting was taking place, Minister Shabangu was giving a press conference on the issue of fracking and the regulations attached to it. She asked how the HSRC had been involved on the issue. The issue cut across many portfolios and was important. Given the HSRC’s role on social responsibility, had research been done on the issue?
She also raised the point that the Committee Researcher had analysed the Annual Report and was not convinced whether the HSRC’s performance targets was 81% or 74%. But it definitely was not 87%.
Did the HSRC base their targets on previous year’s achievements? How were targets set? She personally felt that the HSRC’s targets were set too low.
Page 164 of the Annual Report mentioned performance rewards. What was the rationale around awarding of rewards? Was it only financial or were there promotions as well. She asked whether half of the HSRC’s staff received rewards. It would seem that top management received a R75 000 award for over performing. She asked that targets and awards be explained. Awards amounted to R4.5m per year. The amount was huge. Did staff receive proper salaries? Did the HSRC do any research on the issue on whether education should be declared as an essential service?
Mr Pillay said that the HSRC had a new policy position on social responsibility. Research on fracking had not yet taken place. Fracking only recently became policy. The HSRC intended to pick up on it and in the near future to do research on it.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens reacted that was it not more prudent for research to inform policy making, rather than research being done after a policy decision had already been taken.
Mr Pillay said Ms Kloppers-Lourens was correct. Perhaps due to the fact that fracking was so controversial the HSRC had rather waited on researching the issue.
The HSRC was having discussions with the Department of Basic Education on education as an essential service.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked whether the HSRC would have a project on the issue of education.
Mr Pillay said that the issue was exploratory at present. The HSRC had projects to the tune of R17 million with the Department of Basic Education.
Ms Kobo apologised and said that the performance indicator figure was 81%. She noted that targets were set according to available resources. The Minister of Science and Technology had asked whether targets could be changed.
Prof Labadarios said that perhaps the targets set were too low or perhaps the HSRC was working too hard. Some targets were met or surpassed whilst other targets were not met at all. The HSRC targets were dynamic.
The Chairperson noted that most entities had a problem with meeting targets because benchmarking was internationally based. Perhaps a localised approach needed to be followed.
Prof Labadarios said that there would be local and international elements taken into consideration. He noted that the HSRC’s achievement underscored the spirit of the organisation.
Ms Kobo noted that in the HSRC’s new Strategic Plan, an indicator had been revised.
Mr Pillay said that performance evaluation was rigorous and robust. There were criteria that employees had to fulfil. There was a moderations process in place. Simply meeting targets did not qualify for a reward. A total of 450 performance appraisals were done. If targets were exceeded then there was a 50% bonus. If performance was phenomenal then there was a 100% bonus. If performance was in the top two quintiles, then the individual received an increment or a promotion. Annually, there was on average five promotions. The HSRC paid its employees well.
Ms P Mocumi (ANC) referred to pages 26 and 27 of the briefing document on which challenges faced by the HSRC was being highlighted. How did the HSRC intend addressing these challenges? On page 111 of the Annual Report, it was stated that computers had a life expectancy of 5-20 years. She stated 20 years was a long time and asked if the computer equipment still be relevant. If the need arised, how did the HSRC dispose of its assets? Entities that the Committee had interacted with tended to have high staff turnovers. Did the HSRC also have high staff turnover? If so, what was the HSRC doing to address the issue? On page 165 of the Annual Report, mention was made of misconduct. What type of misconduct was committed?
Ms Singh explained that equipment was a broad category. For computer equipment the lifespan was five years. On disposable assets the information technology (IT) department would identify old equipment, thereafter the IT committee would make a recommendation. Preference was given to the Department of Basic Education to use the equipment if it was usable. Thereafter a recommendation would be made as to what to do with the equipment. It would then go on sale to the highest bidder.
Mr Pillay said that one of the challenges was funding. International funding for longitudinal research was obtained and the Chief Executive Officer of the HSRC was having discussions to obtain such international funding. On staff turnover, the science and technology environment was highly competitive. Staff was lost to government and universities. The HSRC did have a staff retention policy. Misconduct could be due to non-adherence to research ethics, plagiarism etc.
The Chairperson handed the HSRC a document containing recommendations that the Committee had made in relation to its 2012/13 Annual Report.
Briefing by Africa Institute of Southern Africa (AISA)
The AISA briefed the Committee on its Annual Report 2012/13. The delegation comprised of Prof Phindile Lukhele-Olurunju, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Ms Elsie Maritz, the Chief Finance Officer and Mr Thokozami Simelane, the Research Director. The Department of Science and Technology had decided to incorporate AISA into the Human Science Research Council. The AISA Repeal Bill passed through parliament and had awaited National Council of Provinces approval on the 19 September 2013. The proposed date of incorporation was 1 April 2014. Amongst the objectives of AISA was to promote knowledge and understanding of African affairs through leading social scientists acting in concert and across various disciplines and through training and education on African affairs. The Governance and Security Programme of AISA sought to study and monitor democracy and governance in Africa as a requirement for Africa’s sustainable development.
The Sustainable Development Programme sought to generate research products that were informative to SA’s sustainable development policies and its African partners.
The Science and Technology Programme were guided by SA’s National System of Innovation. The Science and Technology Unit sought to promote SA’s influence in Africa through the development and advancement of Africa’s Science and Technological platforms as a mode for sustainable development. The Committee was provided with a breakdown of audited research targets, outputs and outcomes pertaining to various performance indicators. For example on policy briefs the target had been set at 24, the actual output was 27, which meant that the target had been exceeded.
The AISA also had a Geographic Information Systems and Cartography Unit which was a cross cutting unit which played a pivotal role in the support of knowledge creation and understanding of African affairs.
Amongst AISA’s special projects and initiatives were AISA’s Flagship Research Projects and AISA’s Young Graduate and Scholars Programme. There was also an AISA Internship Programme and it had provided a campus lecture series.
AISA also had a publications division that was a conduit through which AISA’s research outputs were disseminated. Members were provided with figures on AISA’s audited publications outputs for 2012/13.For example it had set a target of publishing then books, the actual output was eleven, which meant that the target had been exceeded. AISA had eleven policy briefs that had been published. AISA also had a Library and Documentation Service Unit.
The Corporate Affairs Unit was responsible for governance, compliance, and branding and communications issue. The Outreach and International Liaison Unit promoted the mandate of AISA to various stakeholders by forming strategic linkages with government, science councils, academic institutions, the diplomatic community, business, media and civil society.
The Human Resources Division aimed to be a value driven division across the organisation. Members were provided with insight into the scientific qualifications of AISA staff. For example for research staff with PhD degrees there were six of which three were males and three were females. Five were South African and one was a non South African. AISA was made up of 83% Africans, 7% whites and 5% each for Coloureds and Indians. There was also a Finance, Administration and Information Technology Division which was structured to support AISA to fulfil its mandate of knowledge generation and dissemination on African affairs.
AISA obtained an unqualified audit report for 2012/13.There were 23 audit findings in 2012/13 as compared to 36 in 2011/12.
The budgeted estimated revenue for AISA was just over R37 million, the actual revenue received was just over R35 million. Budgeted expenditure was just over R37 million and actual expenditure was R31m.The liquidity ratio of AISA had improved from 1.48 to 2.38.
The Chairperson also handed the AISA a document containing recommendations that the Committee had made in regards to its 2012/13 Annual Report.
He referred to pages 92 and 93 of the Annual Report and said that the Auditor-General had made noted that AISA’s targets were not smart, not measurable, not specific and not time bound. On leadership, the Auditor-General had also stated that management had not done what they were supposed to do. Monitoring and control had also not been done. He also asked whether AISA employed disabled persons and if they did at which levels were they employed.
Ms Maritz stated that in terms of performance information the Annual Report reflected high staff turnover. There had been a mistake on the figures captured in the Annual Report. The figure was actually that of the previous year than the current year. There was thus an oversight on the date printed in the Annual Report. There had also been a mistake regarding information regarding AISA’s leadership. It was corrected in the current financial year. A letter had been sent to the Minister requesting that the information be corrected.
Prof Lukhele-Olorunju said that AISA currently did not have persons with disabilities in their employ. However disabled persons were welcome to respond to the jobs advertised by AISA. It could be said that perhaps AISA was not proactive enough to get disabled persons to fill posts.
Dr Simelane said that he would like to address the issue of what happened to AISA after 1994. He emphasised that AISA was very highly regarded outside of SA. But internally it was hardly recognised. The question was about whether AISA was being used optimally. Under President Thabo Mbeki, AISA was very prominent. He recommended that the uniqueness of the Institute should be looked at. AISA was more popular amongst Africans than South Africans.
The Chairperson said that there had been a change of focus with AISA. The Apartheid government had used AISA for other purposes. After 1994 it was changed to a science council. The then Department of Foreign Affairs in 2004 had used AISA as research entity. The Committee had raised the issue that perhaps AISA should be housed under the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. The powers that be had decided to incorporate AISA into the HSRC.
Ms Dunjwa was concerned that AISA had only used two radio stations to communicate its efforts to people. She stated in Port Elizabeth where she stayed she had never heard about AISA empowering people. She had never seen a pamphlet of AISA in the Eastern Cape.
What criteria did AISA use to identify scholars? Were they matriculants or university graduates?
Prof Lukhele-Olorunju said that not only SA Fm had been used by AISA but local radio stations as well. Perhaps AISA did not speak on radio stations in the Eastern Cape. AISA had covered schools in the Eastern Cape. AISA would normally link up with the Department of Education in the province. Unfortunately not all radio stations could be covered. The AISA project targeted graduate students at universities. The problem in SA was that people involved in the sciences were advanced in age. They were of age fifty-five and upwards. There was a lack of young people. There was a need for young person’s to become real researchers.
She said that AISA would consider the recommendations made by the Committee on AISA’s shortcomings.
Ms S Plaaitjie (COPE) pointed out that slide 7 of the presentation spoke about special projects. What types of projects were they? Slide 13 spoke about AISA travelling the world and communicating their experiences and knowledge to people in SA via radio. People needed to be educated and prepared about disasters. She asked how AISA prepared municipalities for disaster planning. Slide 36 referred to schools projects; she asked how AISA identified schools.
Dr Simelane said that special projects were there to enhance African patriotism. The floods project was conceived as a preventative measure if a disaster hit the Southern African Development Communities (SADC). SA would be expected to assist and its preparedness had to be determined. SADC members’ level of preparedness differed from country to country.
AISA had been under the impression that its publications would be good enough to keep provinces and local government informed.
The Chairperson said that in 2005 AISA had not had leadership for four years. No Annual Reports had been furnished to parliament. The Chairperson noted that the Department of Foreign Affairs had used AISA well.
Ms Mocumi asked whether AISA had a wellness programme. Had AISA advertised posts other than in newspapers so that the blind could also be aware of the vacancies?
Prof Lukhele-Olorunju explained that AISA did have a wellness programme up until two years ago. The reason it was not kept was that staff had not used it. However new employees employed by AISA had asked about it and it was perhaps going to be reintroduced.
She stated that newspapers had always been used to advertise posts. The point was however taken.
The meeting was adjourned.
- 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.