The Department of Science and Technology (DST) had in collaboration with the Parliamentary Legal Advisers effected the Science and Technology Laws Amendment Bill and took the Committee through a clause-by-clause presentation of the amendments. It was indicated that the Department’s was to harmonize the provision of the Act so that the appointment processes for Chief Executive Office (CEOs) and board members could be a standardised process across all entities. It was also stated that the Bill will remove the Committee’s recommending process, even though the constitutionally-mandated oversight would remain so.
The Language Act, 2012 that prescribed publication in the three national newspapers in the three official newspapers had been harmonised throughout the Bill and was incorporated in clauses 1, 4,10,15,19 and 24. The insertion of “corruption or any crime involving dishonesty” for the appointment requirements for board members had been harmonised throughout the Bill and in incorporated into clauses 1, 4, 8, 12, 15 and 25. The addition of a split into (a) and (b), which meant for subsection (a) the two months absence of the CEO was made a condition, something that was beyond the CEO’s control and for (b) there was insertion of or “unable to carry out his/her duties” and these changes had been harmonised throughout the Bill into clause 3, 6, 14 and 23.
There was also insertion of “senior person” instead of “any person” for the appointment requirements for the acting CEO and this had been harmonised throughout the Bill in incorporated clauses 3, 5, 6, 14, 16, 23, and 26.
The changes had been effected as per instruction from the previous meeting. The entire Committee voted for the Bill, except a Member of the Democratic Alliance who had a problem with Clause 7& 18 on regulations. The Chairperson noted that the Bill was voted for and accepted with one reservation. The Committee would take a decision in the next Committee meeting on its oversight role with regard to the reservation by the Democratic Alliance (DA).
Opening remarks by Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed Members and all participants to the meeting. He said the Committee should proceed with the consideration of the Bill without any hesitation. He then asked the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Parliamentary Legal Adviser, Dr Barbara Loots, to take the Committee through the Bill.
Clause-by-Clause consideration of the Science and Technology Laws Amendment Bill
Dr Loots said the team would be speaking from a final document that was with green amendments, then a circulated proposed redraft. She indicated that for the purpose of voting, it should be a clause-by-clause vote.
DrLoots mentioned that Clause 1 coveredthe Scientific Research Council Act of 1988 and sought to amend Clause 1(7). The amendment here sought to have a number of newspapers in which the call for nominations should be published and called on when and how the consultation should take place when a member wanted to hold office. She also indicated that onClause 1(10)(c) where the Committee Members raised concerns about conviction, the phrasing was changed to include “corruption or any crime involving dishonesty”.
Clause 2 was the standard dissolution of the board and remained unchanged from the previous meeting.
Clause 3(4)was split into (a) and (b), which meant for(a) the two months absence of the CEO was made a condition and something that was beyond the CEO’s control and for (b)there was insertion of or “unable to carry out his/her duties”.
The Chairperson asked the Committee Members if they were satisfied with the amendments so far.
Dr Klooppers-Lourens (DA) wanted clarity on Clause 3(5) where “an employee” from the Draft Bill was subsequently changed to a “senior employee” in the Amendment Bill. She raiseda concern that this amendment was changing the Principal Act and asked if there was a possibility to change what was already in the Principal Act.
Dr Loots replied that the Committee was allowed to change what was already in the Principal Act, meaning it could now be a “senior employee” in both the Principal Act and the Amendment Bill.
In Clause 4(6), the wordsin Clause 6(a) which read “a member of the board ceases to hold office” were substituted for “vacates office”. Dr Loots also apologised for an oversight error as the substituted sentence was not reflected in the Redrafted Bill but when Committee Members vote in the content, this will be reflected in the Principal Act version for the National Assembly (NA). In Clause 4(9)(ii) there was addition of “corruption or any other crime involving dishonesty” as was already explained in Clause 1(10) (c)(ii). Clause 4 was up for consideration.
Clause 5 wasthe dissolution of the board with no changes as was the case in Clause 2.
The amendment in Clause 6 was that the Board must appoint a suitably skilled and qualified person as the chiefexecutive officerof the Foundation, after following a transparent andcompetitive selection process. The phrase “suitably skilled and qualified person” had been added.
Dr Loots requested that the current section should become subsection 1, by the deletion in subsection (1) of paragraph (a) and the addition of the following subsection,“regulations made in terms of subsection 1 (d), that are not administrative or procedural in nature must b submitted to Parliament at least 30 days before promulgation”. The reason for this was that the Parliament was working on setting its own process and procedures in place, therefore, the Parliament will then have the list of its kinds of regulations.
The Chairperson asked if the changes in Clause 7(1) were reflected in the Redrafted Bill, as he was concerned about voting for changesthat were not reflected in the Redrafted Bill.
Dr Loots replied that changes in Clause 7 were not reflected in the Redrafted Bill, however, she indicated that depending on the voting now, the vote will be reflected as an instruction in the Redraft as to be tabled in the Parliament.
The Chairperson said he was still unsure if it was possible to vote for changes that were not reflected in the Redrafted Bill.
Ms L Dunjwa (ANC) also asked that since the changes in Clause 7(1) were not reflected in both the content document and the Redrafted Bill, what were Committee Members were going to vote for?
Dr Loots replied that she was requesting that the sentence in Clause 7(1) was left in both the Redrafted Bill and the content document that mirrored the Redraft, so if the Members decided to vote for the proposed revised phrase, she could be given permission to be able to include the changes in the Redraft Bill.
The Chairperson repeated that it was impossible to vote for changes that were not reflected in both the content document and the Redrafted Bill.
Mr M Nonkonyane (ANC) felt that Dr Loots was too legalistic and needed to explain her requisition in a simplistic manner.
The Chairperson explained that Dr Loots was requesting for the Committee to vote for the changes in Clause 7(1), although these changes were not reflected in both the content document and the Redrafted Bill, because of lack of time.
Dr Loots explained again that this was a normal procedure in voting, as the Clause that had been adopted with amendment will be the one in the document in front of the House. She indicated that it was not unprocedural to verbally make amendments that were absent in both the content document and the Redrafted Bill.
Mr Marhia Mulealy, Adviser to the Minister of Science and Technology stated that Dr Loots was complicating the whole exercise as what she was simply saying was that on Clause 7, Section 23 of the Principal Actwhich stated that “regulations made in terms of subsection (1) (d), that are not administrative or procedural in nature, must be submitted to Parliament at least 30 days before their promulgation” and Dr Loots was requesting that the part “ that are not administrative or procedural in nature” must be removed from that Clause.
Ms Dunjwa mentioned that the Committee Members understood Dr Loot’s point now that it was made clear, and said their fear was voting for a Bill that was not reflected in both the content document and the Redrafted Bill.
Dr Kloppers-Lourens asked what “submitted to Parliament” on Clause 7(2) entailed.
Dr Loots replied that “submit” in that instance meantthe Department will send the report to Parliament then the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) will review the document, then on the Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (ATC) and then will refer the regulations to the relevant Committee, then the speaker will refer the regulations to DST, and then the Committee will decide whether to read through the report or to make a presentation.
Dr Kloppers-Lourens asked if the report will come back to the relevant Committee.
Dr Loots replied that, indeed, the report will be reverted to the relevant Committee.
Clause 8 sought to amend section 7(1) (ii) which the Committee Members requested for the insertion of “any other crime involving dishonesty”. There was also addition in Clause 8(6) to include “reporting to Parliament to strengthen oversight of the Committee”.
Dr Kloppers-Lourens pointed out that during last year’s Committee meeting,the phrase “the president” in Clause 8, Section 2(e) was supposed to have been changed to” the president of the academy”.
Dr Loots responded that the agreement was that it could be “the president” in the content but for clarity purposes then the wording “the president of the academy” could be included.
In Clause 9, Section 3(b) there was a minimal amendment to include “scientific qualification” and also the strengthening of the oversight of the Committee with the addition of subsection 3, this was also up for consideration.
In Clause 10, Section 4 included the language requirement and the strengthening of the oversight of the Committee. This was also up for consideration.
Clause 11 remained unchanged from the previous meeting.
Clause 12 had minimal changes in subsection 6 (ii) with the insertion of “corruption or any other crime involving dishonesty” as was previously reflected. This was up for consideration.
In Clause 13, there were also no changes except in subsection 6 where the Committee requested for the phrase “30 days reporting” to be put in.
In Clause 14, subsection 6 reflected the most recent proposed amendment by DST and the comments by the Committee Members. There was separation between “less than two months” and “over two months” as was requested by the Committee.
Clause 15 was not that different from last year’s proposed amendment, only for the inclusion of “any other crime involving dishonesty”. Clause 15 was also up for consideration.
Clause 16 was the dissolution of the board clause and remained unchanged from the previous meeting.
Clause 17 would be revised to standardise the CEO regulations.
Clause 18 was an amendment to the regulations and remained unchanged from the previous meeting.
Subsection 4(a) and (b) incorporated the Languages Act and reference to an Independent panel and would incorporate the reference to “re-advertising or in any other transparent manner”. Subsection 8 included the reference to the board being broadly representative of the demographics of the country.
In Clause 20, “ceases to hold office” was substituted for “vacates office”, and the provision that the Minster may after consideration of the shortlist compiled by the panel referred to in section 5 (4) (b) or in any other transparent manner.
Clause 21 remained unchanged.
Clause 22 was a repeat of the dissolution of the board process and remained unchanged.
Mr Nonkonyane asked whether the removal of Clause 21(2) would mean that the numbering will be also be changed in the final document.
Dr Loots replied that the reason the numbering was not adjusted was because there might be some legislations that had cross reference with the Principal Act, so the numbering was not changed so as to avoid any confusion.
In Clause 23, the amendment to subsection 9 included the addition of a “senior person” instead of “any person”.
Subsection 4 (b) included the reference to the board being broadly representative of the demographics of the country.
In Clause 25, subsection 1(ii) included reference to “corruption or any other crime involving dishonesty” and along with all other amendments from last year.
The amendment in Clause 26 was an insertion of the dissolution of the board and remained unchanged.
Clause 27 would revise the appointment of the CEO process for standardisation.
Mr Nonkonyane asked for clarity on subsection 7 which stated that the “CEO must report to the board on all required matters” and especially the ambiguity on the phrase “all required matters”, meaning there was a possibility of matters that were not “required”.
Mr Brian Muthwa, the DST Chief Director of Legal Service, replied that on the issue of proposed change, it was not usual for the CEO to report to the board on all matters, but the board generally indicated on matters to be reported. He said that some of the matters were routine administrative matters that were within the powers of the CEO, therefore, the board will indicate to the CEO on crucial matters that required to be reported.
Mr Nonkonyane indicated that since the CEO was allowed to report on “all required matters”, he or she could be selective in reporting, therefore, he offered that the CEO should be restricted to report on all the matters, so as to ensure accountability and avoid biasness.
Ms Nombuyiselo Mokoena, Department of Science and Technology Deputy Director General, indicated that it was not problematic that the CEO can report on “all the required matters”, however, she was worried that if this was to be made a law, then many problems might arise.
The Chairperson asked the Committee Members if there were still some issues that needed clarity on all the additions and amendments in all the mentioned clauses, as it was time to vote on the Bill that had been tabled.
Dr Kloppers-Lourens indicated that there seemed to be ambiguity on Clauses 7& 18 on regulations, therefore, the Democratic Alliance had reservation to vote for the Bill tabled.
Mr Nonkonyane stated that it was sad that the DA had reservation to the Bill after much effort to clarify all the ambiguity in the discussed clauses. He indicated that he supported and voted for the Bill.
Ms Dunjwaseconded Mr Nonkonyane and supported the tabled Bill. She said this was the same for all other Members of the ANC.
The Chairperson thanked everyone and concluded that the Bill was supported and voted for by all the Committee members, except Dr Kloppers-Lourens who had a problem with Clause 7& 18 on regulations. Therefore, the Bill was accepted with one reservation.
Dr Kloppers-Lourens thanked the DST in collaboration with the Parliamentary Legal Advisers for all the excellent work and effort they had put in.
The Chairperson thanked the Members, officials from the Department and the Parliamentary Legal Advisers.
The meeting was adjourned.
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