Natural Scientific Professions Bill: hearing

Arts and Culture

25 February 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


24 February 2003

Chairperson: Ms Njobe

Documents handed out

South African Council for Natural Scientific Profession
National Small Business Bill [B20-2003]

The Department of Science and Technology submissions on the Natural Scientific Professions Bill called for a complete repeal of the old Act. The new bill seeks to provide for the establishment of the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions whose main function would be to monitor and run a system of evaluating academic programmes in the field of natural science in South Africa.

Concerns were raised around the proposed bill more particularly to the effect that the new bill did not bring about substantive changes or change of fundamental principles it only brought about structural changes. Committee members needed some compelling reasons as to why the old Act was repealed in its entirety.

The chairperson informed the committee members that since the Bill was formulated in consultation with scientific organizations and with various members of the public, there was a need for the committee to once again invite such public bodies for a public hearing.

Presentation by the Department of Science and Technology
Ms Pyoos representing the department conducted the presentation starting with the background of the proposed Bill. The current legislation on natural scientific profession was aim at reviewing the Natural Scientific Professions Act of 1993, which governed the certification of natural scientific profession.

The department had been in consultation with a team of legal experts and had been advised as follows: To completely repeal the Natural Scientific Professions Act of 1993 in its entirety. The reason being, the old Act was not compatible with the global developments and it failed to provide for a transparent framework that would regulate the appointment and registration of natural scientific profession. Acting on the advice provided by the legal experts as well as taking into account the limitations existing under the old Act, the department decided to introduce the proposed bill to repeal the old Act.

The main objectives behind the new bill, which was inter alia to provide for the establishment of the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions and for the registration of professional, candidate and certificated natural scientists, and for matters connected therewith. The Bill further seeks to establish mechanisms for the trained people in the field of natural science to be recognized in South Africa and elsewhere. The Bill will cover the professional natural scientist, candidate natural scientist and certificated natural scientists.

With regards to the composition of the Council, Ms Pyoos pointed out that the Council would consist of not fewer than 20 and not more than 30 members and representation would range from members of the certificated natural scientists nominated by voluntary associations, people in the service of State as well as members of the public.

Ms Pyoos also informed the committee members that that the envisaged Council would receive funding through subscription, loan subject to the approval of the Minister and Minister of Finance and on the voluntary membership by registered persons. Furthermore, the Council would remunerate its members and officials through its funds. However the Minister had powers to inquire on any misappropriation of funds.

She highlighted that the proposed bill would provide for the recognition of voluntary associations and as soon as the framework for recognition of these voluntary associations was approved, the Council would determine the requirements with which a voluntary association had to comply to qualify for recognition by the council.

Mr M F Cassiem (IFP) asked in which respects would the 2002 Bill cover aspects, which were not covered by the 193 Act. What scientific people stand to gain by completely new legislation?

Mr Cassiem was also concerned about how would the proposed Bill ensure that council members knowledge was current.

Ms Pyoos (Department) stated that academic programmes could be reviewed to ensure that South African professionals are keeping the required global standard.

She then referred to the appointment procedures in the previous legislation and conceded that the 2002 Bill seeks to revise the appointment procedure by looking at how the board was composed.

Professor I J Mohammed (ANC) was concerned about the accreditation of courses and the examination of members due to the specialist nature of the scientific profession.
He further asked if the proposed bill would allow for a proper carry over of the old staff operating under the old Council.

Ms Pyoos (Department) made reference to clause 42 of the Bill and affirmed to the members of the committee that the new bill did allow for continuity and therefore it was not collapsing the old Act in its entirety.

Mr N Ngcobo from the ANC expressed his concerns about research and evaluation and whether international expertise would be required.

Ms Van Wyk (NNP) felt that the new legislation was not sufficiently advertised for the public to respond.

The chairperson disagreed strongly with Ms Van Wyk and indicated that the mere fact that the public did not respond to the advertisements was not because the legislation was not sufficiently advertised but possibly because they found the legislation controversial. The chair pointed out that the proper advertising procedures were followed and that the purpose of a public hearing is to give people an opportunity to participate, which opportunity was given in the present case.

Mr Cassiem (IFP) conceded that the proposed Bill had failed to deal with substantive changes or to bring about real fundamental change of principles. Hence he was of the view that the 2002 Bill was more structural than fundamental.

Ms Pyoos (Department) noted that the purpose of the council was not to evaluate or to give grants for research but rather to evaluate academic programmes. She added that the idea that the old Act be completely repealed was a joint decision by the committee and the department. Thus the department was not in a position to change the Bill, as the powers to effect such changes vested in the hands of the Portfolio committee.

Mr Gore (DP) asked whether there was an intention to repeal certain sections in the 1993 Act.

Ms Pyoos (Department) pointed out that the issue of repeal was dealt with in section 44 of the 2002 Bill. Furthermore that section 27(5) was designed in such a way so as not to preclude registered members from performing those elements of the natural scientific profession, which were vital for the practising profession.

Presentation by South African Council for Natural Scientific Profession (SACNSP)
Professor Crewe representing the Council pointed out that the function of SACNSP was to register professionals in the field of natural science. He further informed the members of the committee that the registration of the natural scientists was no way an infringement of the freedom of speech. He made it clear that the function of the council was to register professionals and to deal with the accreditation of qualifications as provided for in section 13. Professor Crewe restated that the council had got nothing to do with research and evaluation. He indicated that should professionals wish to practice in the private sector they need be registered as a professional. If the council did not recognize qualifications, an individual could apply to the council for an examination provided that the necessary qualifications and experience to practice were met.

Hence he informed the committee members that it was important to recognize that the proposed Council had a very pivotal economic role to play in the light of the converging global developments and in fulfilling the highest standards thereto.

Ms Njobe (Chairperson) agreed with Professor Crewe that the purported Council together the proposed voluntary associations had a vital role to play to South African activities.
However she inquired about the measures taken by the department in ensuring that there would be sufficient representation in the purported Council including communities who had been previously disadvantaged.

Mr Gore (DP) was concerned about registration and he asked if the Council would liable for its registered members if something went wrong in future.

Professor Crewe stated that the council consults with the Higher Education Institutions as it was operating under the auspices of these institutions. The council was thus interested in the initial qualifications obtained for registration.
He further indicated that the council does not bear any liability for fault of a member. The council investigated complaints and if a member is found to be at fault, it could impose sanctions.

The meeting was adjourned



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