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SELECT COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND RECREATION
1 April 2003
BUDGET OF THE DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Mr Kgware
Documents handed out:
Department of Science and Technology Budget Briefing
The Department of Science and Technology presented their annual budget. There was a general increase in budget distribution. The Department outlined their programmes, which included the Technology for Development programme and Government Science and Technology Programme. The Committee was pleased with the Department's commitment to research and development. The Department noted that they only became a separate entity in October 2002 and they had a great deal of work still to do.
Deputy Director-General: Mr Peddler, conducted the presentation on the general distribution of the budget of the Department of Science and Technology. He indicated that the Department's budget should be understood in the context of the South Africa's National Research and Development Strategy, which indicated the need to transform research and development in South Africa. He noted that the Department of Science and Technology was only established as a separate entity in October 2002. He asked the Committee to understand that much still needed to be done.
He indicated an increasing trend in the budget distribution since 1994/95. He was, however, not impressed with South Africa's national investment in science and technology, which he estimated at 0.7 of the Gross Domestic Product. Mr Peddler concluded his presentation by showing that there was transformation in the Department as indicated by the management staff composition as required by the Employment Equity Act.
The Director, Mr Njamdalu, presented on the budget statistics and projects to which the money was allocated. His focus was on initiatives by the Department to strengthen research and development as part of poverty relief and strengthening the research and innovation in science and technology.
Mr Raju (DP) was pleased with the budget. He asked Mr Peddler to expand on the progress of the Bill that would protect indigenous knowledge from exploitation by multinational companies.
Mr Peddler said that the Department was in the process of taking stock of indigenous knowledge and determining whether such knowledge was not unfairly copyrighted. He also explained that there was an agreement with some pharmaceutical companies to give royalties to particular indigenous communities who provided the intellectual knowledge which resulted in scientifically modified products.
Mr Raju asked for comparative staff composition statistics.
Mr Peddler did not have such statistics prepared for the meeting. He promised to avail them.
Mr Sogoni (UDM) was pleased with the budget. He then asked if the Department had any say in the allocation and distribution of funds once it had transferred them to different organisations.
Mr Njamdalu said that the Department had a say to the extent that they reviewed progress reports, annual reports and business plans of such organisations.
Mr Sogoni asked if the Department could determine how the youth and women - particularly in rural areas - accessed the funds that were disbursed by the Department.
Mr Njamdalu explained that such groups could only benefit from certain projects directed at them. He listed projects in agro-processing and also made an example of the Reference Book for Women in Science and Technology. Such projects were established in the context of poverty relief.
Mr Sogoni asked if the Department was involved in promoting science and technology in schools.
Mr Njamdalu said that the Department was not as involved as it wished but it only collaborated with the Department of Education on some projects. The Department was involved in the science and technology promotions with Mark Shuttleworth as well as learnership programmes in science and technology.
A Member asked whether the Department was doing anything to reverse the stereotype that science was not for women and black people.
Mr Peddler said that at the psychological level, the Department would find it difficult to intervene. However, the Department would continue to promote science and technology in schools in disadvantaged areas and amongst the population.
The Chairperson was pleased with the budget. He asked if prior learning was recognised in supporting innovators who have no formal qualifications.
Mr Peddler agreed and made an example of the recognition awards given by the National Advisory Council for Innovation (NACI) for innovators with no formal qualifications but had valuable experience.
In conclusion, the Chairperson thanked the presenters and invited them to consult the Committee regularly and keep them informed about progress in the Department.
The meeting was adjourned.
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