Four entities of the Department of Science and Technology – the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), the Human Sciences Research Council (HRSC) and the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) – presented their annual reports for 2015/16 to the Portfolio Committee.
The CSIR achieved a clean audit opinion from the AG and all its targets were achieved, with the exception of royalty and licence income, which fell by R3.5 million. Its interventions in the bio-manufacturing industry culminated in the support of 19 enterprises and 16 entrepreneurs, the transfer of 44 market-ready products to small businesses, and the creation of a number of job opportunities. Through its interventions to reduce rhino-poaching, a predictive modelling tool was deployed to assist rangers in the Kruger National Park and other nature reserves to focus their resources on the areas where incursions were most likely to take place. In its involvement in African research, development and implementation, the CSIR had addressed the challenge of livestock disease through developing diagnostic instruments that tested for infectious diseases such as foot and mouth disease and brucellosis, and the diagnostic instruments had supplied real-time results to enable immediate decision-making around containment strategies. It was currently leading a project to support the development and integration of renewable energy resources in power systems in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, and the entity’s engineers had assisted Tanzania’s road authorities in developing new asphalt guidelines to counter high incidents of premature pavement failures. The number of journal articles published and number of patents awarded had increased in the financial year.
Members asked if the asphalt being used in Tanzania was also being used in South Africa and, if so, in which provinces. Did the CSIR have any partnerships with telecoms entities to foster the local manufacturing of telecoms equipment? How were its projects and interventions communicated to the community? What percentage of the entity’s revenue was derived from the private sector? Was its web-based technology available in municipalities?
ASSAf achieved an unqualified audit opinion in the financial year. Contributions towards the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, included the reconstitution of the Standing Committee on Science for reduction of poverty and inequality, hosting the annual meeting of African Science Academies (AMASA) in November 2016, which focused on poverty reduction, the transformation of ASSAf membership in terms of race and gender, the employment and skills development of interns, and the raising science awareness. While it achieved its strategic objectives to promote access to knowledge resources and undertake quality assurance of journals, books and collected works, the entity failed to achieve its targets related to enhancing scientific writing for research publishing, due to funding constraints. Its total revenue dropped from R39.73 million in the previous financial year to R36.26 million in 2015/16, while total expenditure increased from R35.95 million to R42.53.
The Committee wanted to know why the salaries of ASSAf’s executive officers had increased by 80%. What interventions were in place to ensure an improvement in its revenue? They asked why it was not subject to auditing by the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) and the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), and sought clarity on the amount of irregular expenditure that had been incurred and the corrective actions that had been instituted.
The HSRC reported that it had a five year plan to focus on poverty and inequality. Its strategic intent was to generate new knowledge on poverty and inequality, to inform further analysis and help decision makers, and also to focus on the kinds of social innovations that would need to be in the foreground of shifting and reversing the persistence of poverty and the deepening of inequality. The HSRC had achieved an overall performance of 73% against its predetermined objectives. It provided details of its main achievements and challenges, and indicated that its revenue-generating stream was on an upward trend. It said its staff should be credited for the achievement of most of the goals set out, despite the inordinate amount of time which researchers had channelled into pursuing external research funding to assist the entity to sustain the level of its current outputs. While there was often a synergy between the objectives of the organisation and those of funders, the entity was always driven by the need to raise funds and to pursue some of the more independent priority work that should be done.
The HSRC was asked how African research fellows at local universities would be funded, and whether the governments of the participating countries would sponsor them, considering the under-funding of higher education which had resulted in the “fees must fall” protests. How was the “fees must fall” movement impacting on the HSRC’s interventions and achievements? It was suggested that the Portfolio Committee should recommend that other government departments should channel their funds spent on consultancy to the HRSC, where it had the capacity to undertake the relevant work.
SANSA received a clean audit for the third consecutive year. As part of its interventions to improve human settlements, satellite data was being provided to enable the Department of Human Settlements to meet its goals, such as addressing the urban housing challenges by eradicating the housing backlog. A drought observatory tool had been developed, to assist with vegetation change visualisation. To improve water management, the Department of Water and Sanitation uses satellite data from SANSA to regulate and monitor water usage, to authorise and license water use for irrigation, and to assess the status of small water bodies at municipal level. The entity’s products and services support the government’s energy solutions and contribute through a wide array of interventions, such as monitoring land, air and maritime security. There were partnerships with Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt as regards the EO-Sat1 programme. As a result of SANSA’s industry development, 53 jobs were directly supported by the satellite programme, with R94 million outsourced to industry. Small businesses that benefited from the programme were mostly black-owned and women-owned. The total revenue of the organisation increased from R239.69 million to R338.60 million, while expenditure increased from R208.04 million to R225.33 million.
Members asked if there were any marketing strategies to attract investors to fund the EO-Sat1 programme at the present stage, rather than waiting till 2023 or 2024, when the programme would already be a success. How were women with an interest in science and technology encouraged and integrated into the system? Concerns were expressed over the appointment of an acting chief executive officer who was also a member of the SANSA board, and recommended a short time frame for the appointment of a full-time replacement.
Mr Paulsen mentioned that according to the original agenda CSIR should make the first presentation followed by HSRC then ASSAf and SANSA. He inquired if the committee could forfeit the lunch break for HSRC’s presentation and as he would prefer not to miss out on maximum participation in the meeting and in the same vein be able to attend another committee meeting.
The Chairperson responded that the meeting schedule was changed several times but the committee would try its best to accommodate Mr Paulsen’s requirements if possible.
All delegates from CSIR introduced themselves as requested by the Chairperson and Dr Rachel Chikwamba (Group Executive, Stakeholder Relations CSIR) specially thanked members of the committee for their support when she was hurt in an accident.
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR): Annual report
Dr Molefi Motuku, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO): CSIR, said the Council had achieved a clean audit opinion from the Auditor General (AG). The entity had a staff complement of 2 685, and a total operating income of R2.7 billion. It achieved and exceeded five of the six indicators in the scientific and technical targets category. However, the targets set for royalty and licence income had plummeted by R3.5 million compared to the previous financial year, as only R5.2 million of the targeted R7.4 million had been realised.
The entity had met and exceeded all its targets related to learning and growth by increasing the total size of the science, engineering and technology (SET) base, and the number of black South Africans and those with doctorates in the SET base. It had also met its financial and governance targets, increasing its investment in property, plant and equipment (R308 million was achieved as opposed the targeted R113 million), and increasing net profit, amongst others.
Reporting on highlights of research projects, he said CSIR’s interventions for the bio-manufacturing industry had culminated in the support of 19 enterprises (ten black-women owned) and 16 entrepreneurs by the Bio-manufacturing Industry Development Centre (BIDC), the transfer of 44 market-ready products to small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), the creation of 125 permanent and 180 temporary jobs, the training of 181 beneficiaries through workshops, and the training of 73 interns in the BIDC’s vocational learning programme. The CSIR’s project of incubating industries based on nano-technology had resulted in a launch of the DST-CSIR national centre for nano-structured materials and also partnerships with Greenfields and Amka on artificial turf and homecare products. Projects on industries based on laser engineering had resulted in a successful technology used with Eskom to extend the service life of Koeberg water tanks, and had also saved South African industry maintenance costs by at least 55%.
Dr Motuku said that in the entity’s interventions to build a capable state, a web-based technology to help municipalities improve their turnaround times on service delivery had been piloted in the Amathole District Municipality in the Eastern Cape. The intervention had resulted in an improvement in the municipality’s network security.
Interventions in CSIR’s economic infrastructure projects had culminated in the training by the entity’s researchers of pond operators on maintenance guidelines. Through the intervention, an algae-based wastewater treatment project had been installed at Motetema in the Sekhukhune District Municipality in Limpopo. As part of CSIR’s projects on transitioning to a low-carbon economy, the National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC), which was hosted at the CSIR on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had saved companies R1.54 billion through the implementation of the Industrial Energy Efficiency Project since 2010. In the reporting financial year, the NCPC had assisted companies to achieve R75 million in resource savings and had identified R232 million in potential savings through resource efficiency and cleaner production assessments. Through the entity’s interventions to reduce rhino-poaching, a predictive modelling tool was recently deployed to assist rangers in the Kruger National Park and other nature reserves to focus their resources on the areas where incursions were most likely to take place, whilst other rhino-poaching initiatives were also developed.
As part of CSIR’s projects on building safer communities, the entity had developed a multipurpose electronics pod that evaluates and tests radar and electronic systems in flight, whilst informing that the modular payload could be reconfigured for various research, test, evaluation and training scenarios. As part of its projects to improving health, a field trial of the Umbiflow (a device capable of detecting foetuses at risk of death during pregnancy) testing project was launched in Kraaifontein in the Western Cape and in the Tshwane district. The first six months of the project had revealed that the perinatal mortality rate for women who had access to Umbiflow testing was 11.3 per 1 000 deliveries, as opposed to the previous 20 per 1 000 deliveries.
Dr Motuku also reported that as part of the CSIR’s initiatives to transform human settlements, a housing demand model was developed in partnership with the Palmer Development Group, and the CSIR was training officials from the Gauteng Provincial Government in the use of the housing demand model as a decision-making tool. In the organisation’s involvement in African research, development and implementation, the entity had addressed the challenge of livestock disease through developed diagnostic instruments that tested for infectious diseases such as foot and mouth disease and brucellosis, and the diagnostic instruments had supplied real-time results to enable immediate decision-making around containment strategies.
The CSIR was currently leading a project to support the development and integration of renewable energy resources in power systems in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, and the entity’s engineers had assisted Tanzania’s road authorities in developing new asphalt guidelines to counter high incidents of premature pavement failures. The number of journal articles published and number of patents awarded had increased in the financial year. The public sector accounted for the bulk of the entity’s income.
Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf): Annual report
Prof Roseanne Diab, CEO: ASSAf, said that the organisation had both direct and indirect contributions to the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. The direct contribution to poverty was highlighted as the reconstitution of the Standing Committee on Science for the reduction of poverty and inequality, and an indirect contribution was identified as the hosting of the Annual Meeting of African Science Academies (AMASA) in November 2016, which aimed at poverty reduction. As regards inequality, direct contributions were identified as transformation of ASSAf membership in terms of race and gender, and ensuring membership of the standing committee was representative, whilst an indirect contribution was the core values of ASSAf, which embraced the constitution of the country. A direct contribution to unemployment was the employment and skills development of interns, whilst an indirect contribution was the raising of science awareness and providing information on science careers through Quest science magazine.
Significant developments in the organisation were an increase in membership by 31, the completion of three consensus studies and three proceedings reports, the publishing of 62 South African journal titles through the Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELo) SA, hosting of the February 2016 InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) conference on science advice, amongst others. Of the total 470 members, 25% were women, and 28% were black.
In Programme One (governance and administration), ASSAf had achieved all its targets pertaining to promoting good governance through the Council and promoting diversification of academy membership. The entity had managed to achieve only one of its three targeted performance indicators to recognise, reward and promote excellence in science.
In Programme Two (communication), the organisation had achieved all its strategic objectives as regards marketing the academy among its target audiences and the promotion of public awareness of science.
In Programme Three (liaison), ASSAf had achieved all its strategic objectives in areas of collaborating with national, regional and global science organisations, promoting young scientists, and promoting women for science activities.
As regards ASSAf’s Programme Four (policy advisory), the entity had failed to achieve two of its six performance indicators related to providing evidence-based scientific advice to government, due to the focus of activities on the publication of consensus study reports. The unachieved indicators were namely the number of policymakers’ booklets published, and the number of statements published.
In programme Five (publications), all targets were achieved as regards the number of issues of Quest magazine and the South African Journal of Science (SAJS) published.
In Programme Six (scholarly publishing), the SciELO-SA collection had increased by 29% over 12 months, and the usage increased by 38% in the same period. While ASSAf had achieved its strategic objectives to promote access to knowledge resources and undertake quality assurance of journals, books and collected works, the entity had failed to achieve its targets related to enhancing scientific writing for research publishing, due to funding constraints.
Mr Morakeng Chiloane, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): ASSAf reported that the entity’s total revenue had reduced from R39.73 million in the previous financial year, to R36.26 million in the current financial year. Total expenditure had increased from R35.95 million to R42.53, and ASSAf’s deficit had increased from R3.69 million in the previous financial year to R6.24 million in 2015/16 financial year.
Ms J Terblanche (DA) inquired if the asphalt the CSIR was assisting Tanzania with was also available in South Africa, and if so, in which provinces it was being used. In rural provinces where she travelled, many known tarred roads were now gravel roads. As “charity begins at home,” South Africa should be assisted first since much of the entity’s revenue stemmed from the public sector and Parliament.
The Chairperson confirmed that there had been a great improvement in Dar es Salaam roads as a consequence of CSIR’s interventions.
Mr N Paulsen (EFF) commended the CSIR’s achievement of a clean audit opinion from the AG, the research products of the entity in the six research impact areas, and the absence of fruitless and wasteful expenditure. However, it had one unachieved performance target concerning income from royalties, where R5.2 million was achieved as opposed the target of R7.4 million. What interventions could be made to realise the outstanding R2.2 million, and would the amount would be added to the target for the next financial year? He asked how the projects and interventions of the entity were communicated to the community. What percentage of the entity’s revenue was derived from the private sector, since the private sector benefited from its initiatives and projects? He agreed with Ms Terblanche’s comment, and added that the asphalt used in Tanzania should first be applied on roads in the North West Province. Addressing his comments to ASSAf, he inquired why the salaries of executive officers had increased by a massive 80%. What interventions were in place to ensure the revenue of the organisation improved in the next financial year, since there had been reductions lately? What had been the basis for the free hosting of South African Academy of Engineering, as there was no rationale between hosting free conferences and running at a deficit? ASSAf was currently making strides with its 470 members. He asked how the general public was engaged to market the entity’s products and how the impacts of interventions were measured. He commended the entity’s achievement of an unqualified audit, with findings.
Mr N Koornhof (ANC) commended the interventions of CSIR as regards rhino poaching, and said that he also functioned as the patron of the “Balule Black Mamba Anti-poaching Unit,” which was the first black women anti-poaching unit in South Africa. He confirmed that the intervention by the CSIR was a successful one. He inquired about the staff complement at ASSAf’s head office. He sought clarity on the unexpected expenditure incurred as a result of requirements by the Treasury, and noted that the general expenditure of R23 million was fairly high. He asked about the interventions in place to reduce deficits or whether the entity would consider reducing its operating budget for the next financial year.
Dr A Lotriet (DA) asked if CSIR’s web-based technology was available for municipalities. As regards ASSAf, she sought clarity on the independent auditor’s report which read, “in terms of predetermined objectives, the entity was not audited as the entity does not fall within the ambit of the PFMA.” She also quoted that in terms of ASSAf compliance with legislation, it read “the entity did not in all material aspects comply with section 2(2) of the ASSAf Act, which requires that the academy must comply with the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).” She said the entity had to comply with its own Act, but on the other hand it had not. She then inquired if the issue had been resolved.
Mr M Kekana (ANC) commended both entities for their interventions. As regards ASSAf, he asked if any progress had been made in terms of procuring its own office premises. What had been the number of members that had attended the annual general meeting, and what were the reasons for the attendance figures. He then asked about the amount of irregular expenditure that had been incurred and the corrective actions that had been instituted.
The Chairperson sought clarity on the rollout date of the system that had been piloted in the Amathole District Municipality in the Eastern Cape. As regards cyber security, she affirmed that the Department of Science and Technology (DST) had invested R6 million in cyber infrastructure, and asked if there had been any collaboration with telecommunication entities. As regards the Umbiflow project, in which a field trial was conducted in Kraaifontein and Tshwane district, she asked for the exact location where the project had been conducted in Tshwane. As regards the incubation programme of CSIR, she commented that it was commendable that the Moringa Porridge currently exported its products to ten African nations. The issue of collaboration with small businesses and the DTI had been highlighted in the Committee’s report, and it formed an important avenue for partnerships. Small businesses should be encouraged to grow, and Moringa Porridge had probably lacked effective marketing of its products prior to the CSIR’s intervention. She had been informed in an oversight function of the Telecommunications Committee, that undersea cables and other products were imported from Italy and France. Were there any partnerships with telecoms entities to foster the local manufacturing of telecoms equipment? She said that the Committee required a commitment from both entities to improve audit outcomes. Even though ASSAf was not audited by the AG, the Committee still required commitment on audits. She confirmed that the issue of procuring a building for ASSAf had been discussed in the 2014/15 annual report.
Dr Motuku applauded Mr Koornhof for commending the CSIR’s anti rhino-poaching interventions and added that the commendation would be relayed to the entity’s technical team. He thanked Mr Paulsen for raising the issue of financial support for the organisation, and said that the organisation would explore it further. As regards incubation projects, the CSIR would be making a presentation to the Minister of Science and Technology on 21 October 2016 specifically on economic development and the entity’s effort to support the NDP. The presentation would detail industrial development programmes and the support required at the highest level to ensure that the strategic partnerships were established.
Dr Zaid Kimme, Group Manager: Strategic Planning, CSIR referred to the asphalt and road issue, and said the CSIR was currently working with some provincial departments on distributing the technology to the local road building industry, and confirmed that an experimental road had been built outside Durban, which was a high traffic asphalt road. A critical indication of success would be to build roads at half the cost and make them last 50% longer. A lot of work was on-going with provincial departments and the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) in expanding the technology to South African roads. As regards service delivery, there was a pilot project on using the web-based technology, and an agreement with the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA) to bundle some of CSIR’s technology inputs and distribute them on a larger scale to other municipalities. There were a number of small scale interventions in particular municipalities and the entity would explore means of bundling the interventions and making them available on a larger scale to all South African municipalities.
Dr Rachel Chikwamba, Group Executive: Stakeholder Relations, CSIR said the CSIR concentrated its efforts on raising the profile to orientate ordinary civilians and citizens about the entity, its functions, and why it mattered to the ordinary person. An advertorial campaign, “ideas that work,” had been launched to give examples of some of the work it did to support different structures, such as the defence and economic infrastructure in the environment. The CSIR also had components where youngsters and the work that they did were showcased in order to increase the appeal of science to youths, and attract them to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. There were partnership programmes with vernacular language radio stations, where scientists were used to speak in science programmes in their own native languages so that citizens could understand the role of CSIR. Adverts were currently running, but the CSIR was financially constrained and other online platforms were being used to expand the entity’s reach.
She said that opportunities were being created for engagements to bring participants to the CSIR to immerse them in the organisation and look at different demonstration projects. Several advanced interventions had been launched, where delegates from the relevant industries had been invited, as well as members from portfolio committees, to assist. The CSIR also engaged the DST in visiting schools to approach learners and demonstrate projects of the CSIR, and tried to encourage youngsters to interact with young scientists from the CSIR in an attempt to encourage them in science.
She added that the entity had adopted its language policy, and IsiZulu and Sotho was used to try and create a lot more collateral in vernacular, so that the entity’s outreach was expanded. She also said that in the areas the CSIR engaged with the community, the entity strived to ensure that projects were translated into vernacular languages in all areas where the entity’s footprint reached.
Mr Chris Sturdy (CFO, CSIR) confirmed that royalty incomes had reduced. It had been as high as R40-R50 million in previous years, due to the involvement of the United States in a war where the CSIR had offered certain laser technology services for armoured vehicle protection. In the organisation’s effort to increase royalty incomes, licences were being pushed as much as possible, including the initiation of instant access licensing to make it easier for other entities to work with the CSIR by receiving licences and accessing technology. Campaigns to develop entrepreneurial skills were also an initiative of the CSIR. He added that a large number of multinational companies that could afford to invest in research and development had taken their businesses offshore. There were continued efforts to engage with the private sector as part of the organisation’s mandate to ensure job creation in the country and to ensure that the impact of CSIR on businesses ran into billions.
Mr Laurens Cloete, Group Executive: Operations, CSIR, referred to cyber security, and said there had been discussions with a few metros, including a plan to set up a cyber-security hub in Johannesburg based on the CSIR’s existing capability at the national level, where the organisation had worked with the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services. He expressed frustration that some of the technologies had been imported, and revealed that there were cases where CSIR had developed networking technology that had been commercialised, whilst making specific reference to the European Union and DST-funded projects around wireless mesh technology. The wireless mesh router had been commercialised. The organisation’s initial focus on ICT had been particularly on rural and other disadvantaged areas, and often western countries did not have the solutions the CSIR required, which revealed a gap for the CSIR to develop unique technology that could be exported. The organisation was currently supporting research at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University on optical networking, and had contributed three of its members to the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) 5G forum. There were on-going discussions with ICASA on regulation issues with Finnish and other international companies about setting up joint research which may lead to locally made telecommunications equipment in the near future.
Dr Chikwamba said that the data presented in the report about the Umbiflow test pertained to work which was conducted in Mamelodi. The entity was currently making interventions in “Dark City”.
Prof Diab explained that the South African Academy of Engineering was hosted for free because the organisation was small, had only one secretary, and received minimal funding from the DST. As regards raising public awareness for ASSAf’s activities, she said Quest science magazine was an intervention to translate science for the public audience and public lectures, and workshops which were open to the public were held and widely advertised. ASSAf had a database of about 12 000 people to whom information was disseminated. The entity also had a distinguished visiting scholars’ programme, where scholars were invited to interact with science centres and schools at the specific request of the school. Impacts were measured through a monitoring evaluation framework, which included monitoring downloads and usage of the entity’s reports, as well as monitoring media reports. ASSAf also followed up its reports and interviews with the target audience to ascertain how they were being utilised. There was still uncertainty about the manner in which ASSAf had to be audited, as ASSAf was not a listed public entity and the amendment of the ASSAf Act stipulated that ASSAf had to abide by the PFMA. The entity was not audited on performance indicators because of uncertainty over which Act took precedence. She confirmed that 60-70 members had attended its annual general meeting in Pretoria, and no progress had been made in securing the organisation’s office premises.
Mr Morakeng Chiloane, CFO: ASSAf, responded to the inquiries about salary figures. ASSAf had undertaken a benchmarking exercise for the whole entity and the outcome had resulted in some salaries being backdated by six months. ASSAf had a staff complement of 34 at its head office. As regards deficits, he confirmed that steps had been taken to ensure the entity operated within its budget to avoid a deficit, and added that irregular expenditure had not been quantified. The irregular expenditure had resulted from compliance with procurement requirements, as ASSAf had previously procured services from service providers from whom it had not requested B-BBEE certificates and tax clearance certificates, as this had not been part of the requirement. The expenditures were payments to the service providers, and ASSAf had not had a dedicated supply chain management (SCM) due to its budgetary financial constraints until a structure was set up to manage its SCM process since November 2015. The entity’s SCM process was still not fully functional.
The Chairperson said that further questions would be forwarded in writing to the entities, and a response would be required via the same means.
Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC): Integrated annual report
Professor Leickness Simbayi, Deputy CEO: Research, HSRC, reported that the entity had a five year plan to focus on poverty and inequality. The strategic intent of the HSRC was to generate new knowledge on poverty and inequality, to inform further analysis and help decision makers, and also to focus on the kinds of social innovations that would need to be in the foreground of shifting and reversing the persistence of poverty and the deepening of inequality. The HSRC had achieved an overall performance of 73% against its predetermined objectives and as regards performance against targets.
In Strategic Outcome Goal One (knowledge advancement), the organisation had achieved all targets except those related to scholarly books published, scholarly book chapters published, and policy briefs.
In Strategic Outcome Goal Two (contribution to development and social progress in Africa), all targets were met with the exception of targets related to African research fellows, where there were only six African research fellows as opposed a target of 17.
Targets not achieved as per Strategic Outcome Goal Three (enhanced skills) were related to the number of research associates appointed at the HSRC, peer-reviewed journal articles per Masters intern, completed PhD level research internship and peer-reviewed journal articles per PhD intern.
All targets under Strategic Outcome Goal Four (preserved data and knowledge) were overachieved, especially the targets for preserved library holdings.
Only two of the four targets related to Strategic Outcome Goal Five (transformation) were achieved. The two unachieved targets were related to senior researchers who were African, and senior researchers who were female.
Whilst reporting on Strategic Outcome Goal Six (financial sustainability), Prof Simbayi said that the HSRC had failed to achieve two of the 12 targets set. These were related to extra-parliamentary income and the attendance of officials in anti-corruption campaigns.
The organisation had achieved an unqualified audit opinion from AGSA and the internal control environment had remained effective for the period under review.
Mr Richard Matambo, Acting CFO: HSRC, said there had been increases in external income performance, the parliamentary grant, and other income compared to the previous financial year. As regards budgeted versus actual expenditure, more spending had been realised than the budgeted amounts as regards administrative expenses and research costs, whilst there had been under-spending in staff costs, other operating expenses, and depreciation. The entity had been on an upward trajectory as regards income generation through its revenue streams, and income generated in 2015/16 had amounted to slightly less than R470 million. The budgeted revenue for 2016/17 was R510 million, and R540 million for 2017/18.
Professor Crain Soudien, CEO: HSRC, thanked the Committee and the Department for their continuous support and assistance towards the entity.
Professor Nasima Badsha, Chairperson: HSRC, said that the HSRC staff should be credited for the achievement of most of the goals set out, despite the inordinate amount of time which researchers had channelled into pursuing external research funding to assist the entity to sustain the level of its current outputs. While there was often a synergy between the objectives of the organisation and those of funders, the entity was always driven by the need to raise funds and to pursue some of the more independent priority work that should be done. The long term sustainability of the longitudinal studies placed the entity in a position where researchers were able to pursue multi-year research projects.
South African National Space Agency (SANSA): Annual report
Mr Potlaki Maine, Acting CEO: SANSA, said the organisation had a staff complement of 183 (160 permanent and 23 temporary employees), of which 62.3% were Africans, 25.1% were Whites, 7.7% were Coloureds and 4.9% were Indians. Highlighted programmes of the organisation included its space science programme, earth observation programme, space operations programme (running for over 15 years) and satellite engineering programme.
Mr Maine reported that as part of SANSA’s interventions to improve human settlements, satellite data had been provided through the human settlement layers of South Africa to enable the Department of Human Settlements to meet their goals, such as addressing the urban housing challenges by eradicating the housing backlog. SANSA also enhanced food security and through its interventions, a drought observatory tool had been developed to provide a vegetation change visualisation tool. It had produced biophysical variables under the Crop Watch for South Africa (CW4SA) project, which was aimed at contributing near real-time information on field and crop conditions to farmers to manage crop health and yield, as well as the land.
In the organisation’s interventions to improve water management, the Department of Water and Sanitation used satellite data from SANSA to regulate and monitor water usage, in compliance with the National Water Act, to authorise and license water use for irrigation and assess the status of small water bodies at the municipal level. SANSA also provided Rand Water with products to monitor algal bloom, as well as critical dam level information in the Free State during the drought.
SANSA’s products and services supported the government’s energy solutions and contributed through:
- A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Eskom to protect the national power grid from potentially harmful space weather activity;
- Supplying Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data to the CSIR Advanced Fire Information System (AFIS) on fire episodes that could impact on power lines;
- Measuring Geo-magnetically Induced Currents (GICs) which could cause damage to power transformers and Interconnected Power System (IPS) instability at Koeberg power station;
- The development of a GIC proxy by SANSA’s researchers based on solar wind measurements, to improve GIC predictions and thus mitigate devastating impacts on the power grid.
Mr Maine also reported that SANSA monitored land, air and maritime security through:
- An alignment with Operation Phakisa, in which an Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) application was investigated for the maritime domain;
- Development of a space weather information display system for the maritime control centre at the Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT) to assist the South African Navy set communication paths for vessels at sea;
- Providing the defence force with satellite imagery for defence intelligence, electric and magnetic signature management for the navy through the IMT.
- Providing space weather services for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for High Frequency (HF) communication.
The organisation created knowledge through understanding the space environment, including the varieties of atmospheres, space weather applications for defence and aviation, a high publication record in high-impact scientific journals, and extensive maintenance and expansion of the geophysical research infrastructure platform, including the installation of the Optical Space Research (OSR) laboratory in Sutherland, in partnership with the German Aerospace Centre, known as DLR.
Mr Maine said that through SANSA’s technology, innovation and space operations, magnetic ground support and signature management was provided for the air force and navy. SANSA had partnered with Avanti Communication to undertake the SBAS-Africa navigation project, installed an antenna for data collection for Spire, it had provided 25 transfer orbit support services, three in-orbit tests, three drift supports, one launch support service, and earth station verification assistance. These interventions contributed to global communication, navigation and science.
Full optics were procured, together with the engineering sensor models, as part of the organisation’s satellite development programme. SANSA had completed the different power distribution units, developed a prototype reaction wheel, reviewed preliminary designs of the satellite’s major components, and developed a detailed EO-Sat 1 implementation approach, funding strategy, and a more accurate full lifecycle costing. As regards updates on the EO-Sat1 programme, there were partnerships with Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt to facilitate the programme.
As a result of SANSA’s industry development, 53 jobs were directly supported by the satellite programme, with a total of R94 million outsourced to industry. SMMEs that benefited from the programme included Astrofica Technologies (100% black owned, 50% black woman owned), Group 6 Technology and Infrastructure (75% black owned), Luvhone Engineering and Consulting (100% black woman owned) and Connecta (100% black woman owned). The space knowledge profile was comprised of mostly Africans, of whom 75% were males, 25% were females and 85% were South African students. In the entity’s interventions to promote science, 15 347 learners were engaged in all nine provinces, and 24 female students from the University of Cape Town were supported through the Women in Physics in South Africa (WiPiSA).
Mr Maine said that all other performance targets had been met, with the exception of progress status reports on the EO-Sat1 development project and a contribution of 5% through global partnerships to the space programme revenue. The entity had received a clean audit for the third consecutive year.
Ms Bulelwa Pono, CFO: SANSA, reported that the entity’s total asset value had increased from the previous financial year, from R338.87 million to R478.99 million, mainly due to the satellite development programme, whilst liabilities had also increased from R134.60 million to R161.44 million, due to increased operations. The entity had three main income streams -- from the parliamentary grant (32%), ring-fenced transfers (39%), and self-generated revenue (29%). The entity’s total revenue had increased from R239.69 million to R338.60 million, whilst total expenditure had increased from R208.04 million to R225.33 million. The bulk of SANSA’s contract revenue stemmed from foreign contracts (17% of total), and local contracts accounted for only 7% of contract revenue. Research grants amounted to 2% of contract revenue. Compensation of employees made up 29% of expenditure, goods and services made up 38%, and payments for capital assets accounted for 34% of total expenditure. As for expenditure by programme, corporate support (administration) accounted for 12%, earth observation for 25%, 20% was spent on space operations, 12% on space science, and space engineering accounted for 31%.
The Chairperson commended SANSA for achieving a clean audit for three consecutive years. She said that Members of the Committee had an interest in attending public engagements as regards science and technology in order to assist in demystifying science, as science was not as difficult as it was portrayed.
Mr Paulsen indicated that the invitation to attend the 67th International Astronomical Congress (IAC) in Mexico was not a direct invitation to the Committee, as it had come via the Department of Trade and Industry. The Committee had received only one invitation, which had been grabbed by the governing party. Directing his inquiries to SANSA, he asked why there were only four females out of 16 persons on its committee. How did SANSA plan to integrate its work with the service delivery requirements in municipalities, as the entity had a vital role to play in furnishing important information as regards rainfall forecasts? As regards the four service providers mentioned -- Astrofica Technologies, Group 6 Technology and Infrastructure, Luvhone Engineering and Consulting, and Connecta -- he inquired about the nature of services offered and the rand value of the work given to them, compared to the total amount outsourced. As regards the satellite programme, he asked if funding problems had been responsible for the six years needed to complete the path observation of the EO-Sat1 programme, and if there was an alternative source of income to fund the programme, as there were vast industry applications that followed the success of such projects. Were there were any marketing strategies to attract investors to fund the programme at its present stage, rather than waiting till 2023 or 2024, when the programme was already a success?
Addressing inquiries to the HSRC, Mr Paulsen inquired how the researchers would be funded as regards African research, and if the governments of the participating countries would fund their participants, considering the under-funding of higher education which had resulted in the “fees must fall” protests. He asked if the implementation of the NDP could really deliver on its predetermined objectives, and inquired how women with an interest in science and technology were encouraged and integrated into the system.
Mr C Mathale (ANC) asked about the role of Mr Maine as acting CEO and a board member. Was he still employed by SANSA as a board member? He pointed out that board members had an oversight function and those who worked for the institution accounted to the board. He asked how governance issues would be dealt with, as the presented organisational structure still reflected the acting CEO as a board member. He had difficulty in comprehending the scenario.
The chairperson inquired how the “fees must fall” movement was impacting on the HSRC’s interventions and achievements.
Prof Badsha said that the DST’s entities fostered interventions to encourage the participation of women and girls in science and technology. In a comment relating to the NDP, which she said was not the official position of the HSRC, she said no plan was perfect and plans must be seen as dynamic instruments, and it would take a while to convert the framework of the NDP into concrete deliverables with timelines and budgets.
The Chairperson applauded the participation of SANSA in the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), and added that the South African science and technology stand, together with that of trade and industry, was the busiest at the event, and the South African flag had been displayed in the background of the award ceremony.
Prof Soudien responded that the HSRC’s role in the NDP was contributing to clarifying on how to sharpen both the targets as well as the strategies through which questions that were raised in the NDP, would be addressed. It was clearly a space in which many entities were involved, both conceptually and practically, and the NDP was not regarded as a finished blueprint but an obligation to help in working towards clarifying how problems were identified and addressed. An annual poverty and inequality research conference had recently been concluded, attended by over 250 researchers, and all attendees had concentrated on the single purpose of eradicating poverty and inequality. He said the Committee would be invited to attend such engagements in the near future.
There was an active programme in schools as regards involvement and encouraging young women to participate, even though it appeared to be the mandate of other entities. Over 200 schools had been approached in 2015, as opposed a target of 180, which in a way had diverted the entity from its core mandate. The impacts made were dependent on the schools. Engagements with African research fellows formed part of the entity’s mandate, and the entity’s remit was not only to South Africa but rather to the continent as a whole. The HSRC found it difficult to succeed in the area of attaining the targeted number of African research fellows, which also impacted on the target for publications for Masters and PhD. There had to be a model for young persons to highlight what the life of a scientist could be, and that could easily be facilitated by bringing in successful African research fellows. The entity still had difficulty in recruiting scholars in particular disciplines within the country, even in ordinary disciplines like “history,” as there were very few young people studying towards Masters and PhD in the country.
Prof Soudien said impacts were difficult to measure, and there was a process to develop a framework. He said that the “fees must fall” (FMF) campaign was an important area of concern and there were lots of colleagues within the HSRC who were eager to get involved in “fees must fall” issues, including thoughts that the Science Council should attempt to mediate and resolve the problem, but in the same vein, colleagues were restrained from getting involved and making mistakes. Tthere were a lot of concerns in the HSRC as regards FMF, especially in its governance hub, but there were hopes that the entity would act sensibly. T the FMF movement would impact the entity if the number of interns and researchers dropped drastically once the academic year was affected.
Prof Badsha noted that despite the entity’s emphasis on financial constraints, its budget had been cut in the previous financial year, and there were worries that the HSRC would be forced to cut back in other areas of fulfilling its mandates if budgets were being cut.
Prof Simbayi said that the indicator presented in the report on the number of females in the organisation reflected those at senior research specialist level and above. The majority of staff at lower and middle levels of the organisation were females.
The Chairperson said that the HSRC could do a better job than consultants used in other departments. She asked if the Committee should recommend in its report that funds spent on consultants in other departments should rather be channelled to the HRSC.
Prof Soudien said that the entity could effectively take on the mandate of consultancy. In the social development cluster, there were opportunities through the DST to make presentations, particularly around core mandates, and the Director General and his colleagues were asked to think instinctively more about the HSRC. He said the entity would appreciate such a recommendation by the Committee.
Prof Badsha said that there were five female members of SANSA’s board. Women were constantly recruited and two of the entity’s managing directors were women. As regards engagements on service delivery with municipalities and the Department of Human Settlements, she said the second full national human settlement footprint had been completed in 2015 and had been sent to municipalities to allow them utilise tools provided by SANSA in improving service delivery. As regards inquiries about the mentioned service providers, she affirmed that two of the entities were 100% black women owned. While R2.4 million had been targeted for the financial year, R7.8 million had been spent with SMMEs in the entity’s core space projects, and there had been a total spend of R98.1 million.
She explained that Mr Maine had started as acting CEO on 1 September after Dr Sandile Malinga had resigned, and the organisation had had to look for a suitable candidate to assume the position whilst efforts were made to recruit a new CEO. She said that SANSA’s Act made provision for looking into the organisation to get a suitable candidate to act in the capacity. A number of the individuals had applied for the position of CEO as well, and the board had considered it inappropriate to appoint a candidate to act in the same position for which they had applied. She said the board had also considered the stability of the environment, to ensure there was a good sense of leadership, and the board had asked if any of its members was available to assume the interim position of CEO for a period of three to five months while the organisation recruited a new CEO. Mr Maine had signified his availability, and a contract had been drafted for him in the acting capacity of CEO. Other alternatives would have been considered if he had not shown any interest. Mr Maine had effectively resigned as a board member and did not sit in any of its board meetings.
Mr Mathale said that while the appointment of the acting CEO was not wrong, it still did not appear decent because the board had only looked inwards and had not advertised the position outside the organisation. It would have been more appropriate to appoint the most senior member of staff in the organisation to act in the position, and if the acting CEO had then applied for the position and became the most suitable candidate, then he should be fully appointed in the position.
Prof Badsha replied that the CEO’s role had 3 direct reporting lines. At the initial stage, the organisation had sought means of appointing one of the direct reporting lines, but one of the executive directors had resigned, which left it in a state where there would have been too many acting roles. The entity intends to expedite the process whilst the due process is followed, and over 46 good applicants had since applied for the position. The board meeting was in a week’s time and the board would submit a recommendation for the appointment of a new CEO.
Mr Mathale sid that a shorter time frame would be preferable, as a time frame of four to five months appeared clumsy.
Prof Badsha responded that the board recommendations which were required prior to the appointment of a CEO, would be effected on 27October 2016. The candidate would be advised accordingly and would probably start on 1 November or 1 December 2016.
The Chairperson inquired if the time frame of the process included Cabinet approval.
Prof Badsha replied that according to the SANSA Act, the appointment did not go through Cabinet but only the board.
Mr Mmboneni Muofhe, DDG: Technology Innovation, DST, clarified that the appointment of CEOs of entities must go through the Cabinet.
Mr N Khubisa (NFP) re-emphasised Mr Mathale’s point, and said that although a shorter time frame was preferable, the issue of the legal framework needed to be taken into account because the entity was required to act within legal ambits.
Prof Badsha said the legislation in terms of the SANSA Act required that the entity obtain the Minister’s concurrence on the appointment of an acting CEO, which she claimed the entity had done.
Mr Mathale said that the process appeared “clumsy,” irrespective of the concurrence with the Minister. The appointment process should be thoroughly overseen, and if there was any law that supported the process of appointing a new CEO by looking only internally, such a law must be amended.
The Chairperson said that the issues raised would be reflected in the Committee’s report and recommendations. The entities were on course with their clean audits, and the Committee would explore all avenues to assist the entities in getting more funding. The issue of SANSA being more aligned with trade and industry, rather than science and technology, was worrisome as most of the entity’s mandates aligned more with science and technology, and trade and industry should only be applicable in the commercialisation aspect of SANSA’s interventions or mandates. The issue was still a “grey area,” and would be taken up with the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry.
She said that at the just concluded 57th astronomical congress in Mexico, attendees had fought for seats to listen to South African astronauts (Elon Musk and Mandla Maseko) present. She said it was pleasing to realise South Africa was competing with the best in the world and added that astronauts were advocating that there was life on Mars, and an amount of R8 billion was needed to visit Mars.
Mr Paulsen suggested that the response to the inquiry about the funding model for EO Sat-1 should be submitted in writing
The Chairperson concurred with Mr Paulsen’s proposal.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) 2015/16 Annual Report presentation
- Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) 2015/16 Annual Report presentation
- South African National Space Agency (SANSA) 2015/16 Annual Report presentation
- Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) 2015/16 Annual Report presentation
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