With both the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in attendance at the meeting, the Heritage Promotion and Preservation branch of the DAC presented the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Bill to the Committee. Overall, both departments welcomed the Bill. An area of contention was the lack of a centralized database for living human treasures and for cataloguing the intangible cultural heritage. The Committee was interested in knowing who was responsible for the renaming of sites, as the land on which these sites were established had not been renamed since the end of apartheid.
The Committee went through the Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR) dealing with the performance of the DST for the 2015/16 financial year. The review covered the achievements and challenges of the Department and its eight entities:
- The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf)
- The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
- The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
- The National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI)
- The National Research Foundation (NRF)
- The South African National Space Agency (SANSA)
- The SA Council for Natural Scientific Professionals (SACNaSP)
- The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA)
Key recommendations in the report included the need to increase the funds allocated by government and the private sector to research and development, as well as human capital development. The Department was asked to quantify the impact of the “Fees Must Fall” campaign on its future performance and funding requirements. It was also requested to interact with the Department of Energy to discuss the impact of shale fracturing (fracking) in oil exploration on wind farms and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and MeerKAT projects.
The BRRR was adopted by the Committee.
Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill: Presentation
Ms Paula Mabizela, Chief Director: Heritage, Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) said the Department welcomed the introduction of the Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill. It was in line with the provisions made for indigenous knowledge systems in the 1996 White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage and the National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999.
The National Indigenous Knowledge Systems Policy had come into being in 2004. As a result, the National Indigenous Knowledge Systems Office (NIKSO) was established to help facilitate the coordination of work done by other sister departments in relation to indigenous knowledge systems. According to the policy, several departments were assigned particular mandates to deliver on, in relation to indigenous knowledge systems.
The DAC was mandated to lead the transformation of South African society from the colonial and apartheid legacies. In transforming society, the DAC had to:
- Redress the legacies of the past that promoted racial supremacy, undermined human dignity and rights and inculcated cultural superiority;
- Affirm South African cultural values in the midst of globalisation.
There were a number of initiatives the DAC had embarked on in the spirit of redressing the legacy of previous oppressive regimes and affirming the rights of indigenous people. They were:
- The development of the national policy on South African Living Heritage. This national policy framework was an attempt to arrest the continuing marginalisation of the living heritage, which meant the cultural expressions and practices that form a body of knowledge and provide for continuity, dynamism and meaning of social life to generations of people as individuals, social groups and communities. Living heritage allowed for identity and a sense of belonging for people as well as an accumulation of intellectual capital for current and future generations in the context of mutual respect for human, social and cultural rights.
The policy was in the process of obtaining Cabinet approval. Although it had been submitted in 2015, additional consultation had been advised.
- The affirmation of cultural values was further advanced by the promotion of the indigenous foods project, which had been implemented in selected schools in all the nine provinces of South Africa. The schools that were chosen were those that offered home economics as a subject of study. A publication had been produced as result of this project.
- The DAC used the National Heritage Day celebrations to denounce the legacies of the oppressive regimes of separate development. The conceptualisation of Heritage Day celebrations usually focused on the promotion of South Africa’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
- The DAC also focused on the identification and documentation of South Africa’s living human treasures. The project recognised people who had rare knowledge and skills and who were making a difference in the preservation and transmission of the country’s indigenous knowledge. The project was influenced by the 2003 UN Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which advocates the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation. The process of identifying and recognising the knowledge and skills held by the living human treasures in essence became an effective way of safeguarding and preserving the intangible cultural heritage.
- The Living Legend Legacy Project focused on creating a platform wherein the Living Legends could interact with the youth and impart knowledge. It also protected and preserved the work of the legends.
- The DAC also spearheaded the transformation of the geographical landscapes by appropriating the indigenous names of places. This was done through the provincial and local government structures, in consultation with the members of the communities.
- The Bureau of Heraldry was busy with the indigenisation of the coat of arms of municipalities as a process of redressing the legacy of the past and affirming the African identity.
- The affirmation of cultural values occurred through the funding of community projects that were of significance as far as the protection, preservation and promotion of South Africa’s living heritage was concerned. These included the Zindala Zombili African Music and Dance festival and the African Primary Institute project, among others.
Mr C Mathale (ANC) asked about indigenisation and the renaming of places. The land on which buildings and places were built and established had not been renamed since apartheid. Was this the responsibility of the DAC, or someone else? Transformation needed to take place in that regard. He used Tshwane as an example, stating that Pretoria had been renamed Tshwane, but the land that it was established on had not been renamed. He also said Parliament’s National Assembly was built on land that had not been renamed.
Ms Mabizela explained that the renaming of local features was the responsibility of the local authority. Members of society could make an application to the local authority, asking for the renaming of a local feature or site. The Minister of Arts and Culture was responsible for the naming of national features and sites, and members of society could make applications to the Minister. She drew on Mr Mathale’s example of the National Assembly, and said that a member of society could make an application to the local Geographic Names Committee.
Dr A Lotriet (DA) asked for clarity around the establishment of NIKSO. The Bill, in Chapter 3, had laid out the establishment of NIKSO through legislation. This information was in contradiction to the presentation, which stated that NIKSO had been established informally in 2004.
Ms Mabizela explained that according to her understanding, it had been established informally in 2004, and not through legislation. She said that NIKSO served as the coordinating point for the various departments.
An official of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) clarified that it was correct that the NIKS policy had been adopted by Cabinet in 2004, and in Section 4.7 the policy had informally proposed the establishment of NIKSO. In 2006, the DST had established a sub-directorate called NIKSO, which was responsible for policy development, knowledge management and knowledge development. Knowledge development subsequently migrated to Programme 2.
A Member of the Committee spoke about the names of the farms -- land on which buildings and places had been established and built upon. He said that the name of the land was often related to who had worked on it or founded it. For example, Limpopo had hired a foreign land surveyor who was European, so most of the farms were named after European places. In the Kalahari, the land was named after Scottish places.
He said the two departments had not commented technically on the Bill, and asked whether they were happy with the Bill, whether they would propose the Bill as it stood, and whether there was anything else that the Committee should consider as they prepared the Bill for Parliament.
Ms Mabizela replied that the departments welcomed the Bill, and that they were in support of its proposals. However, the DAC proposed that greater emphasis and detail needed to be placed on the creation of a database for traditional practitioners. The DAC had an initiative which it would be carrying out next year, dealing with this issue. It entailed creating a database for living human treasures and cataloguing the intangible cultural heritage. The departments felt that the Bill needed to emphasise the importance of the centralisation of such a database.
The Chairperson asked the DST to comment on the proposal to create a centralised database for traditional practitioners.
Ms Gail van Wyk of the DST explained that there had been a meeting with the DAC to collaborate on this initiative earlier this year, where it was pointed out that some of the libraries and museums were on the same system, but an extension was needed so that there was no duplication and to ensure that there was one system for the whole country. She stated that the DST and the DAC were having a DDG meeting today on collaboration. The recommendations that emerged from this meeting would be tabled at the next collaboration meeting in order to come up with a plan of action as to how the departments would handle the issue of databases.
The Chairperson thanked the delegates for the presentation and the information provided. She said that if the Committee had any further questions, they would let the departments know. She encouraged collaboration between the two departments and wished them all the best for the meeting that was taking place later that day.
Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR): DST
The Committee went through the BRRR of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology on the performance of the DST for the 2015/16 financial year page by page, and went through the observations and recommendations point by point.
Policy context and mandate
Science, technology and innovation were considered crucial for the creation of wealth and improving the quality of life in modern society. Hence governments, as they strived for equitable and sustainable development, had a duty to create an enabling policy environment to support these goals. In South Africa, the 1996 White Paper on Science and Technology had introduced the concept of a National System of Innovation (NSI) as an enabling framework for the development and application of science and technology (S&T) in South Africa. Within this framework, the government -- with the line department being the DST -- had the sole responsibility, at the national level, for policy formulation and resource allocation, and for regulatory policy-making.
The National Research and Development Strategy (NRDS) and the Ten-Year Innovation Plan (TYIP) were the key drivers of the NSI. The TYIP aimed to guide the country towards a knowledge-based economy through human capital development (HCD), knowledge generation and exploitation, knowledge infrastructure and enablers to convert knowledge into socio-economic outcomes. The grand challenges outlined in the TYIP comprised the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry (now referred to as the Bio-economy), space science, energy security and global change. The idea was to have multi-disciplinary thinking amongst South African researchers to deal with these challenges in an innovative way that would bring socio-economic changes in this country, as envisaged in both the National Development Plan (NDP) and the New Growth Path (NGP).
The NDP identified the need to increase the size, coherence and effectiveness of the NSI to enhance South Africa’s ability to compete globally. Hence, the country must enhance its investment in infrastructure, improve the skills base and ensure that it better exploits the knowledge generated from its investments in research, development and innovation (RDI).
To position Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) within the framework of the NDP, the Department directs its efforts and resources toward the following five strategic outcome-orientated goals:
- Goal 1: Responsive, co-ordinated and efficient NSI – building on previous gains to create a responsive, co-ordinated and efficient NSI;
- Goal 2: Increased knowledge generation – maintaining and increasing the relative contribution of South African researchers to global scientific output;
- Goal 3: Human capital development – increasing the number of high-level graduates and improving their representivity;
- Goal 4: Using knowledge for economic development – deriving a greater share of economic growth from R&D-based opportunities and partnerships;
- Goal 5: Knowledge utilisation for inclusive development – accelerating inclusive development through scientific knowledge, evidence and appropriate technology.
2014-2019 Medium-Term Strategic Framework
The 2014-2019 Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), approved during the 2014/15 financial year, represents the first phase of implementation of the NDP and commits government to 14 key outcomes. The programmes and initiatives of the Department and its entities (who are its implementing agencies) either lead or support Outcomes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 10, as well as the Nine-Point Plan. The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and MeerKAT Telescopes are categorised as Strategic Integrated Project (SIP) No. 16 (a Knowledge SIP) under the National Infrastructure Plan, and is included in Outcome 6. The Nine-Point Plan seeks to stimulate and diversify South Africa’s economy. Specific areas where the Department contributes to the Nine-Point Plan include:
- Revitalisation of agriculture and agro-processing.
- Increasing the impact of the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP).
- Beneficiation of mineral wealth.
- Unlocking the potential of small businesses and rural and township enterprises.
- Growing the oceans economy through Operation Phakisa.
- Resolving the energy challenge by advancing alternative energy sources.
- Scaling-up private sector participation in R&D.
Challenges facing South African STI
The challenges facing South African STI could be categorised according to three levels -- at the NSI, national and global levels.
At the NSI level, the challenges include:
- Inadequate gross expenditure on research and development (GERD). The current low economic growth trajectory and declining business investment in R&D makes the 2019 GERD target of 1.5% very difficult to attain.
- Erosion (below inflation increases) of baseline funding of existing public research institutions negatively affects these institutions’ ability to retain and/or attract skilled staff and fulfil their growing mandates.
- Inadequate funding for new institutions such as the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO). Furthermore, there had been no real growth in the number of public science institutions to reflect the growth of the science system.
- Inadequate levels (both numbers and sectors) of science, engineering and technology (SET) skills, as well as inadequate numbers of scholars leaving basic education with adequate mathematics and science knowledge.
- Maintaining existing and acquiring new research infrastructure, as well as inadequate technology skills to train future technologists.
- Inadequate co-ordination of STI effort across Government.
- Too low a rate of innovation and commercialisation. These activities were more ad hoc than inherent to the NSI.
- The high cost of access to broadband results in the low usage of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for innovation.
At the national level, the challenges include:
- Low economic growth and declining economic competitiveness.
- The challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment.
- The cost and sustainability of energy provision.
- The lack of an entrepreneurial culture.
- Low business confidence and investment.
- Poor educational outcomes.
- Environmental concerns associated with increased _ndustrialization and climate change.
- Decreasing productivity and manufacturing output.
- ICT access and cost.
At the global level, the challenges include:
- The slow recovery and low growth of the global economy.
- Globalisation of R&D was leading to increased competition for STI resources. South Africa’s ability to attract R&D from the global market was directly correlated to the available STI skills and how conducive the environment was for RDI.
- Social and environmental challenges.
Hence, the Department’s key focus areas were:
- Strengthening the STI policy and strategy environment by addressing current gaps; developing the first decadal plan for STI, aligned with the NDP; investigating the desirability of a S&T Act and co-ordinating the budget process for STI institutions.
- Increasing public and private sector funding for the NSI, optimising resource deployment and use, and improved intergovernmental co-ordination.
- Enhancing the capacity for monitoring and evaluation of the entire NSI.
- Improving the effectiveness of instruments and incentives to stimulate R&D.
- Increasing support to facilitate the development of provincial and regional innovation strategies.
- Growing access to and ensuring the development, acquisition and deployment of research infrastructure as a necessary enabler for RDI.
- Strengthening South Africa’s regional, continental and international STI partnership portfolio, and expanding these beyond research co-operation to focus more on technology and innovation partnerships.
- Strengthening the Department’s science engagement and communication strategy.
- Expanding research capacity by developing human capital and building institutions.
- Enhancing the rate of transformation of the STI sector.
- Commercialising scientific outputs.
- Increasing technological innovation.
- Supporting traditional industry sectors (agriculture, agro-processing, forestry, manufacturing and mining).
- Supporting emerging industry sectors (mineral beneficiation, pharmaceutical manufacturing and greener energy sources).
Summary of previous key financial and performance recommendations
The Committee’s 2015 BRR Report contained the following recommendations:
- The Committee restates its 2014 BRR Report recommendation that the Minister of Science and Technology should facilitate discussions to encourage government to prioritise its commitment towards allocating 1.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) to investment in R&D.
- That the Minister investigates the development of a policy to establish a centralised R&D budget allocation. This would ensure efficient allocation and spending on science, technology and innovation across all government departments.
- That the 2016 MTEF request of the Department be allocated as submitted, especially the request for inflation plus 2% for the science councils.
- That National Treasury not effect the re-prioritisation of funds, although the Department had identified this.
- That the Department ensure full compliance with legislative prescripts, to avoid future findings from the Auditor-General.
- Agencies such as NIPMO and SANSA should be adequately funded to ensure improved rates of development and competitiveness, a better return on investment, and faster transformation and growth.
- The TIA’s funding should be increased to ensure increased value of research and development investment.
- The National Research Foundation’s (NRF’s) budget should be increased so that greater numbers of science, technology and innovation graduates could be supported to meet the goals of the NDP.
- That the Department strengthens its efforts to collaborate with other government departments to implement the technology solutions developed by the Department that address service delivery, planning and growth issues.
- That the Department reviews the new strategic management model for science and technology to ensure a well-co-ordinated and improved allocation process for science councils.
- That the Minister, through her Department and within six months of this report being adopted by the National Assembly, provide the Committee with a detailed report on the effects of inadequate resourcing on the Department’s programmes and entities.
As per the provisions of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act, the Committee’s 2015 BRR Report had been adopted by the National Assembly on 17 November 2015 and then forwarded to the Ministers of Finance and Science and Technology for a response.
The Minister of Finance, in his response to Parliament, had stated in relation to the recommendations for additional funding:
“Due to the constrained fiscal outlook, the scope to provide additional funding has been limited. Should the fiscal outlook improve, recommendations for additional funding may be considered in future budget processes.”
“To ensure greater economic and social returns from intellectual property, additional funding of R75 million has been allocated to NIPMO over the medium term.”
The Minister of Finance also stated that the medium term allocation of R7.5 billion to the NRF would result in 300 more Masters (5 300 currently) and 100 more Doctoral (3 200 currently) students being supported by 2018/19.
The Department, in its various briefings to the Committee, had stated that progress was being made with the reviews of the 1996 S&T White Paper and the Strategic Management Model for S&T. The process to co-ordinate public funding for the science councils was also receiving attention, and an RDI technical input group, convened by National Treasury and the Department, had been established to deal with the 2016 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) guidelines. Furthermore, the 2016 Annual Performance Plan of the Department also stated where performance targets had to be reduced due to budget and/or capacity constraints.
Overview and assessment of financial performance
The Department had been allocated R7.48 billion for the 2015/16 financial year, with medium-term growth in allocations projected to increase to R7.56 billion in 2016/17 and R7.6 billion in 2017/18. The 2015/16 budget allocation was to realise the priority focus areas of improving STI HCD; more effectively translating research outcomes into new products and services for the economy; ensuring consistent progress on the SKA project; and contributing to the development of STI human capital in Africa. The Department with its entities were responsible for ensuring the fulfilment of these priorities. Hence, 93% (R6.98 billion) of the Department’s budget had been allocated to transfers and subsidies, with R5.47 billion for the Department’s agencies and science councils, R1.25 billion for public corporations and private enterprises, R149.6 million for non-profit institutions and R114.6 million for higher education institutions.
The 2015/16 Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure (AENE) saw the Department’s budgetary allocation reduced from R7.48 billion to R7.46 billion. The Department had declared R20 million in unspent funds, mainly due to cost containment measures regarding travel and subsistence. Furthermore, an additional R3.986 million was allocated to the Department to cover the higher than expected increase in staff remuneration.
The Department had spent R7.44 billion (99.6%) of its total 2015/16 budget, resulting in a surplus of R28.6 million. It had allocated R6.96 billion of the R6.97 billion for transfers and subsidies. It had effected virements amounting to R130 million (approximately 2% of adjusted budget) after the AENE process. The virements under Transfers were redirected towards the Intellectual Property (IP) Fund, to capacitate the offices of technology transfer, and for the absorption of SunSpace (the satellite manufacturer) into SANSA.
The Department had incurred R1.1 million in irregular expenditure due to non-compliance with supply chain management processes, the details of which were being investigated. Irregular expenditure from previous years amounted to R33.8 million, so R34.9 million in irregular expenditure was awaiting condonation. The Department had incurred R62 000 in fruitless and wasteful expenditure due to travel agent charges and penalties for cancellation of travel bookings. These issues were under investigation.
The Department and its entities did not incur any unauthorised expenditure.
The Auditor-General (AG) audited the Department, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), and the NRF. Private auditors audited the TIA, the SA Council for the Natural Scientific Profession (SACNaSP), SANSA and the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf). The CSIR, HSRC, NRF, SACNaSP, SANSA and TIA had once again all received clean audit opinions.
The AG had awarded the Department an unqualified audit opinion with findings, which pertained to the Department not complying with legislative prescripts to pay service providers within the required periods. The AG had found that this finding could have been avoided had the Department’s management properly implemented the controls surrounding the payment of invoices.
The AG had awarded ASSAf an unqualified audit opinion with findings relating to inadequate compliance with legislation as a result of inadequate exercise of oversight responsibility by ASSAf’s management.
Service delivery performance for 2015/16
Overall, the Department had shown consistent improvement in the achievement of its performance targets since the 2011/12 financial year, but had dipped by 1% from the 2014/15 financial year’s achievement and achieved an overall performance of 84% in 2015/16. Programme 3, receiving the smallest budget allocation, had once again achieved all its performance targets.
Performance against the Department’s strategic goals included:
Goal 1: Responsive, co-ordinated and efficient NSI – building on previous gains to create a responsive, co-ordinated and efficient NSI.
- The National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) had completed the first draft of the review of the 1996 Science and Technology White Paper, and the Department reported that a draft Green Paper might be available by end-2016.
- A joint government-industry task team was established to evaluate and propose recommendations to improve the design and administration of the R&D tax incentive. The task team provided the Minister of Science and Technology (the Minister) with three high-level recommendations regarding addressing the backlog of applications, legislative amendments, and the administration of the R&D tax incentive. The Minister would consult with stakeholders regarding the recommendations and the actions that needed to be taken to improve the incentive. The Department reported that it aimed to achieve the 90-day turnaround application processing time and hoped to clear the 2013/14 and 2014/15 application backlog by the end of 2016.
- The Minister had appointed a panel to review the STI institutional landscape.
- With National Treasury, it had convened the RDI technical input group to deal with the 2016 MTEF guidelines. One of its first tasks was to establish an integrated view of the funding pressures of the public RDI system.
- The framework for science and technology (S&T) co-operation with other government departments was finalised and implemented. This framework would guide the prioritisation of the Department’s S&T co-operation with other departments.
Goal 2: Increased knowledge generation – maintain and increase the relative contribution of South African researchers to global scientific output.
- Awarding 79 research infrastructure grants, compared to 69 grants awarded last year.
- Progressing with the formulation of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR), which would strategically direct national research infrastructure expenditure. Funds had been identified and approval would be sought to begin with four of the 13 selected research infrastructures in 2016/17.
- Publishing 7 158 Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)-accredited research articles, compared to 6 470 articles last year.
- The Minister awarded 42 women-only research chairs under the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) bringing the total to 194 research chairs. SARChI was a R404 million-a-year government-funded programme.
- The Centre of Excellence (CoE) in palaeosciences discovered a new hominid species called Homo naledi at the Cradle of Humankind.
- Launching the eighth Indigenous Knowledge Documentation Centre (IKDC) at the Barolong Cultural Village in Thaba Nchu. The IKDC was hosted in partnership with the University of Free State’s Centre for African Studies.
Goal 3: Human capital development – increase the number of high-level graduates and improve their representivity.
- Supporting 13 307 postgraduate students, compared to 11 335 students last year.
- Supporting 4 315 researchers with grants, compared to 4 064 researchers last year.
- Placing 1 044 graduates and students in science, engineering, technology and innovation (SETI) institutions. Current data showed that approximately 60% of these students were employed within three months of being placed in the various institutions, while approximately 20% continued with their studies
- The Department modelled the financial implications of the NDP targets for its human capital development (HCD) and research infrastructure programmes. The Department’s model would be incorporated into the national HCD strategy for research innovation and scholarships.
Goal 4: Using knowledge for economic development – derive a greater share of economic growth from R&D-based opportunities and partnerships.
- The Department opened the Bio-manufacturing Industry Development Centre (BIDC) at the CSIR, a first in South Africa. The BIDC incubates small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by developing bio-based manufacturing processes and products, enabling the SMEs to meet customer needs and exploit potential market opportunities relatively quickly. The SMEs supported by the BIDC retain sole ownership of their innovations and total control of their value chain and partnerships. The economic impact of the BIDC was projected to reach approximately R250 million over the next five years. To date, it was supporting 19 SMEs and had developed 33 products in the cosmetics, nutrition and biotechnology industries. The BIDC had facilitated the creation of 105 permanent jobs, 165 temporary jobs and trained more than 50 interns.
- Developing the Bio-energy Atlas for South Africa, which was a web-based decision-making support tool for policy makers and investors in the energy sector. This tool provides a scientific understanding of the potential of bio-energy resources to be converted into transport fuels. It supports the implementation of the biofuels industrial strategy.
- Finalising a report that details South Africa’s scientific and technical readiness to support hydraulic fracturing of shale gas reserves.
- Unveiling the first prototype hydrogen fuel cell forklift and refuelling station at Impala Refining Services. The prototype was a collaborative effort between Hydrogen South Africa’s (HySA) systems integration and technology validation centre of competence and Impala Platinum’s Impala Refining Services, the latter providing R6 million over the last three years to develop the prototype. Impala Platinum plans to replace approximately 35 diesel/electric forklifts with the hydrogen fuel cell forklift.
- Launching the South African Marine Research and Exploration Forum (SAMREF) that would exploit research opportunities in offshore oil and gas exploration, one of the focus areas of Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy).
Goal 5: Knowledge utilisation for inclusive development – accelerate inclusive development through scientific knowledge, evidence and appropriate technology.
- Ten indigenous knowledge-based community development projects were assessed for commercial viability.
- Completing a feasibility study for the establishment of an extraction plant facility in Mamelodi and completing a Moringa pilot plant in Limpopo.
- Supporting the development of a mobile application on primary health care standard treatment guidelines and essential medicines list for use in primary health care establishments.
- Developing the sanitation technology evaluation and assessment database and tool.
Increasing opportunities for South African researchers and institutions to access international resources and support was an important factor that cut across the five strategic goals of the Department. Hence, during 2015/16, key achievements included:
- Jointly supporting, with its African partner governments, 61 research and innovation projects.
- Supporting 13 African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) STI initiatives.
- Enabling a R2 billion rand investment in support of collaboration with South Africa, by the Department’s international partners.
- Enabling 169 South African students to participate in international training programmes as part of the Global Knowledge Partnership.
- Securing a R619 million international investment in the NSI.
- Securing five tactical leadership positions for South Africa in global science decision and policy-making structures, and influencing six multilateral outcomes.
- Hosting the first Science Forum South Africa, an international public science event that was attended by more than 1 500 participants from more than 50 countries.
Programmes 2 and 4 were responsible for the five performance targets that were partially achieved. Programmes 1, 4 and 5 were responsible for the five performance targets that were not achieved. Table 3 listed these targets, as well as the reasons for deviating from the planned performance.
Performance of DST entities
Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf)
ASSAf promotes outstanding achievement in all fields of scientific enquiry, recognises excellence, and provides evidence-based scientific advice to government and other stakeholders.
2016 represented the 20th year of ASSAf’s existence. Its work was structured into six programmes -- governance and administration, communications, liaison, policy advisory, publications and scholarly publishing. Its evidence-based studies and science advice were informed by key national challenges. It hosts the Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO) SA, the only open access platform for scholarly publishing in South Africa and on the continent, thereby increasing the visibility of South African scholarly journals. It also hosts two regional offices of key international science partners, as well as the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) and the South African Academy of Engineering (SAAE). ASSAf provides secretarial support and funding to SAYAS, and provides office space and support services to SAAE at no cost.
ASSAf currently has a membership of 470 (441 in 2014/15) top scholars. ASSAf’s full membership currently comprises 25% women and 28% black top scholars, achieving its 2015/16 performance targets related to diversifying its membership. The ASSAf 2015/16 annual report states that despite concerted efforts to increase the nomination of black and female scholars, the election process did not change the gender and race profile of ASSAf’s membership. Possible solutions to this were under investigation and may include amending the ASSAf Act.
Governance and administration had achieved 80% (8 of 10) of its performance targets, Communications had achieved 100% (5 of 5) of its performance targets, liaison achieved 100% (5 of 5) of its performance targets, policy advisory achieved 67% (4 of 6) of its performance targets, publications achieved 100% (2 of 2) of its performance targets, and scholarly publishing achieved 83% (5 of 6) of its performance targets. ASSAf’s average performance achievement for the 2015/16 financial year was 88%.
The Department’s baseline allocation to ASSAf was R22.9 million, down from R24.6 million in 2014/15, and its contract funding allocation was R594 463, down from R3 million in 2014/15. Additional revenue totalled R1.9 million from government, R4.8 million from local grants and donations, and R4.6 million from foreign grants and donations. Total revenue for 2015/16 was R36.3 million and ASSAf’s total expenditure amounted to R42.5 million, resulting in a deficit of R6.3 million.
ASSAf’s total revenue decreased by R3.5 million from the 2014/15 financial year and its total 2015/16 expenses increased by R6.6 million. The key contributing factors to the decreased revenue was a R6.6 million decrease in government grants and subsidies, a R80 708 decrease in publication fees, and no revenue from workshop fees, which had amounted to R740 071 in 2014/15. The increased 2015/16 expenditure was attributed to a R3 million increase in employee costs and a R3 million increase in general expenses, among other factors
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
The CSIR’s mandate was to foster industrial and scientific development in the national interest through multidisciplinary research and technological innovation.
The CSIR’s R&D activities were organised around the concept of a research impact area (RIA). There were six RIAs: health, defence and security, the built environment, the natural environment, industry and energy. These were supported by a set of core technologies and the impact of this R&D work was further refined by three cross-cutting flagship programmes -- health, safety and security, and Transnet capability development -- which focus on short-term interventions that transfer technological solutions to external stakeholders.
Annually, the CSIR enters into a shareholder’s compact with the Department, which lists the specific key performance indicators (KPIs) against which its performance would be measured. The CSIR’s KPIs comprise three categories -- scientific and technical, learning and growth, and finance and governance. The CSIR had achieved or exceeded all except one of its performance targets. The target that was not achieved was earning royalty and licence income equalling or exceeding R7.4 million. It had earned R5.2 million in royalty and licence income, attributed largely to the slow growth rate of the economy and the current drought in South Africa.
The CSIR was funded through a combination of baseline and ring-fenced grants from the Department, and earned contract R&D income from the public and private sectors, locally and internationally. Grant funding was invested in research programmes, research infrastructure, as well as in R&D skills development. The total operating income of the CSIR had increased by 13% to R2.70 billion. The Parliamentary grant, recognised as income in 2015/16, had amounted to R680.5 million, an increase of 0.8% from the prior year. The CSIR’s total contract R&D income had increased by 17% to R1.97 billion. This had included a R68.1 million ring-fenced allocation from the Department.
The CSIR’s continued alignment with national strategic priorities ensured that a significant part of the contract income was received from the South African public sector. Public sector income amounted to R1.65 billion, compared to R1.33 billion in 2014/15. Continued investment in scientific infrastructure and equipment remained a priority to ensure that world-class facilities and equipment were acquired and maintained. Over the past five financial years, R967 million had been invested in property, plant and equipment, with R308 million invested in the 2015/16 financial year. The CSIR’s net profit amounted to R59.2 million (R52.4 million in 2014/15), and its cash and cash equivalent holdings were R1 billion (R975.9 million in 2014/15). Staff remuneration accounted for 54.8% of the CSIR’s total operating expenditure.
Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
The HSRC aimed to be a research organisation that advances social sciences and humanities to help address pressing social issues such as inequality and poverty, and enhances human welfare and development. Over the next five years, the HSRC’s research programmes and centres would specifically focus on poverty and inequality. These programmes and centres were:
- Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA)
- BRICS Research Centre (BRC)
- Centre for Science, Technology, Innovations Indicators (CeSTII)
- Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD)
- Economic Performance and Development (EPD)
- Education and Skills Development (ESD)
- HIV/AIDS, STIs, and TB (HAST)
- Human and Social Development (HSD)
- Population Health, Health Systems and Innovation (PHHSI)
A cross-cutting entity, Research use and Impact Assessment, seeks to extend and enhance the use and effect of scientific research from the HSRC. The research outputs include reports, occasional papers and scholarly articles in peer-reviewed journals, books, and a news magazine that seeks to improve the public understanding of science. These outputs were disseminated in print through the HSRC press releases, policy briefs aimed at government and policymakers, and the media, including social media, the HSRC’s website, conferences, and research networks.
The performance measurements and quantifiable performance targets for the reporting period were in five areas, summarised by the acronym ADEPTS:
- Knowledge Advancement through peer reviewed publications, policy briefs, collaboration and public communications – achieved six of nine performance targets, 67%.
- Contributing to Development and social progress in Africa – achieved three of four performance targets, 75%.
- Creating and Enhancing a skilled and capable workforce – achieved six of 10 performance targets, 60%.
- Preserving and archiving research data as a resource for future use by researchers and other users – achieved all three performance targets, 100%.
- Contributing to ongoing institutional Transformation – achieved four of six performance targets, 67%.
- Developing and implementing strategies for financial Sustainability – achieved 10 of 12 performance targets, 83%.
The overall performance of the HSRC for the 2015/16 financial year was 73% (32 out of 44 targets achieved), compared to 71% for the 2014/15 financial year. Other than the work conducted by the programmes and centres, key achievements for 2015/16 included:
- AISA hosting the 10th Africa Young Graduates and Scholars conference at the University of Limpopo.
- The BRC developed a new data warehouse for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) initiative, bringing together critical comparative data for the partner countries.
- DGSD finished a comparative study on social cohesion between South Africa and Brazil.
- EPD played a central role in compiling the Sixth and Final Millennium Development Goals Report for South Africa.
- ESD continued its work on the transition of young people to the workplace.
- HAST conducted a major study in 25 districts on the programmatic mapping and size estimation of key populations that were at risk of HIV infection.
- PHHSI continued its work on healthy and safe nutrition.
- Hosting the Gender Summit in April 2015.
- Hosting the World Social Science Forum in September 2015.
The targets that were not achieved pertained to:
- Advancement – not achieving the number of scholarly books and book chapters published, and the number of policy briefs produced.
- Development – not achieving the number of African research fellows at the HSRC.
- Enhancing – not achieving the number of post-doctoral fellows appointed at the HSRC, the number of journal articles per Master’s intern, having no PhD interns complete their programmes, and the number of journal articles per PhD intern.
- Transformation – not achieving the gender and race targets for senior researchers.
- Sustainability – not achieving the percentage of total income that was extra-parliamentary, and the numbers of officials attending the anti-corruption campaign.
The inability to attract senior African research fellows and reach the external funding target remained an ongoing challenge for the HSRC.
In 2015/16, the HSRC received R469 million from Parliament. The grant included an allocation of R17.3 million for the purchase of 24 mobile clinics. The HSRC had aimed to secure 48% of its revenue from external sources, but its actual achievement amounted to 42%. The total expenditure was R436.8 million, which included R237 million (54.2%) for staff costs and R114.6 million (26.2%) for research costs. The HSRC had recorded a surplus of R32.2 million, resulting from the allocation for the mobile clinics, funds allocated to AISA for capacity building, vacancies from AISA and the HSRC (with the departure of the CEO and some executives), and projects that were still in progress at the end of the financial year.
The HSRC continued to diversify its funding streams and had increased the funding it gets from the public sector. However, the it needed more public funding. Although, it was proficient and successful at raising funds from the private sector and from donors, there were difficulties that working with a multiplicity of external agencies produced. These included not having complete control over the research agenda, and having to modify and adjust accountability capacity to the different financial regulations and systems required by international partners and collaborators, while simultaneously remaining compliant with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). To streamline its operations and research priorities, the HSRC had increasingly attempted to secure multiyear contracts with funding agencies. For 2015/16, 42 of the 65 (64%) grants received were multi-year grants.
National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI)
NACI was mandated to advise the Minister of Science and Technology, and through the Minister, the Cabinet, on the role and contribution of science, mathematics, innovation and technology, including indigenous technologies, in promoting and achieving national objectives. During 2015/16, NACI’s advice had focused on the following:
- The co-ordination and stimulation of the NSI.
- The co-ordination of science and technology policy and strategies with those of other sectors.
- The establishment and maintenance of information systems to support STI policy.
- The investigation of developments in the field of STI that may require new legislation.
NACI had achieved all its performance targets for the 2015/16 financial year; establishing a system to provide rapid responses to requests for advice; producing 11 advisory opinions for the Minister, hosting eight roundtable/stakeholder engagements, producing seven research reports on topical matters related to the NSI; and had collaborated on 17 initiatives with local and international institutions. The work conducted included:
- Requests from the Minister to review the current Science and Technology White Paper, develop a framework for the next decadal STI plan, develop a national STI information portal, and analyse the declining business expenditure on R&D.
- Rapid advice on energy, water and sanitation, and food security in South Africa.
- Analysing the R&D survey data.
NACI had also developed a five-year strategic plan (2016-2021), which would guide its work and improve its operations. It had conducted a skills audit in its secretariat, which currently comprised 13 staff. It was hoped that an expanded staff complement would allow NACI to improve on fulfilling its mandate.
NACI was funded and administered by the Department’s Programme 1 (Administration), hence its financials form part of the Department’s annual audit. It had been allocated R14.5 million and had spent R12.1 million, with R8.1 million covering the compensation of employees and R4 million spent on goods and services.
National Research Foundation (NRF)
The NRF promotes and supports research in all fields of science, and provides research funding and platforms through national facilities and science engagement activities. Its key goal was to ensure that South Africa contributed at least one percent to global R&D output by 2020, and that this knowledge output benefited society.
The Research and Innovation Support and Advancement (RISA) unit spent R2.6 billion in support of students, researchers and research across the NSI. R1.8 billion was invested in HCD, of which 67% (R815 million) was invested in Honours, Master’s and Doctoral student support. In 2015/16, 69% (8 980) of the postgraduate students supported were black and 54% (7 032) were female. A total of 4 853 Master’s and 3 181 PhD students were supported. Strategic investments, including the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) and the Centres of Excellence (CoEs) amounted to 33% (R584 million) of the investment in HCD. The CoEs had supported an additional 1 759 postgraduate students, of which 63% were black and 53% were female. The NRF had awarded 42 women-only new research chairs. In addition, there was an increase in the number of black and female rated researchers of 13% (98) and 6% (62) respectively for the year under review.
RISA had allocated R2.3 billion in grant funding to institutions and had administered 13 401 applications through the peer-review process. The NRF had invested R251 million in awarding research infrastructure grants to the universities through the National Equipment Programme (NEP) and the National Nanotechnology Equipment Programme (NNEP). The NRF had contributed to the provision of infrastructure platforms by investing a further R812 million in the National Research Facilities, including the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project. The National Research Facilities produced 414 Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)-accredited publications and maintained an annual cumulative citation impact of 1.3. The National Research Facilities, including the SKA project, had supervised 569 postgraduate students. The number of international co-publications was 8 838, against a target of 7 400. In pursuit of the goal of a “Scientifically literate and engaged society”, the NRF had invested R179 million in institutions and organisations advancing science engagement activities. Through various initiatives across the country, the NRF had trained 19 410 educators and engaged with 370 624 learners. Approximately 1 million members of the public had participated in various science engagement activities over the reporting period.
Concerning activities to be discontinued, discussions were being held between the Ministries of Science and Technology and Environmental Affairs for the possible transfer of the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG) from the NRF to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) during the 2016/17 financial year.
The NRF’s 2015/16 total income of R4.16 billion (R3.1 billion in 2014/15) comprised the Parliamentary grant of R878.4 million (21% of total), ring-fenced funding from the Department of R1.7 billion (42% of total), designated income of R1.3 billion (31% of total), and other income of R242.5 million (6% of total). The increase in income from 2014/15 to 2015/16 was mainly attributed to a 114% increase in the ring-fenced funding received for HCD (R357 million) and the SKA project (R339 million) from the Department. Designated income had decreased by 3.5% due to a number of Department contracts that had been transferred to the ring-fenced allocation. The Parliamentary grant had increased by a nominal 3%. The decline of the Parliamentary grant in real terms (inflation adjusted), the increased inflationary costs of operations, and currency volatility remained a matter of concern, so the NRF’s management and board were exploring a suitable resource allocation framework with the Department to support the long-term sustainability of the NRF. The bulk of the NRF’s expenditure (62%) was to allocate grants and bursaries, while employees’ remuneration and programme expenditure accounted for 14% and 16% of total expenditure, respectively.
South African National Space Agency (SANSA)
SANSA aims to promote the peaceful use of space, foster international co-operation in space-related activities, foster research in space science, advance scientific engineering through HCD, and facilitate the creation of an environment that is conducive to industrial development in space technologies.
SANSA comprises the following programmes/directorates: corporate support, space operations, space science, space engineering and earth observation. These units achieved 17 of SANSA’s 19 performance targets (89%) for the 2015/16 financial year. The targets that were not met were:
- To reach 25% development status of EO-Sat1 (South Africa’s next earth observation satellite). The target was not met due to work restrictions emanating from the ongoing uncertainty regarding satellite funding.
- To secure R4.2 million in revenue from global partnerships for the space programme. SANSA had secured R1 million, and future targets would be reviewed based on realistic baseline data.
SANSA had realised a total income of R338.6 million, spending R225.3 million, resulting in a surplus of R113.3 million. The total income included the R124.3 million Parliamentary grant, R108 million from transfers and subsidies, R8.4 million in interest income, R96.8 million for services rendered and R939 808 from other sources. Its largest expenditure costs were R96 million for employee (highly specialised, scarce skills) remuneration, R47 million for general expenses, R31 million for data licence fees, and R25 million for depreciation and amortisation of its assets.
South African Council for Natural Scientific Professionals (SACNaSP)
The Natural Scientific Professions Act, No. 27 of 2003, provides for the establishment of SACNaSP and legislates the registration of professional natural scientists and technologists, and scientists and technologists in training. It was self-sustaining, generating revenue from the registration fees it administered.
SACNaSP had for the first time secured funding (R12.6 million) from the Department for the period 2016 to 2018. These funds would be used to:
- Improve SACNaSP’s Information Technology infrastructure.
- Increase stakeholder engagement and improve visibility.
- Roll out Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and implement a structured candidate mentoring phase for young scientists.
During 2015/16, SACNaSP had registered an additional 1 973 natural scientists, bringing the total registered scientists to 8 900. SACNaSP had also registered 608 extension scientists and assisted 123 (110 approved) science professionals with obtaining a critical skills visa.
SACNaSP had faced significant challenges in the 2015/16 financial year, with an 11% decrease in revenue as compared to the previous year. This was due to a lower than expected number of extension science applications. Annual fees form 63% of SACNaSP’s total revenue, and the biggest challenge had been the collection of these fees from registered scientists. It had therefore raised provision for bad debts on all registered scientists who had not paid their annual fees for more than two years. This had put a strain on its financial position, as its expenses were fixed and contractual. Other cost drivers included honoraria fees for the new Council, the relocation of its office and the purchase of new furniture, updating the financial system, the recruitment process for the new Executive Director, and increased conference attendance. In accordance with the Act, management would remove all registered scientists who had not paid their annual fees in the last two years from the SACNASP database, in the next financial year.
SACNaSP’s total revenue was R9.2 million and its total expenditure was R11.9 million, resulting in a deficit of R2.7 million. It had also appointed key personnel in permanent positions so that it did not have to outsource some of its administrative functions. This would allow it to stay within its 2016/17 income and not incur a deficit.
Technology Innovation Agency (TIA)
The TIA aims to support, stimulate and intensify technological innovation to improve economic growth. TIA was positioned as a development finance institution that provided “gap” funding for technology development projects (seen as high-risk investments, hence, there was a lack of commercial funding) with high social and economic impact. TIA’s goals were to support the commercialisation of technological innovations, increase access to infrastructure for technology development, and stimulate an agile and productive NSI.
The TIA had resolved a number of the challenges that had plagued its administrative and project funding functions. It had concluded the redesign of the organisation’s strategy and structure, and had reported an improved level of satisfaction from its clients. In 2015/16, TIA attracted third-party funding of R97.9 million, raised external income of R153.8 million, commercialised nine technologies/products, assisted 2 197 small and medium enterprises (SMEs), developed 76 knowledge products, disbursed seed funds to 275 projects, and disbursed funds of R379 million. It had achieved 13 of its 14 (93%) performance targets. The only target that had not been achieved was to maintain staff turnover below 5%. The actual result was a staff turnover of 13.4%, resulting from 24 resignations and only 11 posts being filled.
TIA’s total 2015/16 revenue was R463 million, which included a Parliamentary grant of R385.2 million, contract income of R44 million, and other income of R35 million. Its total expenditure was R523.4 million, resulting in a R53.7 million deficit. Total expenditure included R334 million for projects and R92.6 million for employee costs. The employee costs accounted for only 16% of its total expenditure, and its project costs accounted for 74% of total expenditure. TIA experienced a real decrease in income from the 2014/15 financial year, but had managed to maintain the level of project funding by decreasing its employee and administrative costs.
DST’s finance and service delivery performance assessment
Year-on-year, the Department had consistently demonstrated that it could spend, to a significant degree, its budget allocation according to spending targets, and that it had taken the necessary steps to ensure that the same progress was made with achieving its performance targets. For the 2015/16 financial year, the Department had spent 99.6% of its budget and achieved 84% of its performance targets. In 2014/15, it had spent 98.6% of its budget and achieved 85% of its performance targets. In 2013/14, it had spent 99.5% of its budget and achieved 77% of its performance targets. The Department and the entities had also made extensive efforts to ensure that operational costs fell within the allowed prescripts and that the bulk of the publicly allocated and externally sourced funds were used to fulfil core mandates.
The three priority domains of the Department remained R&D, human capital development, and the provision of STI infrastructure. However, given its resources, the rate of progress within these priority domains was not at the desired level. Furthermore, the biggest threats to the objectives of the Department were the poor mathematics and science performance by South African scholars, the low throughput rate to postgraduate study, and the inadequate level of investment and co-ordination in RDI by both the private and public sectors.
South Africa’s investment in R&D as a percentage of GDP had further decreased from 0.76% to 0.73% in 2015. South Africa’s R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP was low compared to other services-dominated economies -- for example, Japan at 3.47% and Brazil at 1.15%. In the 2013/14 financial year, government had been the highest source of R&D funding (R11 billion), followed by the business sector (R10.6 billion). The largest proportion of government R&D funding (93%) went to higher education and government. Only 4% and 6% of business R&D funding goes to government and higher education, respectively. Alternatively, the business sector accounts for the largest share of South Africa’s R&D expenditure (46%), followed by the higher education sector at 28%. In countries with high R&D intensity, most of the R&D expenditure was sourced from industry. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 2015 STI scoreboard showed that in 2013, total R&D spending in OECD countries grew to US $1.1 trillion (almost 2.4% of GDP), continuing the recovery in R&D investment since the global economic crisis. This increase was driven by business R&D, whereas government performed and funded R&D was impacted by budget consolidation measures, remaining flat at 0.7% of GDP for the last three years. This retrenchment of public support for science may endanger the stability and sustainability of research systems in countries that did not have the flexibility to accommodate these changes.
It had been conclusively shown that during fiscal strain, economies that significantly increased their investment in STI were able to respond faster and more comprehensively to fiscal improvement than economies that decreased their spending, or allowed it to increase only at the existing rate of growth. In terms of the economy, the Department was specifically focusing on those sectors that were the largest contributors to South Africa’s trade deficit. Using its resources and leveraging additional resources from its STI partners, it seeks to identify and address technological issues that could lead to a reduction in the payments for imported technology and expertise. Furthermore, the Department was looking to unlock increased R&D investment within local and provincial government budgets by better aligning/promoting/driving its technology and innovation solutions for local economic development. The Department, through various initiatives, was attempting to increase the level of funding from the business sector for R&D. Some of these initiatives -- for example, the R&D tax incentive -- had not enjoyed a large uptake due to the qualification criteria and problems with applying for the incentive, as well as with the administration of the incentive. The Department was currently considering additional industry inputs as to how to improve this incentive. With additional resources and partnerships, this objective may be achieved faster, ensuring that South Africa gets closer to the NDP goal of 1.5% GERD by 2019.
Overall, the Department with its entities had shown that they could spend their allocated budget and achieve a significant percentage of their performance targets (Table 4), as well as ensuring that they adhered closely to legislative prescripts in managing the allocations received from the public purse. The shortcomings in operations and challenges to achieving their mandates had been acknowledged, and plans to address and improve on these were in progress.
The Committee recognises the important role that science, technology and innovation had to play in the transformation of South Africa. It commends the Department and its entities for their efforts in delivering on some of the key priority areas for social and economic development, in line with the goals of the NDP.
The Committee was of the view that with the current capabilities, a review and possible expansion of the mandates of some of the entities, together with increased funding, would allow the Department to play a more pivotal role in addressing issues of poverty alleviation and service delivery.
To this end, the Committee restates a previous recommendation, whereby they would engage the Department on how resource limitations had an impact on its programmes and plans.
The Committee welcomed the formulation of a framework for co-operation with other government departments. Enhanced co-ordination and co-operation was necessary for the successful implementation of the research and technology solutions developed by the Department to address service delivery, planning and growth issues.
The Committee acknowledged the formation of the RDI technical input group, established to evaluate the funding pressures of the public RDI system. The Committee reiterated its stance that a policy to establish a centralised research and development budget allocation would ensure efficient allocation and spending on science, technology and innovation across all government departments.
The Committee was of the view that Government should make better use of its public entities to advise and provide services, as opposed to outsourcing needed services to external consultants.
An update brief on the SKA and MeerKAT projects was necessary to understand the current challenges in relation to the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas and the development of windfarms in the Karoo, and the effect these may have on the projects.
The Committee welcomed the review of the R&D tax incentive programme and looked forward to being briefed by the Department on the findings and recommendations of the process.
The Committee noted that currently only 0.73 percent of GDP was spent on R&D. For the country to reach its economic goals, reaching the target of 1.5 percent of GDP spent on R&D would have to be accelerated.
To assess how many of the students funded by the NRF were absorbed into the science system after they have completed their studies, the Committee urged the Department to develop mechanisms to track students that it funds successfully.
The Committee raised the concern that women in executive management positions in science were still lacking, and encouraged the Department to find ways and means of addressing this.
It noted with concern that funding for the Economic Competitiveness Support Package would end in the 2017/18 financial year. The Committee therefore supported the efforts of the Department to ensure that this funding continued beyond 2017/18, since it was important for the continuation and further successful implementation of the programmes that had boosted industrial development, assisted entrepreneurs and accelerated job creation in South Africa.
The Committee noted the regression in the 2015/16 audit outcome of the Department, acknowledged the commitments made by the Minister to implement plans to address the shortcomings identified, and committed itself to requesting from the Department, during its quarterly performance briefings sessions, an update on the progress with implementing the recommended action plans and the status of key controls.
The Committee noted the slight regression in the 2015/16 performance achievements of the Department, and acknowledged the reasons for this. The Committee therefore requests the Department to better formulate and articulate its performance indicators and targets, building in the necessary variation required by the prevailing environment to mitigate against negative performance results that emanate from factors beyond the Department’s control or influence.
The Committee understands that science, technology and innovation create an enabling environment to address developmental challenges. Hence, it notes and commends the research, development and innovation work of the Department and its entities. It further recognises that this work was of the highest international standard and was being used globally. The Committee is, however, interested to know and explore the extent to which this work is being used within South Africa to address national challenges.
The Committee noted the impact that the #FeesMustFall campaign had had on the performance of the National Research Foundation, and further noted that the performance for the 2016/17 financial year may be similarly impacted.
The Committee noted that the graduation rate and time to completion of degrees by postgraduate students funded by the National Research Foundation was well above the national average. This was despite the bursary value not being commensurate with the actual cost of postgraduate study and the growth of the research grant not being in line with macro-economic factors.
The Committee noted that the entities all required funds additional to what had been allocated by the Department to fulfil their mandates and cover the operational costs. Furthermore, the Committee was cognisant that the need to source additional funds may require the entities to relinquish some control over the research agenda and introduce additional regulatory requirements to meet the needs of the funder.
The Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology recommends the following:
- That it would support all additional funding requests made by the Department of Science and Technology to the National Treasury;
- That the Department ensure full compliance with legislative prescripts to avoid future findings from the Auditor-General, and that the issues regarding the audit status of ASSAf be addressed.
Dr. Lotriet suggested that the Committee mention itself in this point because it was an issue that had been brought up last year and had clearly not been resolved this year. Special attention needed to be focused on this matter.
- That the Department of Science and Technology and its entities show more clearly and disseminate more broadly the impact on national economic and social development, and service delivery, which its investment in research, development and innovation had had to date.
- That the National Research Foundation attempts to quantify the possible impact of the #FeesMustFall campaign on its future performance and financial requirements, and that these findings be considered in its strategic planning.
- That every effort be made to increase the level of funding to the National Research Foundation’s human capital development programmes so that greater impact could be achieved by making postgraduate study attractive, and increasing the training and graduation rates of science, engineering and technology postgraduates.
- That the Department of Science and Technology interact with the Department of Energy to discuss the challenges and impacts that the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas and the development of windfarms may have on the SKA and MeerKAT projects. The Committee requests that the Department of Science and Technology report to it on these discussions within six months.
It wassuggested that this recommendation be written in the following way, in order to avoid confusion and to clarify what the Committee wanted:
“That the Department of Science and Technology interact with the Department of Energy in relation to the current challenges that hydraulic fracturing of shale gas …wind farms in the Karoo which may affect the operations of SKA and MeerKAT, and report back to the Committee within the next six months as to whether the challenges were addressed”. It was stated that these were strategic projects that could not be compromised.
The Committee agreed upon this amendment.
The report was adopted.
The Chairperson thanked the DST for its contribution.
Mr Mathale thanked the support staff for putting together such a great report and the Chairperson said that they would be acknowledged in the report.
The meeting was adjourned.
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