South African National Space Agency 2016/17 Annual Report

Science and Technology

11 October 2017
Chairperson: Ms L Maseko (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Annual Reports 2016/17 

The Committee was briefed by the SANSA on its 2016/17 Annual Programme.
SANSA had achieved 15 of its 17 targets which translated into an 88% success rate. Two key performance highlights were: the production of five high impact national products and supporting close to 11 000 satellite passes. The SANSA showed a reasonably fair racial distribution: African – 62%; Coloured – 8%; Indian – 5%; and White - 25%. The gender distribution still needed some work with 62% males and 38% females.

Members commended SANSA for working well with other departments and congratulated it for achieving a clean audit. They asked about the 52 direct jobs supported for a racial, gender and provincial breakdown; to whom resources were allocated with regard to the R13 million given to SME’s; the growth plan; the EO-Sat repositioning strategy; what was being done about the four areas of concern that the Risk Committee had highlighted; if progress had been made to formalise land use rights in the area that SANSA currently occupied; if there was a frequency blackout, would it affect general aviation; why the United States of America (USA) was such a big spender with regard to space programming; and if South Africa was confident that it could reach its targets in terms of fund raising.

Meeting report

South African National Space Agency’s (SANSA) on its 2016/17 Annual Report
Dr Valmont Munsami, CEO, SANSA, said that the entity achieved 15 of its 17 targets which translated into an 88% success. Some of the other performance highlights were:
Produced five high impact national products;
Supported close on 11 000 satellite passes;
Supported 87 students;
Produced five high impact national products;
Concluded three government policy support tools;
R77 million on contract expenditure to local industry of which R13 million was for SME’s;
Hosted seven public lectures;
calibrated 162 passes; and
Had 32 participants in a joint international Space Weather Camp

Income consisted of:
Exchange transactions – R110.40 million
Ring fenced grants – R108.09 million
Parliamentary grant – R124.46 million

Capital expenditure – R1113.53 million
Operating costs – R129.29 million
Employee costs – R96.08 million

Employee Demographics in terms of racial distribution:
African – 62%
Coloured – 8%
Indian – 5%
White - 25%

Gender distribution:
Male – 62%
Female – 38%

Implementation Challenges
Sub-optimal funding levels:
* Big focus on fund raising,
* SANSA had to seek funding to service government needs, and
* SANSA to downscale within two years
Unable to implement the full mandate
Full funding for EO-Sat 1 not secured as yet,
Additional commitments needed for BRICs, ADIRC &ARMC, and
Limited support to local industry.

Two key areas in the road ahead were:
Developed a new 5-year strategic framework with
* greater focus on Africa, and
* neglected areas: GNSS & Telecoms;
Stronger focus on marketing, strategic partnerships and communications.

Ms Joy-Marie Lawrence, SANSA Chair said that this is the fifth consecutive clean audit that the entity had achieved.

The Chairperson congratulated the SANSA on its clean audit and congratulated Mr Munsami on his appointment.

Ms A Tuck (ANC) referred to the document where it was stated that the 52 direct jobs were supported; she asked for a breakdown in terms of gender, provinces and recruitment and whether this was permanent or contract.
Mr Munsami replied that the SANSA would respond formally in writing to this question

Ms Tuck asked that with regard to the R13 million that went to SMEs, could the SANSA provide a breakdown of to whom the resources were allocated?

Mr Munsami replied that a formal response in writing would be sent to the Committee.

Ms Tuck referred to 32 participants in a joint International Weather Camp and asked what the backup plan was and where the participants came from, if they were recruited or had they come from the system. Lastly, she asked if they were going to be trained further in this direction.

Mr Gert Lamprecht, Acting Managing Director,SANSA Space Science, replied that it was a combination of international students and South African students with about 10 or 11 South African students involved. This was directly related to the bursars in SANSA.

On employee distribution, Ms Tuck said that she had not seen the racial distribution for the previous term but would like to know the growth plan since the balance shown did not make sense. And furthermore, she asked if SANSA could show the progress made in gender distribution.

Mr Munsami replied that the distribution had been shown graphically for the previous year shown in orange. The one’s in black were for 2016 and showed how the SANSA had progressed. The SANCA had moved from 62% in 2015/16 to 64% in 2016/17. This was the same for the gender distribution and was indicated in red.

Referring to the implementation challenges illustrated by the top five bullets on page 5, Ms Tuck asked what the SANSA’s plans ahead were given that it planned to downscale within two years. This could reflect negatively given that the SANSA was unable to implement the full mandate for GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) & Telecoms.

Mr Munsami replied that if one looked at the new areas it was clear that they were obviously not fulfilling the mandate on the GNSS and Telecoms, that skill set was not necessarily located in SANSA, so if it was scaling down those particular areas would not be affected, in fact it would probably have to recruit new staff on that end. Obviously if one was scaling down it was a very sensitive issue with regard to labour law. It was considered as a last resort but the SANSA was not considering this right now. At the moment the organisation was just being realigned to make it more efficient. However the SANSA was well aware that in two years’ time the salary bill would over shoot the parliamentary grant and this was a cause for concern and where the SANSA needed to take action.

Mr G Mathale (ANC) said that he had only one question on the target that had not been achieved. He asked about the EO-SAT 1 development programme where a repositioning strategy had to be undertaken. Was this not supposed to have been done in the beginning- if engaged in construction work one first assessed what the best methods should be and looked at various options before one started. Generally, he was happy with the work SANSA was doing.

Mr Munsami replied that this exercise was done at the very beginning. In terms of what was being done for EO-Sat 1 South Africa, effectively there were two or three players and DENEL was the primary contractor for the satellite and they had to sub contract other players. Here one had to check regularly that one was keeping up to date with the latest technology.

Mr Mathale said that he did not know whether he was being helped or further confused. His question was basically whether the decision taken was not a costly decision.

Mr Munsami replied that yes there was some cost involved but if done correctly one could offset the cost by the cost saving that came through. This was a system engineering issue because there were many different components at play but they all talked to each other and went through different stages. At least 50% of the components came from abroad and this market changed as well. The project had to be evaluated continuously as one went along.

Ms C King (DA) said that the Risk Committee had highlighted four areas of concern. She asked what SANSA was doing to mitigate regarding these areas of concern that had been identified.

Mr Munsami said that EO-Sat risks were being managed. The other three risk factors like the ERP systems were going live; in fact they had already gone live on some of the modules. SANSA was going through a change management process as we speak. It had also got a committee together to do business continuity. He felt the SANSA was on track with regard to managing risks.

Ms King asked if progress had been made to formalise land use rights in the area that SANSA currently occupied.

Mr Munsami replied that he would have to check with observation colleagues who worked with land reform about this matter and would get back to the Committee about this.

Mr C Koornhof (ANC) asked when there was a frequency blackout, would it affect general aviation.

Mr Lamprecht replied that it generally referred to as a radio blackout. Fortunately on a commercial aircraft there were many systems that could be used to switch over between systems for navigation purposes. The big effect had more to do with the GPS accuracy which definitely had to deal with interference. With certain events one could ask them to switch to specific frequencies which would help them. The long and short of the matter was that there was interference on commercial aircrafts. All systems were in place for life threatening situations.

Mr Koornhof said it was known that there was protection from the magnetic field around earth; he asked if humans could compromise the magnetic field around the earth.

Mr Munsami said that the answer was generally ‘no’.

On space programme spending, Mr Koornhof asked why the United States of America (USA) was such a big spender. Did they try to be a dominant player and if they were a dominant play, could they dominate space for the wrong reasons and block out people they did not like.

Mr Munsami said that obviously the USA wanted to dominate everything, but he felt that the rest of the world was moving towards a collaborative approach even China had expressed the desire to work with other developing countries.

Mr Koornhof asked in terms of fund raising if South Africa was confident that it could reach its targets in this regard.

Mr Munsami said that the new strategic framework looked at South Africa’s position in relation to the rest of Africa. Many of South Africa’s counterparts in Africa wanted to work with South Africa and in order to do this effectively one had to work from the inside out. This was the more attractive model and would make SANSA sustainable. The key to this was to build capacity in other African countries so as to have a user base in those countries.

The Chairperson asked how many of the 87 supported students were female.

Mr Lamprecht said that he did not have the figures offhand but the information would be forwarded to the Committee.

The Chairperson asked if the SANSA had exceeded its target with regard to the seven public lectures hosted.

Mr Munsami said that the SANSA did not have a particular indicator attached to the public lectures.

The Chairperson asked if the SANSA had any information about Ghana in relation to the EO Sat programme.

Mr Munsami said that the SANSA has a very good conversation with Ghana last week. Ghana was in a difficult position because it did not have political support for its space programme, so it was asking South Africa how to motivate for a space programme.

Ms T Mfulo (ANC) said that when looking at the first slide on ‘Performance Overview’

on page 1, where ‘Targets not achieved’ were spoken of in terms of the ‘Reduction of cost and timelines’, she said that this should be fully explained to show how costs would be reduced as per the timelines to give effect to the proposed repositioning strategy.

The Chairperson asked what had happened to Mandla Maseko.

Mr Munsami replied that the SANSA did have a relationship with Mandla Maseko, in fact he had been given an office in SANSA but he had not used that office for the past two years as he was now employed by the Defence Force as a pilot.

The Chairperson asked for more information about mentorship and what internship programmes SANSA had.

Mr Lamprecht said that specifically from the space science side which was located in Hermanus, SANSA was focusing on internships and had a mobile lab which exposed the learners to science and technology. They were actually leaving today for the Eastern Cape, so it was not just a regional-based focus; they focussed on the whole country. SANSA did provide mentorship to students specifically in space science. Winter schools and summer schools were also offered to students and the SANSA had it first workshop last week in the Western Cape. This got all the bursars from SANSA together and showcased their work.

Mr Munsami said that the SANSA had actually targeted 9000 students but ended up with 19 000 students.

The Chairperson commended SANSA for working well with other departments and congratulated the SANSA on achieving a clean audit.

The meeting was adjourned.

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