Science and Technology Budget Review and Recommendations Report

Science and Technology

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

Documents handed out:
Draft Budget Review and Recommendations Report [available Tabled Cmmittee Reports once published]

The Committed considered and approved the Draft Budget Review and Recommendations Report. Members made minor changes to the document, re-worded several sentences and inserted new ones.

Some of the Committee observations in the report were as follows:

-The Committee was of the view that since government has and continues to invest substantial resources into science councils to address national priorities through evidence based studies, national departments should make better use of the expertise and resources resident within the science councils to provide and advice on the services needed. This would potentially lesson government’s dependence on private consultants for policy analysis and advice.
-The Committee notes the regression in the 2016/17 audit outcome of the Department, the HSRC and the NRF, and acknowledges the commitment made by the Minister to implement plans to address the shortcomings identified and commits itself to requesting from the Department during its quarterly performance briefing sessions; an update on the progress with implementing the recommended action plans and the status of key controls.
-The Committee recognises the research development and innovation work of the Department and its entities that is of the highest international standard and is being used globally.
The Committee encourages the DST to continue its focus on R&D in the existing areas of competitive advantage and in areas where existing markets are set to grow.

Some of the recommendations in the report were as follows:

-The Minister continues her pursuit with the National Treasury to secure additional funding for the science and technology portfolio, and that the Committee supports all funding requests made in this regard.
-The Minister advises against all proposed funding reductions from the National Treasury based on the key motive that radical economic transformation and the nation’s progress are strategically linked to our investment in science, technology and innovation, and lack of investment or reduction will seriously impact on that.
-The Department of Science and Technology continue to explore ways and means of improving and developing systematic ways of reporting on impact of science and technology;
That the Committee be briefed in the new financial year about current and improved measures or strategies in place to improve on the current levels of reporting.
 

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone and stated that the Committee would review the draft Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report for the Department of Science and Technology. The Committee would go through the document page by page and Members could give their input.

Science and Technology Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report

Page 1
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC) referred to line 1 where it says the ‘Portfolio Committee of Science and Technology, the Department and its entities’ and highlighted that the wording “ its entities” needed to be changed.

Mr C Mathale (ANC) thought the suggestion was that the sentence should end ‘with its entities’. There was nothing wrong with it. One could just take note of what was being suggested, but both of the sentences meant the same thing.

Dr Rene Osborne-Mullins, Committee Content Advisor, said that what Mr Mathale was trying to say was that it was not right or wrong but the report was from the Committee so it was what Members preferred and that was what would be effected.

Pages 2 - 12
Pages 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 and 12 were accepted and no changes made.

Page 13
The Chairperson said that when the team edited the document they should fix the heading on page 13 and align it.

Pages 14 and 15
No comment and changes were made with respect to these pages.

Page 16
The noted this section deal with the Committee's observations and felt that the meeting should proceed paragraph by paragraph from She proceeded to read:
The Committee advocates for improved collaboration across government by means of centralising the research agenda to fully realise and achieve the goals and priorities set out in the NDP

Page 17 paragraph 4
The Chairperson read as follows:
The Committee was of the view that since government has and continues to invest substantial resources into science councils to address national priorities through evidence based studies, national departments should make better use of the expertise and resources resident within the science councils to provide and advice on the services needed. This would potentially lesson government’s dependence on private consultants for policy analysis and advice.

The Committee notes the challenges with regards to the uptake of locally produced technologies and innovation and more especially the commercial viability thereof due to the number of reasons such as limited visibility and support from public and private procurement. Once again improved collaboration across government with the private sector to encourage the promotion and use of locally produced technologies.

Mr N Koornhof (ANC) asked if the capital venture fund should be mentioned here. It was also not in the recommendations. Several entities had spoken about the importance of this. TIA had spoken about this because it was a serious problem for innovators and small businesses because they could come up with a good ideal but there was no venture fund to assist them to take it to the commercial market.

The Chairperson read the last sentence said: ‘Once again improved collaboration across government with the private sector to encourage the promotion and use of locally produced technologies’. This was hanging. Re-phrase to say: Once again reiterate the need for improved coordination and collaboration across government.. .’

Mr Mathale said that this suggestion could be included. He had just thought that perhaps the word ‘elaboration’ should be included because the process was talking about two things, as the products which were produced and procured outside. Government supported initiatives that would contribute to economic growth, but these initiatives, when people procured, went somewhere else. But at the same time it also talked to locally produced technologies, so he thought if there was an ‘elaboration’ it would be an ‘elaboration’ on both sides, on the product and on the technology.

The Chairperson said that the whole paragraph would be re-worded. If Members had a proposal on the re-wording they could send it so that it could be incorporated in the document.

Ms T Mfulo (ANC) said she thought that the paragraph dealt with two things which should not be placed in one sentence.

The Chairperson agreed and said another paragraph would be inserted

Ms Mfulo said that most of the time the language in the draft report says: ‘we are encouraging’ with regards to the use of locally produced technology. This did not stress enough the importance of using locally produced technology. She wondered what word could be used to express the importance of using locally produced technology.

The Chairperson said that one would use the word ‘must’ if there was legislation which forced one to perform a particular activity. At this point in time the Committee was merely ‘encouraging’ a particular activity.

Mr N Khubisa (NFP) agreed with the Chairperson’s view because the Department had to look into the issue of resources, so this activity had to be encouraged.

Mr Mathale said that the Committee could possibly take both sentiments on board and not use the word ‘must’, but say ‘preference given to locally produced goods and technologies’. But where circumstances forced them to go outside, they should be able to do so. So they could utilise technology from outside the country having made certain considerations.
The Committee proposes that a strategy is developed to promote the new innovation and inventions to the wider community where there is limited access to sciences. In an attempt for widespread acceptance, usage and participation in science and technology innovation..- Here the Chairperson stopped and said that this paragraph had to be rephrased and moved to the paragraph below

The Committee noted the current 0.73% of GDP spent on R&D has been stagnant for the last two years for the country to reach its economic goals reaching a target of 1.5% of GDP spent on R&D, or at least to attain the investment equivalent to some of its African peers, the percentage will have to be increased.

Dr Osborne-Mullins said that she was just not certain about the phrase: ‘to attain the investment equivalent of some of its African peers’.

The Chairperson said that ‘African and international peers’ should be included to show that the reach was wider.

To assess how many of the students funded by the National Research Foundation are absorbed into the science system after they had completed their studies, the Committee urges the Department to develop mechanisms to track students that it funds. In this regard the Committee is keen to know whether the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP) register could be used as part of the student tracking mechanism.

The Committee notes the regression in the 2016/17 audit outcome of the Department, the HSRC and the NRF, and acknowledges the commitment made by the Minister to implement plans to address the shortcomings identified and commits itself to requesting from the Department during its quarterly performance briefing sessions; an update on the progress with implementing the recommended action plans and the status of key controls.

Page 18
The Committee recognises the research development and innovation work of the Department and its entities that is of the highest international standard and is being used globally.
The Committee encourages the DST to continue its focus on R&D in the existing areas of competitive advantage and in areas where existing markets are set to grow.

The Committee further encourages more intensified programmes and projects collaborative with other government departments to address some of our national challenges more specifically in areas of water scarcity, electricity ICT etcetera
The Committee notes that the graduation rate in the time of completion of degrees by postgraduate students funded by NRF …
The Chairperson stopped and said there had to be consistency because in some areas abbreviations were used, while in others the full name of the organisation was used.
is well above the national average. This despite the bursary value not being consummate with the actual cost of postgraduate study and the growth of the research grant not being in line with economic factors.

The Committee notes that all entities require additional funds to that which is allocated by the Department to fulfil their mandates and cover the operational costs.
Furthermore, the Committee is cognisant of 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:
1. That the Minister continues her pursuit with the National Treasury to secure additional funding for the science and technology portfolio, and that the Committee supports all funding requests made in this regard.
2. That the Minister advises against all proposed funding reductions from the National Treasury based on the key motive that radical economic transformation and the nation’s progress are strategically linked to our investment in science, technology and innovation, and lack of investment or reduction will seriously impact on that.

Mr Koornhof said that where it was said ‘…that radical economic transformation..’, the word ‘growth’ should be added because if there was no growth, there would be no transformation.

The Chairperson said that on the top of page 19 the word ‘there’ had to be capitalised.
The Committee is aware of the complexity of measuring and reporting on the impact of investment in science, recommends that the Department of Science and Technology continue to explore ways and means of improving and developing systematic ways of reporting on impact of science and technology;
That the Committee be briefed in the new financial year about current and improved measures or strategies in place to improve on the current levels of reporting.

Mr Mathale said that the Department was encouraged to develop instruments to measure impact, and that as a Committee it would then want to be briefed on what measures it had developed to do this.
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 (Academy of Science of South Africa) be addressed.
The Committee expressed its appreciation to the staff and officials supporting the Committee, and the Committee thank the Minister of the Department and entities for their cooperation and commitment.

The Chairperson said that the last two paragraphs should be part of the conclusion because they were not recommendations.

Ms Mfulo asked why ‘the new financial year’ was written in.

The Committee Secretary explained that it was included because when a recommendation was made, one had to say by when the recommendation had to be fulfilled.

Ms Mfulo said that a timeline should be attached for when the ASSAf should be addressed.

The Committee Secretary replied that there was no timeline and Members could suggest such a timeline.
The Chairperson said that the situation with ASSAf was a ‘chicken and egg’ story because on the one hand they did not comply with the PFMA, and on the other hand they said that they were not supposed to be legislated or regulated by the PFMA. There were continuous discussions with the Department to address this matter.

Dr Osborne-Mullins said that a solution would be for the ASSAf Act be amended, and this was happening currently; however one could not predict when Cabinet would approve the amendment Bill to be tabled in Parliament.

The Chairperson addressed Honourable Mfulo and said that the Committee was dealing with the present financial year, so the ‘new financial year’ had started in April last year, and the Committee was addressing what had happened in the past.

Mr Mathale moved for the adoption of the report with amendments

Mr Khubisa seconded the motion

The Report was adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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