The Committee deliberated upon the National Research Foundation Amendment Bill [B23-2017]. Most of the sections remained as tabled except for minor changes to definitions in the long title where ‘human capacity’ replaced ‘human capital’; and using the wording ‘supporting, promoting and advancing research’ in Section 3 Object of Foundation.
In Section 4 Members debated about deleting 4(d) and (e). It was submitted that (d) and (e) was HOW work could be undertaken and not WHAT work should be done. The function of the organisation was not merely to disburse funds. The legal team asked that (d) and (e) be retained. This was agreed to by Members. Members asked for an explanation of ‘money paid’ as in Section17.
The Chairperson said that there was now a new Minister and hoped that she would continue where Minister Pandor had left off. She knew the ability and energy of the new Minister and looked forward to working with her in taking the Department forward. Minister Pandor will be missed and all her efforts with and for the Department had shaped and made it what it was today.
The Chairperson said Ms Barbra Loots, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, would take the Committee through the Working Document on the National Research Foundation Amendment Bill [B23-2017]. This document was divided into three columns: Principal Act (read with Bill as Tabled); Principal Act & Bill (with additional NRF inputs) and Additional Proposed Amendments.
The National Research Foundation Amendment Bill [B23-2017] Working Document [Version 1]
Ms Loots said in black print was the Principal Act, everything in red print showed the Amendment Bill proposals as tabled read into the Principal Act and in the second column, the blue print was the NRF proposals from last week. The third column had some of the concerns Members had and a few proposals.
Ms Loots said that the first one which was the long title, the Department had made mention that it should be ‘human capacity’ instead of ‘human capital’ and this had been taken straight throughout.
The Chairperson invited Advocate Bongiwe Lofundo, State Law Advisor, to join the discussion where she saw fit.
Advocate Lofundo said that document had been agreed to with the Parliamentary Legal Advisor but there had not been agreement on the definition of the Department because it had not been referred to anywhere in the Bill nor the Act. This would make it redundant as one did not have to define something that did not appear in the Act at all. But the question would remain who was responsible for the administration of the Act, hence it was proposed for clarity that sub 2 had to be inserted into the Amendment Bill as it would show who was responsible for the implementation of the Act.
Ms C King (DA) said that she did not understand why ‘for the administration of this Act’ had to be added. It should be left as proposed ‘the Department responsible for Science and Technology’ was clear and simple.
Mr N Koornhof (ANC) said that he did not have a problem with the way “Department” was referred to in the third column.
On the definition ‘science engagement’, Ms Loots referred this to the Committee for clarity.
The Chairperson asked the Department to provide clarity on this definition.
Ms Rose Msiza, Director: Research Support, Department of Science and Technology, said that the reason why the Department had targeted groups is because it came from the science engagement strategy. The strategy defined different groups that would be targeted in terms of creating awareness of science. But seeing that the Act was actually an overarching document she agreed with the suggestion to open it because ultimately the aim was to reach the whole population of South Africa so it should be open enough to allow this.
2 Establishment of the Foundation
Ms Loots explained that this section was included to make this applicable to the Foundation.
3 Object of Foundation
Dr Molapo Qhobela, CEO, National Research Foundation (NRF), said he would like to go back to the issue of advancement , and asked if one could speak of ‘supporting, promoting and advancing research’ and then one could go back to the Principle Act and the Bill for consistency of language.
Ms Loots said if the Committee was in agreement this would be included as such.
3A. Powers of the Minister to determine national policy
Dr A Lotriet (DA) said that she had a problem with the Minister determining national policy because one always had to keep in mind rights legislation for the poorest possible Minister and not for the best possible Minister. So the dangers inherent in determining national policy was problematic and she would much prefer ‘the Bill issue policy guidelines after consultation’, and that Clause 2 still remained as ‘issue policy guidelines’.
Mr Koornhof said that formerly this Department was spoiled at it had one of the best Ministers in Cabinet, so he would therefore like to retain Clause 2.
Dr Qhobela said that there were times when certainty was needed in terms of policy and clarity of purpose and this was the logic therefore for having national policy.
Mr Lihle Hlophe, Senior Legal Officer, DST, said that in their understanding the power to issue guidelines were inherent in the Minister’s power to issue policy, but what was not appearing in the presentation was the consideration that there was nothing stopping the Minister, when approached by the implementing agency the NRF, on a matter that was not clear, to simply clarify an issue regarding implementation even though said matter was not a legislated action in terms of the Act. The interaction was between the Foundation and the Ministry, and therefore the approach was simply as was said before, that the Minister had to issue a statement of clarity.
Mr Koonhof asked that this matter be flagged and sorted out at a later stage.
Mr Jacob Mahlangu, Manager: Corporate Legal Services, NRF, said he just wanted to make sure sure whether the retention of Section 3A - about the Minister having the powers to issue policy guidelines - was being referred to here.
Ms Rene Osborne-Mullins, Content Advisor, Portfolio Committee Science and Technology said that two issues were being dealt with here, policy and an enabling issue, so maybe the heading should reflect both.
The Chairperson read the new heading as ‘The powers of the Minister to determine policy and issue policy guidelines’.
4 Functions, powers and duties of Foundation
Ms Loots said that here at question was whether ‘human resources’ should also be changed to ‘human capacity’.
Dr Qhobela suggested that it be read as the ‘development of appropriate human and research capacity and research infrastructure.’
Dr Lotriet said in terms of (b) and (e) and the possibility of collapsing them, it meant that the NRF basically promoted research by awarding scholarships etcetera. She asked if more could be said about this.
Dr Qhobela referred to sub section 2 where the Support Staff had proposed the redrafting of (b) to include the scope of (e), which the NRF proposed for deletion if the Committee found that the intent reflected in (e) should be retained.
Ms Msiza said that it was a good idea to retain Section 2 unless the NRF had a different idea.
Dr Qhobela humbly submitted that (d) and (e) was HOW work could be undertaken, it was not WHAT work should be done. The function of the organisation was not merely to disburse funds.
Advocate Lofundo said that (d) and (e) should be retained.
Ms Loots said that maybe it was an issue of wording: (d) talked about a function but also captured an operational issue. Perhaps (d) could read ‘promote multidisciplinary and advances to collaboration’. As per a redraft, ‘the allocation of funds’ could be worked in to (d) and the ‘promote multi-disciplinary collaboration’ could be kept as functions. ‘allocations of funds’ and could be substituted in the organisational part in 2.
4a Exercise of powers of Foundation outside Republic
Mr Martin Mulcahy, Advisor to the Minister, said he just wanted to flag something which may not be an issue. Under Section 4 sub 4 on page 11, it spoke of ‘supporting research’. This was fine but it later spoke of ‘conduction research’ and this was a different matter entirely.
Dr Qhobela said that there was a later clause that spoke of ‘unless requested by the Minister’. This could be changed to ‘unless approved by the Minister’ which would then be consistent with 4A (1).
5. National facilities for research
Ms Loots said that up to page 15 the NRF did not add anything to the Bill as tabled.
6. The Board
Here the NRF did not add anything to Bill as tabled.
7. Meetings of the Board
Ms Loots said there were proposals to the structure in (3) that it should read:
(a) may, at any time, convene a special meeting if the Board;
(b) must, within 14 days of a request to convene a special meeting of the Board signed by at least one third of the members of the Board convene such a meeting; and
(c) must determine the time and place of the meeting convened in terms of paragraph (a) or (b)’.
Ms King said that the number for a quorum should be stated.
Mr Hlope said that it just meant 50 plus 1as an ordinary majority.
8. Committees of Board
Ms Loots said that the NRF proposed the deletion of sub 5 which the Department was proposing had to be inserted as ‘a Member of the Board may not attend more than two Committees as a time’
9. Executive management committee
The Committee agreed to the Amendment of 9(1)(b) and 9(1)(c) to be read as follows:
‘(b) the head of the divisions, if any, and if; and
(c) if necessary, any other member of the staff of the Foundation.’
10. Chief executive officer of Foundation
Ms Loots said that here the Bill remained as tabled.
11. Accounting officer
Ms Loots said that it was proposed that the section on the ‘Accounting officer’ be deleted.
Mr Qhobela said it was felt that this was unnecessary because the PFMA made this obligatory in any case.
12. Divisions of Foundation
Ms Msiza said that initially the divisions were specified, but after the discussions had here, it was realised that this was not mandatory so perhaps one could consider deleting ‘the functions’.
Ms Mfulo asked for clarity about the divisions, if they were either never used or never existed.
Mr Qhobela said that the structure of the organisation was never envisaged as in the original formulation of the Act. The reason why it was considered not to have Section 12 was to give the Board the opportunity of designing the organisation.
The Chairperson asked if the division would have to be amended.
Advocate Lofundo said that the division would have to be amended. She suggested that better wording could be: ‘a division means a division of the Foundation as in Section 12’
Ms Osborne-Mullins said that a key part of this engagement was to include ‘science engagement’ as a legislated function of the NRF, hence should one not retain ‘functions’?
Dr Qhobela said that a possible way out would be to put a (.) after ‘divisions’.
13. Staff of Foundations
Ms Loots said that the legal team had just cleaned up Section 13(3) (a) with regard to some punctuation markings.
Sections 14,15 and 16
Sections 14,15 and 16 were in the Bill as tabled.
17 Funds of Foundation
Ms Loots asked that the colleagues from the NRF explain what ‘money paid’ encapsulated.
Dr Qhobela said that the role of the NRF was to provide opportunities to the research community so students could not be charged for the use of these facilities.
Ms Loots said that everything else was in the Bill as tabled.
Mr Koornhof said that there was one submission from a Michael Bittenholts. He asked where it fitted in or if it was not part of this process.
Ms Loots said that the submission spoke to the Memorandum at the end of the Act. The Memorandum did not have legal standing for implementation purposes. The submission was noted but it did not speak to anything in the content of the Bill.
The Chairperson said that the deliberations took the process forward. She thanked Members, the Department of Science and Technology, the National Research Foundation, and the legal team for their contributions.
The meeting was adjourned.
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