The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research briefed the Committee on their Strategic and Annual Performance Plan for 2018/19. One of the highlights of the report was one of the strategic objectives of the organisation which was to conduct relevant research to foster industrial development. The key areas here were the Fourth Industrial Revolution Centre; exploring new innovation programmes and to strengthen existing innovation programmes. Innovation was very strong on the agenda of the Council as it had an outreach programme aimed at attracting young people to come and work with the organisation in translating their innovations into tangible products.
Members were particularly concerned about bursars in general, and the dropout rate specifically. The dropout rate had increased from approximately 10 to 26 and this was considered unusually high. The 77.5% Black component of the beneficiaries was welcome and positive, including the strong black female Small Medium and Micro Enterprise component. The Committee noted with concern the financial constraints that the Council was facing. The Committee was pleased to hear about the nature of the support offered to Small Medium and Micro Enterprises, which involved giving them access to the Council’s facilities to help them to develop their ideas, providing expertise and access to infrastructure. The Council received monthly reports from Small Medium and Micro Enterprises and continued to provide guidance throughout the value chain.
Members welcomed the progress made in integrating indigenous into the work of the Council, especially through the development of an indigenous knowledge database. The Committee felt that a lot more should be invested in early childhood development and primary level education to encourage and nurture interest in mathematics and science.
Members asked for a breakdown in terms of race and gender of the 164 beneficiaries of the Council’s bursary programme; how many bursars were from rural areas; how many times the entity had visited rural areas to inform people about themselves and what they did; the extent of the Council’s collaboration with the Water Research Council; information about the entity’s relationship with SA development Community countries; what percentage of the Council’s total income came from the international sector; the exact problem with State Owned Enterprises in terms of contracts; how many of Small Medium and Micro Enterprises that were supported were black; why only three chief researchers had been promoted; about the ‘researcher acceleration and pipeline development programme’; indigenous knowledge integration into the Council’s programme; if there was collaboration between the Council, Basic Education and Higher Education; for more information about the entity’s focus in the health sector and their health related device; and if the increase in Value Added Tax had affected the Council’s plans.
The South African National Space Agency briefed the Committee on its Annual Performance Plan 2018/19. The Committee was informed that this was a breach year for the Agency, who was focusing on a measured approach to the funding provided given the challenges, and also to rethink not only the strategic positioning of the Agency but also to be more bold and expansive in terms of its approach. The Agency would strategically drive the establishment of a Committee of African Space Institutions to provide the bottom-up impetus for implementation of an African space programme. This would ensure that leading space agencies collectively defined and implemented flagship programmes that would advance the development of space applications and technologies on the continent.
The Committee was concerned about the salary bill because it was 56% of the Agency’s budget and were informed that the Agency had undergone a structural realignment exercise to look at where it wanted to go in terms of the organisation’s future trajectory. Skills had to be retained and the organisation had to be careful so as not to hamper progress going forward in terms of making the organisation sustainable. Concern was expressed about the R400 million needed to launch the satellite because the Agency did not have the money to do so. Feedback was awaited from the Minister in this regard. The Agency expressed its commitment to reach far and wide across the country in its desire to facilitate learner science advancement efforts since the numbers had been reduced. Its Mobile Laboratory helped with this because it could be driven to most of the provinces.
Members asked for work force profiles by race and gender; if it was possible to decrease the salary bill given that it was 56% of the budget; an indication on how much had been spent on the satellite over the three years; the number of government decisions on policy that were dropped, which ones were dropped and why; the nature of the disadvantage of the 80% of students supported through training; how the Agency planned to get more women involved in engineering; excessive salaries; the impact of vacancies on the organisation; if this was the first time the organisation had worked with Small Medium and Micro Enterprises, and if not, how many had it supported; asked for more information about to ‘active formal national partnerships’; if the Agency would be able to participate at the International Astronautical Congress given the large budget cut. The Chairperson asked how the increase in VAT had affected the programmes of the SANSA; and if the SANSA were utilising ring-fenced revenue for the shortfall.
The Committee expressed its commitment to advocating for more funds for the organisation.
The Chairperson said not all Members were not in attendance today as some Members were attending other meetings.
CSIR on their strategic and annual performance plans for 2018/19
Mr Thokozani Majozi, Chairperson: CSIR Board, outlined the contextual considerations pertinent to the report. These dealt with Human capital, the financial environment and the technology landscape.
Some of the key challenges
- The need for job creation against a changing production environment;
- Slow South African economic growth, decreasing investment in research and development which presented a risk to CSIR’s financial sustainability;
- Continued de-industrialisation; and
- A tapering growth trajectory at the CSIR
Mr Thulani Dlamini, CEO, CSIR, spoke to the mandate of the CSIR and its internal context. The areas covered by the internal context were: limited growth, consolidation, organisational strategy, human capital, financial sustainability, and infrastructure. The CSIR’s strategic objectives:
- Build and transform human capital
- Conduct high-quality research to foster scientific development
- Conduct relevant research to foster industrial development
- Infrastructure renewal and development
- Financial sustainability and good governance
Some of the 2018/19 key priorities:
- Improve qualification profile of SET (Science engineering and technology) base – support MSc and PhD students;
- Prioritise transformation of SET base – support designated groups;
- Review HCD strategy to reflect changing approach to industry;
- Implement staff engagement programmes;
- Researcher acceleration and pipeline development programme;
- Engage in strategic partnerships for human capital development; and
- Implement revised career ladder.
In terms of building and transforming human capital Ms Sithembile Bhengu, Group Executive Human Capital, CSIR, reported that:
- The CSIR financial sustainability had a direct impact on continued SET base growth;
- The increasing demand for senior researchers and PhDs across multiple sectors had increased the staff turnover for CSIR to an average of 10.3% per annum;
- The number of females in SET base remained a challenge;
- There were 182 promotions, with three promoted to chief researcher level;
- There were 369 postgraduates supported through DST-funded inter bursary programmes and
- 164 beneficiaries on CSIR Bursary Programmes.
Dr Molefi Motuku reported on patents as a lead indicator of innovation and said that:
- In determining the integrity of underground rock walls Canada was one of the key partners;
- In detecting and monitoring certain diseases using a breath analyser the United States of America (USA) was one of the key partners;
- In the production of crystal-line titanium powder the USA was the key partner;
- In system for the analysis of blood samples China was the key partner;
- Improving methane gas sensing properties of multi-walled carbon nanotubes by vanadium oxide filling; and
- Modelling of air gap membrane in heavy metals removal.
Strategic Objective 3, Conducting relevant research to foster industrial development,
Ms Rachel Chikwamba, Executive Industry; on Key priorities 2018/19, Fostering industrial development, reported that the key areas were:
- Fourth Industrial Revolution Centre;
- Explore new innovation platforms; and
- Strengthen existing innovation programmes.
Ms Chikwamba said that the new strategy for fostering industrial development involved the following:
- Support existing industries and boost productivity through incremental innovations;
- Revitalise declining industries to enable new products and job creation;
- Create new industries and transform existing industries through radical innovation;
- Inspire new products, disrupt existing markets and unlock billions in value to industry; and
- Guide emerging technologies from the innovation process to market success.
Strategic Objective 5: Financial sustainability and good governance
Mr Zanele Nqwepe, CFO, CSIR reported on Strategic Objective 5: Financial sustainability and good governance and said that challenges were:
- Adverse economic climate and tight fiscal environment;
- Decline in national R&D investment;
- Tapering trajectory in overall growth; and
- Challenges in procurement from other state-owned entities and government departments
Mr Majozi said that in line with the DST (Department of Science and Technology) Stakeholder Engagement Framework, the CSIR had:
- Improved the public understanding of science;
- Encouraged youth to take up careers in science and
- Facilitated industry engagement through –
- The launch of Photonics Prototyping Facility;
- Participation at Africa Aerospace and Defence show
- Technology demonstrator day to facilitate technology licensing.
(See attached report)
Mr M Kekana (ANC) said he was unclear because since 2014 when he had started participating in this Committee, he had never heard a report about bursars and if any had dropped out.
Ms Bhengu replied that she did not have details that spoke to the current dropout rate of bursars. The CSIR currently had 168 bursars of which 26 had been suspended due to poor performance. The CSIR monitored their performance closely and if they did well in the subjects for which they had been suspended, they were allowed back on the programme. The 26 suspensions were abnormally high because normally there would be about 10 suspensions. The suspensions seemed to be concentrated around students in the engineering field. The CSIR was looking at this to attempt to understand what was causing this type of performance.
Mr Kekana said that there was a need for a list of who had been given bursaries including a gender and racial breakdown.
Ms A Mfulo (ANC) asked for more information on identifying who bursaries were given to.
Mr Kekana asked about the 164 beneficiaries of the CSIR bursary programme and which method was used to choose the beneficiaries.
The Chairperson said she too would like to know the breakdown in terms of gender and race of the 164 beneficiaries spoken about on page 10 of the report.
Ms Bhengu said that 77.5% of the persons who received bursaries were black spread across African, Coloured and Indian. The CSIR’s concern was that it was only able to attract 43% females. This was an area that the CSIR was addressing internally as well.
The allocation of bursaries was in the SET base. This year 72% of the students who received bursaries were in the engineering field. This was in answer to the shortage of skills in the area of engineering. When looking at who qualifies for bursaries, the CSIR would look at performance at matriculation level in Mathematics, Science and English. The performance level the CSIR was interested in was 75% across the subjects taken at matriculation level. This meant that the CSIR got a quality intake of students on their bursary programme.
Mr Kekana asked how many bursars were from rural areas.
Ms Bhengu said that CSIR had relationships with all Universities across South Africa. Students were currently studying at the University of Port Elizabeth (UPE); University of Cape Town (UCT); Stellenbosch; KwaZulu-Natal (KZN; North West; University of the Free State (UFS): Nelson Mandela University (NMU). The CSIR had a wide base in terms of its relationships with universities. The trend sometimes was that a person would be studying at the University of Venda, and when they passed they would change to the University of Cape Town. The CSIR had relationships with other beneficiaries where it partnered with different companies in terms of outreach. The CSIR was hosting Career Expo’s which focussed on quartile 1, 2 and 3 to be able to build relationships early enough for the bursary programme. Through its outreach programme the CSIR was able to reach far and wide including outside of Gauteng.
Mr Kekana asked how many times the CSIR had visited rural areas on an awareness campaign.
Dr A Lotriet (DA) said the financial constraints that the CSIR was facing were very concerning and it should be taken note of as a Committee.
Dr Lotriet asked, in the light of the financial constraints, to what extent the CSIR had collaborated for example with the Water Research Council, and did they put heads and money together to be as economical as possible.
Mr Dlamini said the CSIR worked with Water Research Commission. The Commission often had different research institutions to do R&D on their behalf so the CSIR did a lot of work with the Water Research Commission.
Dr Motuku said there was a bilateral agreement with the Water Research Commission which was being implemented through a Steering Committee of which he was a member. The CSIR did have water research programmes one of which was in Stellenbosch where coastal developments were being looked at. There were many water research programmes at the main campus in Pretoria. At the moment the CSIR was looking at how to configure responses to the national challenges.
Mr N Koornhof (ANC) asked for information about the CSIR relationship with SADEC countries.
Mr Dlamini said the CSIR did do work in Africa in general and this took various forms. One of those was licencing technology where the CSIR provided licenses to various countries on the African continent. In some cases, it collaborated in terms of technological development, and in others it did project implementation on behalf of donor agencies like the United Nations. There has been the realisation that there were much bigger opportunities that the CSIR had yet to realise. So, it had developed an Africa Strategy to make sure that it took maximum advantage of the opportunities in the African continent.
Mr Koornhof asked what percentage of the CSIR’s total income came from the international sector and was there a growing potential in going abroad and trying to sell their services.
Ms Zanele Nqwepe, CFO, CSIR, said currently the international income was 8% of its total income, and there were opportunities to increase the base.
Mr Majozi said it was the intention of the CSIR not just to expand the footprint in the African Continent but beyond as well. Some of its industrial partners were multinationals. For the CSIR to survive it would have to be a global player. It was answering this calling to use its potential by working with local and multinational partners.
Mr Koornhof asked what the exact problem with SOEs in terms of contracts or income was, and how could it be rectified and could the Committee assist with that.
Ms Nqwepe said the CSIR had collaborative agreements with various stakeholders to procure the services of the organisation. National Treasury has stated that it was not in support of the practice of procuring services. The required services had to be tendered for first. This had impacted negatively on the income of the CSIR.
Mr Majozi said the CSIR was in a very difficult situation here as a lot of its work was done with the public sector however, this was not something that was insurmountable as the problem was under control. It had been raised with the key shareholder of the CSIR and the Minister who had given her assurance that this matter was being taken up. The CSIR was very positive that this matter would be solved shortly.
Ms Mfulo asked how many of SMMEs (Small Medium Micro Enterprises) that were supported were black.
Dr Motuku said he did not have exact figures but the majority of the SMMEs were owned by Black people. Out of this number 13 were owned by Black females. The SMMEs provided the CSIR with progress reports which were also sent to the DST.
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC) referred to slide 38 which stated that the CSIR supported 28 SMMEs. She asked if the CSIR made follow-ups with the SMMEs in terms of their products.
Mr Dlamini replied that the CSIR did not give SMMEs money; they supported them by giving them access to their facilities to help them to develop their ideas further. Support was also provided through technology localisation by providing expertise and access to infrastructure and enabling these SMMEs to develop their concepts to the point where they could be commercially exploited. The CSIR has been very successful in this regard.
In some instances, the CSIR was with the SMME from the time of conception of the product up to the time of commercial exploitation. This included assistance with issues of market development to ensure that this SMME had market sustainability. Hence the CSIR was in some cases involved in value chain with the full development of the idea. Mr Dlamini added that the CSIR continued its involvement with the SMME even after conception to ensure that it continued to meet its engagements with regard to the quality of its product.
The Chairperson asked if there was someone that tracked some of the innovations in townships. One found that a lot of work was done at township level.
Ms Mfulo said that there were young men in townships manufacturing cell phones. She asked further how they could be assisted.
Ms Chikwamba said to her knowledge the CSIR did not have anyone in particular dedicated to that effort but part of what the outreach programme tried to put in place was aimed at attracting young people to come and work with the CSIR in translating their innovations into tangible products.
Ms Ndongeni referred to slide 39 and said the CSIR had a target of creating 79 jobs, why this had decreased?
Dr Motuku said that this was just an estimate and could increase or decrease with changes in the conditions.
Ms A Mfulo referred to page 10 on which it was stated that only three chief researchers had been promoted.
Ms Bhengu said the researchers had to follow a long journey so that would be the highest level of the career ladder.
Ms Mfulo referred to page 14 and asked about the appointments in 2017/18. She asked further if it was what the CSIR had appointed or what it envisaged appointing.
Ms Bhengu said that the total only spoke to what the CSIR had been able to appoint up to 2017/18.
Ms Mfulo referred to page 16 and the statement about the ‘researcher acceleration and pipeline development programme’. She asked if this existed and if not what the plans around this were.
Ms Bhengu said this programme had been started in collaboration with the Research Development and Innovation (RDI) office last year. This programme had to address the challenge of supporting the progression of transformation of the Black SET base into the higher echelons of the organisation. This programme looked at directed efforts at assisting progression in the organisation.
Ms Mfulo asked how the CSIR dealt with indigenous knowledge. Where was the component that specifically dealt with indigenous knowledge so that it could also be recognised? She asked if the CSIR’s journals or reports were in African languages to allow for easy access.
Ms Rachel Chikwamba, CSIR Executive, replied that the CSIR had done quite a bit of work in this regard. It had worked with the DST and created a database for indigenous knowledge. But beyond this it had been involved historically in trying to translate indigenous knowledge into the products in the mainstream. Members could recall work done with the Biorefinery Industry Development Facility (BIDF) trying to support entrepreneurs making products in their background in ways perhaps not conducive to them participating in the mainstream economy and giving them processes for doing this and creating technologies and packages which they could commercialise. A lot of the work in bio prospecting in collaboration with the University of Pretoria and others spoke to the work the CSIR was doing on indigenous knowledge. One of the things that the CSIR was very proud of was the design of the benefit sharing model in which it said that ‘scientists got knowledge from indigenous people and when this translated into something monetary and tangible, how could the benefits be shared’. This was done with the DST and within the broader innovation ecosystem this model was acknowledged and emulated.
Dr Motuku replied that their ICT had developed a package which allowed for the documentation of indigenous knowledge. This had not been an easy process and had been piloted in the North West Province by the then Minister of Science of Technology. In this way the CSIR was assisting communities to document what they knew.
The Chairperson asked if there was any collaboration between the CSIR, Basic Education and Higher Education.
Mr Majozi replied that not long ago the CSIR had embarked on a campaign called ‘Ideas That Work’. This was executed in many languages and on many media platforms where the CSIR was trying to reach out and educate the population on what it was about and what it was doing. The idea behind it was to nourish interest at a very young age and provide understanding on what the CSIR was capable of. The issue of visibility was very important to the CSIR, and an issue on which it was working very hard. The issue of the Visitor’s Centre – which was very much a part of the organisation’s master plan – was supposed to achieve exactly that because there the CSIR would be working with Basic and Higher Education. The Visitor’s Centre spoke to issue of accessibility and visibility.
The Chairperson said it was difficult to achieve the SET base target if it did not start from early childhood development at primary level. Hence, she felt that more should be invested in educators of early childhood and primary level to ensure that the keenness and love for subjects like mathematics and science was maintained.
Ms Bhengu replied that this had been taken into account and perhaps the CSIR had not had a very clear focus on school level development. This had been highlighted as an area that needed attention and for this year the CSIR was not only going to be looking at tertiary level education for pipeline development but also to have visibility in terms of school level pipeline development activities. The CSIR did not have clear partnerships with the Department of Basic Education; however, it did have relationships with the Department of Higher Education. The CSIR would be strengthening relationships with departments outside of the Department of Science of Technology.
The Chairperson welcomed the 182 promotions with three promoted to chief researcher level, but said that more could still be done.
The Chairperson said the targets for 2018/19 were mostly the same with the numbers for SET base going down.
Ms Bhengu acknowledged the drop in the PhD level. The CSIR had looked at the trends over the past few years and was looking at policies that supported the progression of staff members. There was a strong pipeline of people who were currently studying but they took longer to complete their studies. The organisation was looking at the conduciveness of the environment to ensure that the policies themselves were supporting the progress of those studying. Hence the CSIR had kept a conservative target for 2018/19 while looking at ways to attract more people.
The Chairperson referred to slide 10 where it was stated that the targets were lower than the past three years and asked if it was the maximum that the CSIR could achieve.
Dr Molefi Motuku replied that the CFO had spoken about cost containment which included a restriction on travel locally and internationally and this had an impact on people attending conferences, and this was where papers were published. So, this was a realistic concern. One could not realistically stretch the target and the CSIR realistically expected the number to be reduced even further. The CSIR would be monitoring this very closely. As Ms Bhengu had stated, the targets would be protected to avoid falling way below the area where the organisation had operated in the past few years.
The Chairperson asked for more information about the CSIR’s focus in the health sector and their health-related device.
Dr Motuku said the aim was to develop a pipeline of technologies to start making devices for medical and health applications. The CSIR was looking at assisting people to document what they knew. At the moment there were a few technologies, one that looked at diabetic analysis, one on blood analysis and one on foetal growth development assessment. All the programmes on industrial development would also publish a call for people to apply to be part of the facility and bring their own technology. So, the facility was in its early stages and there was just one prototype technology in it. It would take one to two years to give an indication of the basket of technologies and the flavour of the focus in the facilities in terms of the technologies developed there.
The Chairperson asked if the increase in VAT had affected the CSIR’s plans.
Ms Nqwepe said the CSIR was a VAT registered organisation and paid VAT on all its expenses. This would have an impact on its cost base. The CSIR has found that some of its clients were not VAT registered and, in those cases, it would lose 1% from its income.
Mr Kekana asked that the CSIR provide a race, gender and geographical background of students who dropped out of the bursary programme.
The Chairperson thanked the CSIR and said that the Committee understood the economic situation and the constraints under which it had to work. The ageing infrastructure was a source of concern and needed to be looked at. There were so many expectations from the CSIR to always come with solutions and the Committee echoed this feeling.
The meeting was adjourned.
South African National Space Agency (SANSA) on their Annual Performance Plan 2018/19
Ms Joy-Marie Lawrence, Board Chair, SANSA said that this was a breach year for
SANSA focusing on a measured approach to the funding provided, and also to rethink not only the strategic positioning of SANSA but also to be more bold and expansive in terms of its approach.
Mr Val Munsamy, CEO, SANSA, said the vision of SANSA was to position “South Africa as an international hub for space solutions for the world of the future’.
The five strategic goals to achieve this were:
Goal 1. Address South Africa’s challenges through space services and products;
Goal 2. Lead high-impact collaborative R&D on a national scale;
Goal 3. Develop national human capacity and ensure transformation
Goal 4. Enhance the competitiveness of the South African space industry; and
Goal 5. Develop active global partnerships.
Mr Munsamy said SANSA would strategically drive the establishment of a Committee of African Space Institutions (CASI) to provide the bottom-up impetus for implementation of an African space programme. This would ensure that leading space agencies collectively defined and implemented flagship programmes that would advance the development of space applications and technologies on the continent. Programmes like AfriGEOSS, the African Instrumentation Network and the African Resource Management Constellation (ARMC) would become a prime focus along the implementation path for CASI.
- Administration Programme
- Earth Observation Programme
- Space Science Programme
- Space Operations Programme
- Space Engineering Programme
Key Deliverables for the Year
1. SANSA will deliver the following four high-impact products and services
(i) Sensor portfolio and data products and services;
(ii)national land-use and land-cover base datasets;
(iii) space weather products and services;
(iv) magnetic technology products and services
2. SANSA will aim to achieve a research productivity score of 1 300
3. SANSA will provide support to approximately 50 students and interns for studies in Earth Observation,
Space Science, and Space Engineering.
4. SANSA will aim to generate about R58 million from both national and international space operations contracts and
5. If the satellite programme funding is received, SANSA aimed to continue to support about 55 external
jobs and out-source R50 million to the broader space industry and R10 million to SMME’s through the
(See attached report)
Dr S Thembekwayo (EFF) referred to page 11 slide 21, work force profiles by race and job category, and asked for clarity on the disparities. She asked further when a balance would be reached.
Mr Munsamy said SANSA was currently 60% male and 40% female. One of the issues under discussion at the moment was succession planning. The organisation was actually using a more formal approach by looking at performance management, talent management and moving into succession planning. This also encompassed looking at equity issues as well. This was still work in progress.
Mr Koornhof referred to the salary bill which was 56% of the budget and asked if it was possible to decrease it.
Mr Munsamy replied that SANSA did a structural realignment exercise to look at where it wanted to go in terms of the organisation’s future trajectory. The one question was it possible to cut the salary bill. This was a catch 22 situation because one wanted a future growth trajectory and therefore needed more staff than what was had, and at the same there was financial pressure. The SANSA was trying to retain the skills that it had but had to be careful so as not to hamper progress going forward in terms of making the organisation sustainable.
Mr Koornhof referred to EOSAT1 which was in its 3rd year now and asked for an indication on how much had been spent on the satellite over the three years. He asked further if SANSA was looking at the Department, National Treasury or Parliament for a commitment to the R400 million needed to launch or was there another plan to get to the launch stage after 2020.
Mr Amal Khatri, Executive Director, SANSA said the launch would be a decision taken by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) itself based on the geopolitical relationship. Feedback on a launch partner was still awaited from the DST. This obviously had a direct impact on the development of the satellite because the type of rocket used impacted on the design of the satellite system itself. He emphasised that there was no funding for this financial year which has put the programme under serious strain, but feedback was awaited from the Minister on this matter as another submission was going to be sent to her.
Ms Mfulo asked about the number of government decisions on policy that were dropped, which ones were dropped and why.
Mr Munsamy said that the policy tools were intended to inform government around the decisions made around how certain priorities were structured; for example, one was on water and the other on the space weather. These were mainly policy tools that informed what the SANSA did. One had to consider the effort put into those policy tools, and whether any use had been made of the policy tools. During an assessment it was decided that other initiatives could be focused on that could bring much more value than the policy tools hence some of them were removed.
Ms Mfulo referred to students that were supported through training. The report said that 80% were from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. She asked how they were they disadvantaged.
Mr Munsamy said that the disadvantage referred to Black, Coloured and Indian students and part of the recruitment campaign dealt with choosing students who had no access to universities.
Dr Lee-Ann McKinnell, Managing Director, SANSA, said the benefits of SANSA were that it was a national agency. This meant that it could reach as far and wide across the country is it desired. Hence even though the learner science advancement efforts numbers had been reduced, the SANSA would do it’s very best to reach as many provinces as was possible. The mobile laboratory helped with this because it could be driven to most of the provinces. So even though the numbers had to be reduced, the reach was unaffected. The SANSA had very good relationships with educational advisors in the provinces as they alerted them to where the needs were. The SANSA also had a very good Outreach Programme in terms of space being exciting; and it had a Space Centre in Hermanus which was open and helped as many learners as possible who came to the Science Centre.
Dr McKinnell said the SANSA was limited to supporting only science students but it had been very innovative in terms of support. It had a bursary programme and received additional assistance from the Department of Science and Technology. There was a very keen need for supervisory support in this country and the SANSA was able provide such support. The SANSA had very wide spread and even included students from as far afield as Venda.
Ms Mfulo said slide 15 on page 8 spoke about 900 satellites needed in rural areas due to there being a struggle to ‘bring the data down.’
Mr Munsamy said they had to be competitive in the existing market segment compared to other suppliers as it was more than just cost per megabyte because there were other applications or services that could come through that had not yet been implemented. So, in this instance comparisons had to be made with other market providers as well.
Ms Mfulo referred to slide 21, which showed more males in engineering and asked how the SANSA planned to get more women involved in engineering.
Dr McKinnell said SANSA was aware that it needed more female representation and it did have a number of initiatives in place. She was proud to announce that this year SANSA had graduated three female PhD students in physics. Many of its initiatives had paid off in terms of getting female representatives. Some of the challenges were historic, one of which was that there was a lot of specialisation in the areas in which the SANSA operated. So, to do research in space science for example on had to be working towards a PhD in physics or mathematics. Hence the organisation’s bursary programme was concentrated on this.
On engineering capability, SANSA did struggle to find female engineers. An aggressive recruitment campaign had been started in terms of post graduate students, and this had started to a pay off in terms of the numbers. One of the initiatives with global partners was a space weather camp and more than half the participants were female. SANSA was proud of the fact that more than 50% of the Executive were women.
Ms Mfulo referred to slide 24 and asked about excessive salaries and who was being referred to here.
Ms Bulelwa Pono, CFO, SANSA said the salary bill was not excessive. When the bench marking exercise was done, it was found that the difference between Manager’s pay and the Senior Researcher’s pay was very small. So, there was not much excessiveness here. The Manager’s pay in the market was relatively close to SANSA rates so she felt that the SANSA was not really excessive. It was when comparing the total salary bill to the budget that excessiveness came into the matter.
Dr Lotriet spoke about the vacancies that the SANSA was unable to fill and asked what impact this would have on the organisation.
Dr McKinnell said that due to financial constraints all the vacancies that arose had to be considered due to natural attrition. If someone left, the position had to be looked at to see whether there was an opportunity to optimise the organisation’s structure. Essentially the SANSA was forced to put a hold on certain vacancies but it also had to look at if it reduced the staff too much it would be unable to earn the additional revenue needed to keep the organisation sustainable. This issue was being looked at on a case by case basis. The impact was as follows: the SANSA could not grow its research community at the moment so it was stuck with the same number of permanent researchers it had had for the last four years. This meant that it could not increase the research productivity score at all. In fact, the researchers were being worked to their full capacity. So, the current research capacity would have to be maintained. The other challenge was that Senior Space Researchers were not easy to obtain. Therefore, with the NRF SANSA had created an adequate pool of professional development candidates at PhD and Post-Doctoral level but because it was constrained it was unable to absorb them as it would have liked to. Therefore, it had reached saturation point in order to absorb the people being trained.
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC) referred to slide 11 and stated that R11.9 million had been earmarked for SMMEs. She asked if this was the first time the SANSA had worked with SMMEs, and if no, how many had it supported.
Mr Munsamy said the SMMEs ranged from suppliers of electronic components, satellite development right up to consultancy work that assisted in the development of the sub-system of the satellite. As was seen from the report there was actually no funding available to execute development of SMMEs
Ms Ndongeni referred to ‘active formal national partnerships’ on slide 7 and asked for more information about this.
Mr Munsamy said that what informed this was that some of the agencies were natural partners to South Africa
Ms McKinnell said that the involvement with Air Traffic and Navigation Service (ATNS) and the South African Weather Service came about through the promotion of SANSA as a candidate site for the provision of information to the aviation sector. A working group was formed in South Africa so that SANSA, ATNS and the South African Weather Service could look at the requirements that were passed on international air traffic and the effect it would have on South Africa (SA). So, it was not only about SANSA and the space provided, it was also about the aviation sector getting ready to accept this information. Hence the SANSA had partnered with the above-mentioned organisations to make a resolution for SA that worked for the country across the board. The South African Weather Service was used to provide data to the aviation sector and had all the standards in place so a lot could be learnt from them, and SANSA could optimise in terms of utilising similar systems. The National Research Foundation (NRF) was a strategic partner with whom the SANSA had done a lot of work. An example was the National Antarctic Programme which was managed through the NRF. SANSA worked with a number of national partners. A master funding agreement had been signed with the NRF and soon an MOU would be set up the NRF to collaborate on bilateral arrangements.
The Chairperson said a R51 million reduction was quite a large amount of money and asked if SANSA would be able to participate at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) given the large budget cut.
The Chairperson asked what the returns were on the IAC.
Mr Munsamy said what the SANSA had to figure out was how it was going to pay for the exhibition stand. This had a significant impact on South Africa because it was quite broadly recognised. In the last two weeks he had been dealing with inquiries from the European Space Agency who wanted to work with SANSA because of the capabilities it had, and the fact that in many instances it was the leading agency in the Continent. From SANSA’s side it definitely had to be involved in the IAC. In March this year he had presented an implementation plan to the IAC; a working group had been established and the terms of reference had been drafted with a work plan on how emerging countries were going to be engaged. So South Africa definitely had a leadership role to play in the IAC
The Chairperson asked how the increase in VAT had affected the programmes of the SANSA.
Ms Pono said that goods and services costs were affected in various ways by the increase in VAT. Just to keep facilities running was the main issue. Other than that, the SANSA was very lean in its operations. Hence when there was an increase in VAT the organisation really struggled to absorb the impact.
Mr Amal Khatri, Executive Director, SANSA said to date SANSA had spent R368 million for satellite programmes. Out of this R268 million was spent on the satellite development process. The rest of the costs were in terms of space engineering functions and systems engineering. For this financial year funding was needed to continue programmes. R18 million was required this year to get the programme back on track. No funding had been secured for 2018/19. Several submissions had been made to the Minister in terms of the life cycle cost of the entire system and the cost incurred for space developed. Feedback was awaited about funding for the programme itself.
The Chairperson asked on the ring-fenced revenue that had been reduced and if the SANSA were utilising it for the shortfall.
Ms Pono responded that the ring-fenced funds were earmarked for specific projects and those funds had to be used for those projects. The SANSA had about R7 billion left for research grants that had been applied for.
The Chairperson asked for more information about Elon Musk.
Mr Munsamy said Minister Naledi Pandor had had a discussion with Elon Musk. There was an initiative for interns to study at SpaceX. SANSA did not publicise who it supported for studies at SpaceX. There was a contractual arrangement with the likes of Elon Musk.
Ms Joy-Marie Lawrence, Board Chair thanked the Committee for the invitation and all the questions. She said the SANSA saw themselves as a significant player in the field. They had passionate staff and researchers who were doing amazing work from tracking ships to helping farmers and government to make decisions. It did all of this even if it had vacancies as well in a very measured way taking into consideration the challenges regarding funding. It has still been able to reach milestones in the agency’s life span.
The Chairperson thanked the SANSA for their input and said the Committee was committed to advocating for more funds for the organisation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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