Department Strategic Plan and Budget: briefing

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


31 May 2004

Mr E Ngcobo (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department of Science and Technology Budget Vote 18
Budget Overview of Department of Science and Technology
Structure & Corporate Strategy of New Department of Science and Technology
Scientific and Technological Research and Development: A Revolution for Better Life
South Africa's Science and Technology Key Factors and Figures 2002, pages 20-24
Committee Programme (see below)
Science And Technology Budget Overview presentation (Vote 18)
Department of Science and Technology website

The Department of Science and Technology's strategic overview and objectives were outlined for Budget 2004/05. The discussion that followed noted the importance of systemically identifying all the science research councils so that it could be establish when they owe a responsibility towards the Committee.


Election of the Acting Chair
Mr J Ramrock, Committee Clerk, called on members to nominate the an Acting Chair in terms of Rule 130 of the National Assembly Rules. Mr E Ngcobo (ANC) was voted in unopposed.

Briefing on the newly created Department of Science and Technology
mr N Van Zyl (Parliamentary Researcher) went through the research documents he had prepared. Five programmes have been identified within the Department of Science and Technology and the budget allocated to them is based on the principle of proactivity which government considers very important in the field of scientific and technological development. The Cabinet, believing that an improved oversight of the national research councils under the Department would also improve research capacity, had decided to approve the national research and development programme. Technological progress is a vital component in improving the quality of life of all South Africans and the Committee has a critical oversight role to play. Without establishing and harnessing strong scientific and technological sectors, South Africa will not succeed in moving towards equity and pushing back the frontiers of poverty (see documents).

Prof Mohamed asked the researcher to provide information on the demographic breakdown of the department's personnel so that members could assess transformation and representivity. He also requested SA's research and development expenditure per capita in comparison to other countries.

Mr Van Zyl replied that the expenditure per capita figures are clearly outlined in the document entitled "SA's Science and Technology Key Factors and Figures 2002" , which is available on the Department's website.

Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) noted that the presentation makes a comparison between a 22.4% annual growth rate allocation attained by the Department between 2001/2 and 2003/4 and a R123 million in 2004/5 and a R152 million in 2005/6 come as the result of an addition to the 2003 MTEF allocation. However it is really not fair to compare figures and percentages as these two belong to two different species.

Mr Van Zyl acknowledged the concern and said he was simply trying to convey that every trend adopted to improve the Science and Technology budget allocation should be clearly specified. These National Treasury Budget Allocation figures gel with his presentation as they relate to the medium term expenditure of the Department. It was imperative that members acquaint themselves with these figures. They could then call on the Department's accounting officers to explain them.

Mr Ainslie (ANC) noted that most of the fifteen entities which formed an integral part of the Department are by law required to report to other Ministers and not necessarily to the Ministry of Science and Technology. He asked how this would work in practice and who would have final responsibility to supervise these institutions. Would it be the Department of Science and Technology or those departments, which by law, have an oversight role?

Mr Van Zyl agreed with Mr Ainslie's observations and said he was of the view that a much more inter-sectoral approach would be established. The Committee had the power in terms of its oversight function to call in these entities and require them to spell out their aims and what they embrace as research institutions.

Mr J Blanche (DA) noted that if members are confused about the real function of these entities and the ministry to which they belong then it was obviously more difficult for an outsider. He suggested that Parliament should do something about this since it was clearly a recipe for a crisis.

Mr Van Zyl agreed that it is the prerogative of Parliament in terms of its oversight function to establish what each institution does and whether it delivers in terms of its aims and objectives.

Prof Mohamed pointed out that although most of these institutions may belong, for accountability purposes, to different departments, in the performance of their overall science role the Department of Science and Technology would come to the fore.

Mr K Khumalo (ANC) agreed with Prof Mohamed and said that most of these institutions were established by their departments for certain development programmes. The creation of the Science and Technology ministry does not make their departmental purpose obsolete. What the Committee could do was play an overarching oversight role for these institutions.

The Chair said that while the Committee is still new and the Ministry is in its developmental stages, it would be important that the Committee streamline its activities as far as these science research institutions are concerned. The Committee would be able to raise its concerns with the Minister when he address it. He thanked Mr Van Zyl for his informative presentation and asked members to thoroughly prepare themselves.

Mr Van Zyl noted that he would give a written response to the concerns raised by members.

Committee Programme
The Committee adopted programme:








Mon 31/05

11:00 - 13:00


Election of acting-Chairperson
Committee Programme
Briefing by parliamentary researcher on Budget Vote no. 18



Tue 1/06

10:00 - 13:00


Briefing by Department of Science and Technology on Budget Vote No. 18



Tues 8/06

11:00 - 13:00


Briefings by Minister and Deputy Minister on interaction with Committee


11:00 - 13:00


Briefing by Department on the Strategic Plan
Adoption of minutes


Meeting adjourned.


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