NACI, ASSAf & SACNASP Annual Report 2021/22

Higher Education, Science and Innovation

18 November 2022
Chairperson: Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

Video (Part 1)

Video (Part 2)

Academy of Science SA (ASSAf)

National Advisory Council on Innovation

SA Council for Natural Scientific Professions

Three entities of the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation -- the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI), the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), and the SA Council for the Natural Scientific Professions (SACNaSP) -- presented their annual reports to the Portfolio Committee in a virtual meeting.

The NACI reported that it had performed very well, considering that they were at the end of their contract, and although their expenses had exceeded their budgeted expenses, they had managed to save funds from their funding allocation. They were working with the Department to develop a second set of indicators that would help them monitor and track whether their decadal plan would make an impact on the country's socioeconomic development.  

The ASSAf had met most of their targets due to their ability to host webinars online, without having to organise venues and accommodation to host expositions. Their involvement with young scientists had had a wide impact, giving them recognition nationally and globally. The revenue of the Academy had increased, and expenses and liabilities had decreased.

The SACNaSP maintained its regulatory functions by protecting the public and environment against malpractices, unprofessionalism and unethical conduct. The Council had managed to exceed most of its targets, but there was a huge gap between the targets and the achievement of involving more women in their projects. There were positive testimonials from their members and mentees.

The Committee was of the view that for science, technology and innovation to be effective in this country, it must be inclusive and accessible to the disabled and the poor. Members were concerned about the chief executive officer post that had been vacant in the NACI for years, and the limited involvement of females and black people in the ASSAF. The involvement of the Councils in youth development was commendable, but the Committee would like to see mathematics and science being encouraged in the Department of Basic Education. 

Meeting report

National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI): Annual Report

Dr Shadrack Moephuli, Chaiperson, NACI, said that the Council’s term of service had ended two months ago, but had been extended to the end of this month so that they could finalise the appointment of a new Council. They had done the best they could with the resources they had.

Dr Mlungisi Cele, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), NACI, commented that the mega trends for the past years had included growing unemployment, Covid-19, new wars and migration, to name a few. The policy of the Council was evolving, and the decadal plan was still under construction, as there was a foresight exercise for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) 2030, the National Research and Development Strategy (NRDS), and the Ten-Year Innovation Plan TYIP reviews.

He described the Council's legislative functions, its vision and mission, its planned strategic outcomes, the thematic focus areas in its decadal plan, and key points of focus.

Mr Robert Shaku, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), DSI, presented the financial performance of the NACI. The allocated budget for 2021/22 was R19. 265 billion, including the compensation of employees. The total expenditure on goods and services was R8.992 billion, which was higher than the original budget, due to the remuneration for fixed-term employment contracts.

(See attached report for details)

Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf): Annual report

Prof Stephanie Burton, Vice Principal: Research and Postgraduate Education, ASSAf, said that the members of the Academy were recognised nationally and in the global science community for their excellence and contributions in their respective science fields. The ASSAf sought to promote scientific thinking in society, recognise science-based achievements, and provide evidence-based, objective, and independent science advice to its stakeholders.  

Prof Himla Soodyall, CEO: ASSAf, said that the Academy’s mandate included honouring distinguished scholars in all fields of scientific enquiry and generating evidence-based solutions to national and global challenges. There were currently 633 members of the Academy who represented all science disciplines and gave of their time and expertise voluntarily. Members represented disciplines such as life sciences, physical sciences, education and earth Sciences. Males dominated the membership by 71%, whites by 67%, and the Academy was working on a 50-50 representation of females and blacks.

She described a range of the Academy's independent, authoritative and influential scientific advice statements:

Ÿ InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) statement on the protection of marine environments.

Ÿ The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) advisory on the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), mitigating a potential emergency.

Ÿ The SAGE situational and strategic advisory on social and political instability in South Africa.

Ÿ The "No Paraffin" campaign: A call to action.

Ÿ The SAGE situational analysis and strategic advisory on farming and food security in South Africa.

Ÿ Crises -- economy, society, law and culture

Ÿ Pandemic preparedness and the role of science

Ÿ IAP statement on climate change and biodiversity, intelligence, and policy options.

Ÿ SAGE advisory on the use of deep sea seismic surveys to explore for oil and gas deposits in South African waters.

Prof Soodyall said the following were some of the events and webinars hosted by the Academy in the past period:

Ÿ The Lindau 2020 Nobel Laureate online meeting (Expo and networking session).

Ÿ A workshop on writing for a scholarly journal.

Ÿ The sixth Brazil-Russia-India-China-SA (BRICS) Young Scientists Conclave.

Ÿ An STI diplomacy workshop

She introduced a beneficiary of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) to render a testimonial.

Dr Tozama Qwebani, SAYAS Co-Chairperson, said that SAYAS had been formed in 2011 out of a need for young scientists to have a representative voice on issues that affect them, and to come up with solutions to overcome them. They were funded by ASSAf and were involved in a few projects with them, and the collaboration had empowered her individually. The projects enforced the critical scientific thinking of the 21st century, and allowed transformation-centred opinions as they commenced. The project included one done in 2019, where she had been selected through the Academy to represent the young scientists of South Africa at the World Science Forum hosted in Hungary, and she was proud to say that South Africa was the host for the current year.

Mr Morakeng Chiloane, CFO, ASSAf,  presented the financial statements and position of the Academy:

  • Assets had increased by R7 403 855 in the current year.
  • Liabilities had decreased by R1 698 865
  • Revenue from exchange transactions had increased by R47 917.
  • Revenue from non-exchange transactions had increased by R2 944 414.
  • Expenditure had decreased by R5 548 019.
  • The surplus for the year had increased by R8 540 350.

The entity had a risk management policy and strategy which was encapsulated in the form of a risk register, which identified key risk areas and possible factors and appropriate mitigating factors to minimise or curb those risks. The risk register was reviewed on an annual basis, and was last updated in February 2021.

SA Council for the Natural Scientific Professions (SACNaSP): Annual Report

Prof Khathutshelo Nephawe, Chairperson, SACNaSP, said the Council had maintained its regulatory functions by protecting the public and environment against malpractices, unprofessionalism, and unethical conduct. They strengthened their registration function by increasing their certification of competent, professional natural scientists, to ensure an ethical scientific force in the country.  

Dr Nompumelelo Obokoh, CEO: SACNaSP, said the organisational performance of the Council was measured, using five strategic objectives. These were to proactively advise government and relevant stakeholders on the contributions and role of the natural scientific professions in South Africa; enforce high professional and ethical standards for the natural scientific workforce; to promote the natural science professions and science engagement in South Africa; to promote the professional development and transformation of the natural science sector in South Africa; and to foster a culture of good governance

Referring to registration trends, she said the number of registered scientists on the database in 2021/22 was 13 902, with 1 820 new scientists registered during the year, while the total number of applications received was 2 922 which included applications for additional fields of practice and upgrades. The registrations were dominated by black people (75.27%),  followed by whites (12.64%), Asians (9.56%), and coloureds (2.53%). Of those registered, 54.67% were females, 53.75% were aged 19-29, 35.49% were aged 30-39, 8.57% were aged 40-49, 1.59% were aged 50-59, and 0.60% were over 60.

SACNaSP has implemented improvements in the registration area. It focused on academics, and had streamlined registration requirements for National Research Foundation (NRF) rated scientists. It was building cooperation with the Council on Higher Education (CHE) to develop standards for natural science qualifications. It worked closely with higher education institutions (HEIs) on pre-approving academic qualifications that meet registration requirements to simplify the evaluation process. It was investigating mechanisms to track natural science graduates and their demographic profile, and improving registration systems and its database to reduce turnaround times for registration and evaluation processes and data analytics from the database.

Dr Obokoh said that scientists who participated in science engagement activities would be awarded continuing professional development points by the Council. As part of a lifelong learning value chain, it encouraged the Candidate Membership Programme and Continued Professional Development in the employment phase of scientists.

Key achievement highlights included an increased number of registered scientists from designated groups, an embedded system of lifelong learning, creating a whistle-blowing hotline, reporting to government, and hosting webinars on topical issues.

 SACNaSP's contributions to DSI and national priorities focused on a capable, ethical, and developmental state, economic transformation and job creation, education, skills, health, social cohesion and safer communities, and a better Africa and a better world.

DSI-funded project achievements included:

Ÿ 37% of registered natural scientists had updated their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) status;

Ÿ 17 people being mentored were part of the Candidate Mentoring Phase (CMP) programme for the period under review.

Ÿ SACNaSP had created a documentary entitled “The Fourth Industrial Revolution for South Africa.”

Ÿ There have been two successful webinars as a part of the National Science Week 2021 initiative.

Mr Terrence Magalana, CFO, SACNaSP, reported on DSI- funded projects. These were the CMP (R3 446 200 budget), the CPD (R3 046 200), regulations (R1 196 650), and the information technology (IT) platform (R 2 246 513).

For the 2021/22 period, the revenue from scientists was R17 632 425, income from DSI projects was R5 600 739, expenditure was R22 879 671, and there was a surplus of R916 975

Financial challenges and interventions included collecting annual fees and bad debts, increasing the provision for bad debts yearly, writing off and cancelling overdue debts of registered scientists, and engaging with the DSI about a potential reduction/zero fee policy for candidate natural scientists who were unemployed.


Mr Phuthiane Letsoa said that from his experience as a registered natural scientist, he had had an encouraging experience that had been able to add value to his career. He had grown to be a fully trained agricultural scientist and had been promoted in his work because of the programmes.  

Ms Mary-Joy Masetlane said that being registered with the Council had become one of the requirements to be recruited by employers, and she had been at an advantage due to being registered. She had been exposed to networking opportunities with influential people in science, and the learning curve kept increasing. Her technical skills had improved, she had a good relationship with her mentor, and she had been offered a safe space from an experienced person to engage with the challenges that came with being in the field.


The Chairperson said that the Committee was concerned about filling the CEO position in the NACI, as Dr Cele had been acting for over four years. She thought the NACI could play a massive role in SCI, the National System of Innovation, and transformation. There was an interest in the renewal and repositioning document put together by the Council, especially now that they had submitted them to the Minister, and she acknowledged their work in promoting women's participation and transformation. She said it was unusual for the DSI and its entities to have governance and control issues, and the vacant CEO position contradicted that. The Committee was of the view that for science, technology, and innovation to be effective in this country, it must be inclusive. How did the key portfolios get hold of information from their side, especially about women's participation, because it was not only the responsibility of the DSI to ensure that it was implemented.

She commented that remote sensing was used to observe the earth, but was concerned about the process of ensuring that the data collected was used for disaster management and saving lives in the country. The renewable energy concept was exciting, given the energy crisis the country was currently facing, and there was a request for the NACI to send the documents and reports through to the Committee.

The Committee was concerned about the legislative work of ASSAf -- when would their act be amended and booked to Parliament? The setting of targets was not related to the performance -- for example, in 2020/21, the Academy had exceeded its targets but for 2021/22, they had set lower targets that were not related to the previous year’s performance.

She appreciated the SACNaSP for bringing its beneficiaries and their good work with them. She asked NACI for more information about the state of innovation in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, as they had compiled an interim report about this in 2021. She asked for recommendations to deal with the decline in the country’s investment research and development by the private sector, and how interest in mathematics and science was better communicated in career fairs for basic and higher education students.  

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) emphasised the point about inclusion from all the entities, especially disabled and disadvantaged citizens. She asked NACI what the reasons had been for a certain member not attending any of their meetings (as indicated in the presentation), and what had been done about it. She acknowledged their integrated system of science and innovation, as budgets would be properly stated. She commended the good governance of the DSI, and asked ASSAf to submit a list of the programmes they had planned for district models to check where they must be implemented, and if the Committee could reach them, they wanted to engage with them. She asked SACNaSP how they appointed service providers, and if they were going to address the deviations to achieve their targets. Were many people not left behind from their engagements, as they were mostly done online, and most people in this country could not access online platforms?

Ms D Sibiya (ANC) asked SACNaSP what criteria had been used to identify the mentees, and in which provinces and districts were the four awareness and engagement initiatives and the 14 strategic events sponsored by the Council held?  

Mr T Letsie (ANC) asked ASSAf when the final consideration of the institutional review would be reported, and when they would table the final amendment of their bill. What were the issues the Academy faced in completing the bill and how were they resolving them? The criteria used to elect membership to the Academy was commended, but there was a question about the annual membership fees and if all members were up to date with their annual membership payments. Did the entity terminate the membership if three months passed without payment date, as stated in the Academy bill, clause 7, and did the rules apply only to the members of the Council? What information was used to increase the targeted proportion of women and black people within the academy membership by 2%? What were the specific objectives for the consensus study versus a policy maker’s booklet, and how did they differ?  

When the 2020-25 strategic plan was presented to the Committee in 2020 by ASSAf, they had identified the “lack of mechanisms to prevent an overlap of activities with other entities within the NSI, as clear role differentiation within the SMI was not present.” Did the STI decadal plan assist in facilitating clear roles for the NSI, and what would assist with its facilitation? He asked how the NACI within the current structure had taken their own advice to the Minister and Cabinet, and how they ensured their advice incorporated stakeholders within the formation phase. Within their current structure, had they been able to fulfil all their legislative functions? What had been the key obstacle hindering implementation of their mandate, and how had they been contextualising the strengthening and repositioning of the Council?

He asked SACNaSP about the report of their progress since the resignation and the appointment of the CEO, as had been requested by the Department. What was the value of the annual increase in the bad debt allowance, and how many of the 13 902 registered scientists had incurred bad debts? What were the key proposed changes presented in the draft amendment bill to repeal and replace the current NSP act, and why were they proposed? What were the key findings of the "Pathways into the Labour Market and Self Employment for Natural Science Graduates" report, and with whom were the findings communicated? What measures had been taken to ensure that scientists employed by government and state-owned entities (SOEs) were registered with SACNaSP? It was concerning that all three organisations had not appointed a female CFO.   

NACI's response

Dr Moephuli said that the NACI was not entirely a stand-alone entity. Its administrative support functions -- human resources, finance, etc -- was run by the DSI and they had no control over it. The appointment of the CEO was in the hands of the DSI. As a Council, however, they had raised the matter to the Department and the DG had tried to put the project in motion to the point of interviews, but it had to be started over again because of non-compliance factors. The Council would submit the reports that the Committee had requested to the Minister, and he would deliver them to the Committee. He was pleased to inform the Committee that the advice they had given for the development of the framework for the decadal plan and for the implementation of the white paper on science and technology, had been taken into consideration by the DSI.

The Council members that were not attending meetings included two CEOs -- one each from the NRF and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) -- who had vacated their positions, and a member appointed from the private sector who had vacated her position because she had to go to maternity leave and could not devote the time required of her in the Council. They were engaging with the DSI about restructuring the Council, its mandate and legislation. The decline in the country’s investment research and development by the private sector was a concern not only to the NACI, but also to the NSI, and the impact of multinational companies and measures in corporations contributed to this.  

Dr Cele said they supported government's efforts to implement budget coordination, and were working with the team developing the decadal plan to update the new strategic management model. The NACI usually faced three challenges as independent experts -- the structural location, the capacity of the secretariat, and the utilisation of advice. They had not been able to implement all of the Council’s functions, but the system had been able to find other complementary measures. South Africa had a triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality; therefore, their planning had to consider providing solutions to help in the short and long term. Their goal was to shift the STI policy from its traditional focus on enhancing productivity and competitiveness to embracing broader socioeconomic transitions, by having a system that was inclusive and sustainable.

They were working with the Department to develop a second set of indicators that would help monitor and track if the decadal plan would make an impact on socioeconomic development. The secretary general of the Disabled People of South Africa organisation, Mr Andrew Matela, was a member of the Council’s transformation committee, and helped them to be aware of the needs faced by disabled people in this country, and this drove the projects to be inclusive. It was a challenge for the Council and the system to include the poor, especially those that could not afford data bundles, but they had started working closely with some of them. There had been interactions with some communities to instil indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) concerning their projects, and how they could be a part of them.       

ASSAf's response

Prof Sabiha Essack, General Secretary, ASSAf, said that the Academy had approved the amendment of the ASSAf Act. They had taken note of the conservative target-setting concerns raised, and said they had been set based on what the Academy could realistically deliver. Webinars and online working had influenced the exceeding of targets, and now that blended and in-person formats were taking place, costs and feasibility had to be considered. Diversity, equity and inclusion were taken seriously, and were included in the transformation strategy. Innovative ways to increase the pool of women and black people in the organisation were being looked at. They were happy to send the district model in writing.

The institutional review had been completed. A report had been sent to the Academy and the secretariat was responding to the recommendations. The report would be sent to the Committee once the Department had approved the recommendations.

She said a consensus study was when researchers generate the evidence in various ways and then agree on a way to implement the hypothesis as generated by the evidence. With a policymaker’s booklet, recommendations were translated into policy for implementation processes. They were monitoring the uptake of its recommendations and were sometimes requested to do a consensus study, and they were trying to independently investigate how the recommendations were followed by the various stakeholders.

Prof Soodyall said that when the Academy was developing its strategic plan, it was her early days at the Academy and she had had to continue with what had already been started. She would give a written answer to the question about the STI decadal plan and roles for the NSI acts. A policy maker’s booklet was established where the Academy could assist other academies in promoting the work of national academies. They continued to engage with academies in the African continent to help each other achieve the objectives of the national academies. They were working on annual performance plans (APPs) in an area where an external environment was unclear. Given the fact that the hybrid model of operations has been adopted, the use of webinars has been able to increase their performance.

ASSAf would adjust their targets when they revised the APPs next year. The revision of the ASSAF Act was last approved in 2020, and was targeted at the number of females and blacks involved in the Academy. Last month, a transformation strategy was put together and presented to the DG and DSI management. They were about to send it to the Minister for adjustments and alignments. They had been working towards inclusion by holding workshops and taking the equity into consideration to achieve this goal. The 2% targeted improvement for the representation of women and blacks had been arrived at by analysing the implementation in the past years, where there was basically a static improvement of 1%, and they had set a higher target.

They tried their best to follow the recommendations made to them, and hoped that the inter-ministerial committee would help them reach out to other divisions so that they could improve their performance.

Mr Chiloane addressed the membership fees issue by confirming that there were members with outstanding membership fees, and said it was odd that they could not pay the R200 per year membership fee. There had been no disciplinary measures taken to discipline such members, besides reminding them. It was concerning that people like the DG, who were members of the Academy, failed to pay their membership fee.

SACNASP's response

Prof Nephawe said that they welcomed the input from Members for the budget increase, as it could assist with catering for bad debts and improving their CPB and CMB offerings. They took inclusivity and transformation seriously. They realised that majority of their registered scientists were female, and that over 80% were aged under 40. They would go and reflect and consider interventions based on these statistics. They would provide a written response about the new bill and the report that would be launched the following week about the "Pathways Towards Employment and Other Employment."

Dr Obokoh (CEO, SACNASP) said that one of their targets for 2021/22 was to get a service provider to draft the terms of reference for the appointments. They had drafted the terms of reference, but had not concluded the appointments as they were still waiting on expert opinions that would advise the service provider about the terms of reference to ensure that the recommendations were holistic and realistic. A review panel had been appointed and was already working on an institutional review that would be completed in March 2023.  

Dr Matshidiso Matabane, Information Officer: SACNASP, said that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Council had had to have a strong online presence by doing webinars, but they were transitioning to a blended approach to ensure that they reached a wider audience. They were affiliated with a strong and diverse network which played a critical role in the training and development of registered natural scientists through conferences.

Ms Sarah van Aardt, Project Leader, SACNASP, said that mentees should be registered natural scientists, their fees had to be fully paid up, and they should meet the 70% female and 30% male target. Mentors were matched with the fields of practice and locations of the mentees so that they could do face-to-face training and mentorship if needs be.

Mr Magalana said that of the 13 000 registered scientists, the debt of 2 333 had been written off, and for the year under review, they had made provision for 2 956. The provisions were made for those who had been owing for more than two years, while those that had since paid their fees had been reinstated into the Council’s system. A task team had been established, and its key focus was assessing the bad debt and retention situation. The workplan focused on the collection, improved communication, retention strategies and regulations to promote the integrity of science and execute the regulatory function of the Council.

Remarks by DSI

Ms Gugulethu Zwane, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Institutional Development and Support, DSI, thanked all the entities for their presentations and responses. She said there had been a selection panel meeting on 24 October to discuss the appointment of the NACI CEO, and a short-list had been made. They were hoping to conduct interviews by 14 December, because if they had not appointed a CEO by 23 February, they would have to start the process all over again. The Department had done an analysis of the proposals submitted to them about the renewal of the NACI, and they were waiting for confirmation from the Minister about the recommendations being acceptable. The legal experts had advised that this process needed to be completed in about 18 months. All the other inputs noted by the Committee Members would be responded to in writing.

The meeting was adjourned.


No related

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: