DSI, NACI, NRF, HSRC & CSIR 2023/24 Annual Performance Plans

Higher Education, Science and Innovation

19 April 2023
Chairperson: Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Human Science Research Council (HSRC)

National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI)

National Research Foundation

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation met in person to receive briefings from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the National Advisory Council on Innovation ( NACI), the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on their Annual Performance Plans (APPs) and Budget for the 2023/24 financial year.

In the first round of engagement with the DSI, the NACI and NRF, the Committee requested the entities to include more graphs and tables in their future presentation.

The Committee urged the DSI and its entities to provide more assistance to SMMEs to get their innovative products commercialised. There was a suggestion about setting up a help desk of the sort at municipalities to make it easier for ordinary people to access such services.

Among other issues, the Committee enquired about the NACI’s Acting CEO position, the NACI’s internal oversight mechanism, the number of employees at the NACI, the NACI’s international partnerships, the high turnover of employees at the NRF, the NRF’s source of funding, the NRF’s work in assisting the historically disadvantaged institutions (HDIs), Programme Phuhlisa, the Decadal plan, the SMMEs that were utilising tech incentives, the potential contribution which the Department could make to reduce load shedding, the NACI’s proposed amendments, the NACI’s proposed new organisational structure, the NRF’s research on cancer treatment, public-private partnership, etc.

The Committee enquired about the CSIR’s intellectual properties (IPs) and their impact, such as how many had translated into jobs, how many were not being utilised, how many had been sold to international companies, etc. The Committee questioned the Department’s rationale in promoting coal-based energy sector and wondered whether more focus and resource had to be directed at renewable energy. The Committee reaffirmed their commitment to transformation and adhering to the transformative policy objectives.

The Committee encouraged more interaction and benchmarking with science and technology universities on the African continent instead of confining its scope only to European universities. The Committee addressed the high concentration of research funds and research chairs in top South African universities, widening the gap between top and disadvantaged universities. The Committee emphasised the importance of synergy across governmental departments and their entities regarding line functions. They expressed concerns that there was duplication of functions in relation to doubling effort. Although the Committee noted the concern and decry of the Department and its entities for budget shortfall vis-à-vis the huge amount of work they needed to do, they recommended budget coordination and rationing or consolidating some entities into one.

The Committee was disturbed to hear that only 35 percent of the qualified post-graduate students were being funded by the NRF which left 65 percent of students out without any funding and strongly urged the NRF to find a solution. The Committee expressed concerns that good initiatives such as the African research fund, bringing innovation to local government, etc. would later lose their meaning and become the political battleground fighting for tenders and nepotism. The Committee expressed concerns that there was a lack of maths and science teachers, especially in rural schools, which directly resulted in the lack of qualified and interested students enrolling in such subjects at the higher education level.

As the time was getting late, in the second round of engagement with CSIR and HSRC, the Committee agreed that the entities submit their responses to the Committee within seven-working days in writing. The Committee found it encouraging that the HSRC was led by a female CEO and welcomed her appointment. The Committee was also happy to hear the HSRC’s prioritisation of black women in its policy. The Members sought more clarity on the HSRC’s community innovation and what its budget could look like. The Committee enquired about the possibility of employing Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS) practitioners into the HSRC’s cohort of senior researchers. It highlighted to the organisation that it had to change its mindset and not only be recruiting Western-trained researchers and academics.

Among other issues, the Committee enquired about the CeSTII measures, the CSIR’s mechanisms in selecting businesses that it would assist, the HSRC’s opinions on the district development model, the inclusion of coloured and Indian South Africans in both entities’ recruitment process, etc.
Given the country’s stagnating economy and non-increase in the budget, the Committee encouraged both entities to explore other avenues to expand their funding sources. The Committee also wanted to know how both entities could do more work with less funding. The Committee particularly requested a breakdown of the CSIR’s international and domestic funding sources.

The Committee enquired about the low turnout rate for white interns at the HSRC, also indicated that the focus on indigenous knowledge system had to be focused on a wider impact on the economy rather than prioritising demography and chasing quotas.

The Department and its entities agreed to respond to the Committees queries in writing.  

Meeting report

As the Committee Members were stuck in traffic, the meeting was delayed, and the Chairperson indicated that the meeting would commence at 9:30am.

Chairperson’s opening remark
The Chairperson commented that the work of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) was not known to the public despite the Committee Members’ lobbying efforts. She emphasised the importance of the impact of the DSI’s work. She told the officials that a clean audit was insufficient to address the citizens’ concerns and help them combat poverty. The DSI needed to adopt a collaborative approach and work with the other spheres of government and other government departments so that innovation and research could find their expression and benefit the people.

The Chairperson hoped that the Annual Performance Plan (APP) presentations would include and reflect the observations and recommendations the Members had raised during the BRRR process, quarterly reports; etc.

The Chairperson noted that was the last time the Committee would receive APPs of the sixth administration.
The Chairperson emphasised the importance of official attendance at the Committee meeting. She understood that Minister Nzimande had to be in Cabinet and that could not be changed. She also received an apology from the Department’s Director-General. In addition, the Committee received apologies from Mr T Mogale (EFF), Mr S Zondo (IFP) and Ms N Chirwa (EFF). Mr W Letsie (ANC) also submitted his apology, indicating that he was sick.

The Chairperson invited the Department to proceed with its presentation.

Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) Annual Performance Plan 2023/24
Dr Mmboneni Muofhe, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Technology Innovation, DSI, presented the Department’s Annual Performance Plan for 2023/24.

The presentation covered the Department’s priorities in the MTSF, including the entities. Several projects were presented to the Committee. Those projects included: catalytic projects, CoalCO2-X programme, etc.

The presentation covered information on the Department’s response to COVID-19.

The Department also informed the Committee of the various challenges it faced.
See attached for full presentation

The Chairperson thanked Mr Muofhe for his presentation and indicated that the NACI could proceed with its presentation. She noted that the NACI had a new board.

Briefing by National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) Annual Performance Plan 2023/24
Ms Funeka Khumalo, Executive Director, NACI, introduced the NACI’s delegation.

The Chairperson apologised for her lack of decorum in passing the presentation directly to Dr Cele, the Acting CEO and not having recognised her as a Council member which had taken precedence. She explained that it was because the Committee was not aware of who was leading the delegation for the Council.
Opening remark of the Acting CEO
Dr Mlungisi Cele, Acting CEO, NACI, indicated that the post-COVID-19 context informed the Council’s APP. It was a context that consisted of a myriad of issues such as the Ukraine-Russia conflict, energy crisis, rising food cost, inflation, erosion of nation state globally, deepening environmental crisis, social reproductive crisis, youth unemployment, widening inequality, etc.

He highlighted that COVID-19 had had an impact on the STI system globally. Not only had it stretched the system to its limit, revealing its weaknesses and challenges, but it had also enhanced the resilience of the STI system. The primary key to addressing the issue was around budget. The decline in business investments remained a serious concern for the NACI. There were challenges regarding available human resources to the STI system, particularly in the qualitative and transformative dimension as women were still lacking in certain disciplines of the science and technology field.

See attached for full presentation

National Research Foundation (NRF) Annual Performance Plan 2023/24

Opening remark by the NRF Chairperson
Prof Mosa Moshabela, Chairperson, NRF, indicated that although the previous board had put together the entity’s APP, it had been reviewed and approved by the current new board. The new board also presented the APP to the Minister and supported its implementation for the year. The new board was looking forward to contributing to the entity’s new APP for next year.

He echoed the Chairperson’s view on the impact and highlighted that the entity’s strategic pillars had focused on sustainable impact.

The Foundation’s APP was also aligned with several strategic priorities.
He indicated that the NRF had identified a difficult issue around the post-graduate funding policy and presented the problem to the Minister. The presentation touched on the board’s suggestions on how that issue could be resolved. The Foundation supported the historically disadvantaged institutions (HDIs) in helping them with their human capacity and research development structure.

Prof Fulufhelo Nelwamondo, CEO, NRF, presented the Foundation’s Strategic Plan, till 2025, its Annual Performance Plan in 2023/24 and its financial information.

See attached for full presentation
On behalf of the board, Prof Moshabela appreciated the support which was received from the DSI. It got a large portion of its budget from the DSI. The difficulty, he pointed out, was that the demand was greater than the current allocation. The new board was horrified to find that only 35 percent of qualified post-graduates were being funded by the NRF which left 65 percent of the students out. There was also the issue of uneven funding of institutions as most of the research chairs were based in what was known as the ‘big-five institutions’ in South Africa. He urged for attention and solutions to address that difficult issue.

The Foundation has been discussing the prioritisation of social science and would like to see that unfold in a tangible way. He was happy to see that the Chair of research was from the social science discipline.

The NRF needed to consider engaging with entities such as the NACI, African fund, and businesses to increase research funding flows. As the NRF had traditionally been focusing more on research and had not placed as much emphasis on innovation, the new board’s vision was to look at further development in innovation. He recognised the needed working with the CSIR and the TIA.

Dr Muofhe reiterated the Department’s view in ensuring the alignment between the Department and its entities which were presenting.

The Chairperson noted that the officials’ corridor talks about the Members’ request on the presentation format. She highlighted that it was not only necessary to include words but also add a few graphs and tables such as those in the NRF presentation, for the Members to better understand the information.

The Chairperson indicated that more support had to be given to SMMEs to assist them in reaping the outcomes of innovation and help them to commercialise their products. She noted in the document where it states that 25 SMMEs had received assistance from the Department for innovation and commercialisation. What had the support consist of? Was that full-package assistance or the assistance which could be offered in different ways? She highlighted the importance of getting innovation into the market to address the issues of poverty and unemployment. She also told the Department that assistance had varied.

Sometimes a person could only need a one-hour session while sometimes they could need assistance for a longer period such as six months, etc. The support which the Department provided had to be tailor-made for the needs of the people. She suggested that TIA could be in the institutions of higher learning and suggested working with municipalities, for instance, having a desk of some sort at local municipalities, so that the citizens could have greater access to the Department’s assistance.

The Chairperson welcomed the NACI’s new board and sought clarity on the Acting CEO position. For the sake of the stability of the institution, she highlighted the need for the NACI to appoint a permanent CEO.
She noted the research work and investment which all entities had discussed and talked about. She emphasised the importance of synergy as she expressed the concern around the duplication of functions vis-a-vis doubling effort. She wanted to know the Department’s plan to avoid that and urged the Department to clarify the roles and responsibilities of each entity.

She noted the NACI’s emphasis on research and development as well as the investment made by the private sector on certain research projects. She expressed concern about the risk of those funders, domestic and international, dictating or having undue influence on the NACI’s research projects. She commented on the interface between the DSI and the higher education sector. She suggested that the Council’s benchmark had to be tapping into the Science and Technology institutions on the African continent such as in Malawi and not just be confined to Europe.

She noted the plea around the ongoing budget concern and suggested that the DSI and its entities strengthen budget coordination across other departments. She told the officials that the Committee Members even helped convince colleagues to lobby on their behalf having budget coordination when there were cross-cutting programmes in two or multiple government departments.

She noted that the NRF had a new board and welcomed them. She indicated to the NRF board that the Committee Members had nodded earlier as a signal of approval for being at the meeting to support the executive team. The Members now had more confidence in the entity and wished the best for it.

The Chairperson described the lower percentage 35 percent of students the NRF was funding as shocking. That explained why there were ongoing protests at institutions of higher learning. She recalled that the advice had been put to the Department at the beginning of the sixth administration that the NRF had to explore ways to coordinate budget to fund post-graduates. Given that the issue still had not been resolved, she asked the NRF whether there was any legislative barrier and if it had a database in place which could recommend failed applicants to seek other funding options.

She requested a breakdown of those plans for the National Astro-Tourism strategy. The Members were also interested in the issue but would need to know more details in order to lobby other portfolios, such as the Portfolio of Tourism, to come on board. That was a useful strategy for addressing poverty in rural areas.

She expressed concern about the country’s ability in earth observation given the recent floods in KZN. She asked the NRF whether it intentionally strengthened the coordination between detection and those who work on the ground to rescue. She needed clarity on the number of black emerging farmers. As in 2020/21, 71 were achieved whereas eight were achieved in 2021/22, then the rest of the year was about 300. Those numbers were confusing, and clarity was required.

Dr W Boshoff (FF+) commented that although the budget of the DSI was less than many of the other Departments, the entities under its charge were more than those of the other departments. Even the NRF alone was almost like a department on its own. It was understood that that might be difficult to coordinate. He asked the NACI if it had its own internal oversight mechanism in place. He enquired about whether the number was the number of employees that worked at the NACI. After reading the report, his impression was that the figure seemed to suggest that either there could be too many people working there or the people were not doing much work there.

In its international partnerships, he asked the NACI whether there was a conscious alignment with the government’s foreign policy or on an ad hoc basis. He suggested that the NACI advise the Minister to approach the Agricultural Research Council because the Council was doing some fundamentally important work. He had not thought the Department of Agriculture was doing such a good job.
He enquired about the NRF’s experience in the high staff turnover, and whether situations persisted where people were being poached by the private sector before they even settled into their new jobs at the NRF. Had the NRF succeeded in any source of funding which would cross-subsidise some of its existing research projects or was the funding just strictly ring-fenced for the projects that were indicated in the agreements?
Dr Boshoff remarked that he had recently read a book by Jonathan Jansen on the state of universities in South Africa in which Prof Jansen mentioned that the key challenge of the university was that university’s’ priorities, such as academic projects, were no longer the centre of initiatives and activities. What was the NRF doing to assist the historically disadvantaged universities become first-class institutions? The African Research Fund was a good initiative, however, what were the chances of such a good idea being bogged down and was there commitment in the science community to pursue the initiative and get it done?
Ms D Sibiya (ANC) urged the NRF to do something to help post-graduates get funding. She asked how Programme Phuhlisa worked and reiterated that the NACI had to appoint its permanent CEO. She noted the NRF’s intention of working with Local Government and asked how it planned to avoid situations such as fighting for positions, etc. and focus on implementing the programmes.

Ms C King (DA) noted that the funding shortfalls in the sector might be the cause such a skills outflux in the country. Given the financial constraint and that the country’s GDP was not growing, she asked if the DSI had considered rationing some entities into one. Her impression was that some entities had to be merged to effectively free up available funding, as some entities currently had overlapping responsibilities.

She observed and reported that the Cofimvaba Science Centre in her constituency was not being used for its intended purposes based on her recent visit. Despite so much funding that had been spent on the science centre, it was not clear if government had looked at how to expand the impact of the science centre to the schools themselves. Teachers had not been capacitated to teach maths and science in those remote areas. That was the outcome of the poor quality of the long-term basic schooling that translated into lack of proper skills.

She was resolute in her view that the NACI had to be relocated to the President’s office to better perform its advisory role. The various departments were currently speaking in silos and were ineffective.
She asked the Department to expand on its indication to incorporate all ideas in the White Paper. She particularly wanted to know which aspect of the Decadal Plan the Department had aimed to incorporate.

She appreciated the Department’s remarkable work in the Local Government sphere. She recently had a discussion with Agrément South Africa on the new innovative building. One of the issues that struck her was that sometimes it was not easy for Local Government to take on innovative programmes. She asked if there was any formalised MoU in place on how to implement innovative techniques because the uptake process had been very slow. For instance, she was shocked to hear that despite the Nelson Mandela Bay water issue, Nelson Mandela University had not even been contacted for its existing expertise to be used in addressing the matter.

She enquired how many businesses were using tech incentives for innovation and entrepreneurship in the tech sector. She touched on the issue of the ongoing load shedding and asked what advice the DSI had given to Cabinet to resolve the loadshedding issue.

Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) urged the DSI to prioritise vaccine research as job opportunities could come from the vaccine production process. What was the Department’s plan to advocate that to address unemployment? She commented that having sufficient funding remained the biggest issue in encouraging more math and science learners. Since the NACI advised the Minister on various issues, had it provided advice in that regard, given that most students at universities were not studying in the fields of maths and science?

Was it because government was not making enough effort in basic education? Given the constraint in government budget, she asked whether the DSI had looked at other ways to source more funding for maths and science. She wanted to know about the research work conducted by the entities under the Department, including through the CSIR, and how much of them had led to Intellectual Properties (IP) in the last five years. Of those IPs, how many of them resulted in job opportunities and how many IPs were filed but were not being utilised? Which IPs could be used by South Africa for infrastructure, energy, housing, etc. How much has the Department spent on IPs in the last five years? Which IPs had been sold to international companies and had not benefited South Africans? How much were they sold for, what were the spin-off companies that resulted from those IPs, and how many job opportunities were created? What advice had the NACI been giving to the Minister, if the Minister took that advice, particularly concerning maths and science?

She drew officials’ attention to the University of Venda. She said that despite the good work it’s doing in science and technology, the university had not been receiving funds from the NRF. She asked the NRF about its mechanism to determine or review which institutions would be getting the funding, had the NRF looked at the types of research before providing funding to those eligible institutions?

Ms K Khakhau (DA) indicated that she had quite several questions and asked for patience. Addressing the DSI, she asked about government’s SONA commitment on electricity. How much work has been done on energy transition? Did the Department have a plan to keep lights on for institutions of higher learning?
She noted the fossil-based initiative in the presentation but given the coal’s problematic reasons for air pollution which caused the death of 5 000 South Africans as well as the entire coal value chain being captured which was difficult for South Africa to infiltrate, she asked the Department whether it had thought of solar- and wind-based solutions.

She wanted the Department to provide more details about the relationship between the Department of Electricity and the Department of Energy. She asked whether there was engagement between the two ministries. She wanted to know what the Department’s performance looked like on access to post-school education and training on its priority 3. She needed clarity on the innovative tech solutions which the Department had mentioned to be dealing with service delivery. Had the DSI enquired from the Treasury on why there was a budget regression? She requested timelines on the infrastructure projects, wanting to know at what point would which infrastructure projects be completed, so that the Members could also oversee those projects.

Addressing the NACI, she asked the NACI what the proposed amendments were to the entity’s legislative functions which it talks about. She asked the NACI if there was any advice or policy that had been provided to both tertiary and basic education ministries since 1997 and if any of them were not being accepted or not implemented. What were the reasons behind the non-acceptance?

She requested more information on the African-wide business engagement and wanted to know how far the country was on that initiative, the end goals, and the timeframes. She noted that the NACI had indicated that it needed to recruit more people to capacitate the entity. She thus wanted to know how the entity went about recruiting new people at the entity. She wanted to know about the limitations apart from budget constraints.
She asked the NACI when it planned to finalise the establishment of the new NACI and what its new organogram would look like. She asked the NACI what the dream list needed for developing a coherent strategy on Artificial Intelligence would look like.

Addressing the NRF, she requested more clarity on the funding gap the entity had mentioned and any proposals to address the gap. She needed the entity to elaborate on the Culture Improvement Plan.
She wanted to know why the entity only projected at three percent but not higher on the indicators for Programme 1. She questioned if the entity had set the goal slightly higher so that its achievement would still be within reasonable limits had it failed to achieve the higher percentage.

She wanted to know the new programmes that fell under the STI digital plan in that financial year. She wanted to know the outcomes of the review of the programmes from previous years.    She asked what had been learnt from the research on cancer and what ground-breaking discovery had been made.
Ms J Mananiso (ANC) was glad to hear that the DSI and its entities were consistent with the vision of transformation. She noted that the NRF had omitted the number of youth beneficiaries in its presentation and requested more details. It was important that specific numbers on women and persons with disabilities be provided in the presentation. She urged the Department to indicate and commit to those government policies on transformation.

She found it encouraging to hear about the development of historically disadvantaged institutions.
She said that the issue of the Public Private Partnership was interesting and encouraging to see how everybody was being involved in growing the economy. She highlighted that the President’s message about economic development was about getting everyone, including the private sector, involved.

On forging partnerships, she requested that the Department clearly indicate which entities and governmental departments it was working with for its future presentation, so that the Members would be able to know and champion such collaborative efforts. She commented on the DSI’s consistent audit outcomes which showed that the Department prided itself in its good governance. She asked the DSI about its unfunded mandates or initiatives that would be addressed during the budget adjustment process.
She reiterated the importance of having a permanent CEO at the NACI.  

She asked the NRF what factors contributed to the increase, as foreign income derived from the activities of the national facilities had increased from R162 million to R234 million. Which of the NRF’s proposals were un-funded? What mitigation actions were currently being pursued to address the key risks which the NRF faced?

She asked the NACI what the key struggles were in hampering mandates and requested a more detailed progress report on each task in slide 14.
Mr B Yabo (ANC) highlighted that the basic pursuit of government had been to ensure greater interest, equitable distribution of wealth, greater improvement to access to services, etc. He noted that there had been widespread online ranting that the apartheid Government was better, which was untrue because there were no roads in townships under the apartheid Government. He remarked that the country still had a long way to go before the breakdown of that racial paradigm and that project South Africa was a resounding success. He remarked that it was ironic that those who were beneficiaries of the diabolic system would want to keep the status quo.

He suggested to the DSI that it had to make science more accessible to laymen as scientists were big components of acronyms and were thus inaccessible to ordinary people. He expressed his concern that the suggested Hydrogen project would become “an elitist project” with high-capital acquisition from top investors, eventually leading to monopoly. He wanted to see how such projects could be accessible to people on the street without such barriers.

He reiterated the question about the vacancy issue and asked how long those unfilled positions had been vacant and the plans to fill them. He attributed the lack of optimal performance of government to the high vacancy that overburdened the existing employees and gave them too many responsibilities, making them prone to abuse and being taken advantage of. He noted a declining trend in the budget in the MTEF for subsequent years after 2023/24 in science and innovation. He asked about the cause of the decline despite the Department’s persistent call for extra funds.

Mr Yabo asked the NRF what initiatives that were there would contribute to the space sector, and the energy sector. Years ago, Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Project was a very interesting project. The findings from that project suggested that isotopes could not be established for the reactive process for the full use of a nuclear head. Now looking at the radioisotopes project in which the NRF was engaged, he wondered whether the key to the success of PBMR yet. Then the country would avoid load shedding.

He enquired about the mechanism the NRF used to track the return on investment on the fund spent on post-graduate qualifications. He suggested having a measuring tool to benchmark if government was getting what it paid for in knowledge production and the conversion of such knowledge to the resolution of our problems. He highlighted the challenge of the country’s massive number of unemployed graduates due to the mismatch between knowledge acquisition and sectoral needs. He suggested amending the policy and shifting the regime of the funding mechanism to the organs of state. It would be much more effective to pursue goals since the funding heavily relied on the national fiscus.

The Chairperson thanked for the Members’ inputs and urged the departmental officials to take a moment to reflect on the recommendations that the Members made. She felt that the Department and its entities needed to understand what the budget was supposed to do, and what purposes it served. What had it meant to support the innovators? What was the long-term plan?

The Chairperson requested the entities to respond in the order of NRF, the NACI and DSI.

Response from the NRF
Prof Moshabela expressed his appreciation of the comments which the entity had received from the Members. He appreciated the solution-oriented approach which the Members advocated for. He plead with the Committee and requested that the issue of the budget coordination be elevated. The entity had plead its case with the DSI on solving the issue.

He noted the Members’ inputs on the Local Government on bringing the NRF’s work closer to the ground. He informed the Committee that the Foundation was working on a plan on grassroot innovation in order to start working with local industries. He emphasised the importance of early childhood development in the areas of science, math, engineering, etc. In addition to STEM subjects, he emphasised the importance of humanities and arts subjects which could add another beneficial dimension to STEM thinking, which was known as the STEAM approach.

Prof Nelwamondo reiterated the common goal that everyone in the meeting had in making South Africa a better place. He provided more details of the NRF’s role in supporting historically disadvantaged institutions (HDIs). He highlighted that a critical element that influenced an institution’s quality of research, teaching and learning outcome, was the number of staff members possessing a PhD qualification. For instance, at Walter Sisulu University, the number of staff members who had PhD was less than 17 percent which contrasted with the 75 percent at the University of Pretoria and Wits University. In the absence of PhD staff members, they could not supervise a PhD, which would affect the institution’s smaller supervisory capacity and lead to smaller grants that the NRF could apply for.

Africa, as a continent, accounted only 2 percent of the global research outputs, spent 1.3 percent of the world research spending, accounted for 0.2 percent of the world patents. Within that context, the NRF supported the development of the Africa Research Fund. The work had already begun as the Foundation awarded ten OR Tambo research chairs based in nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa. He allocated the Members’ questions to the delegation.

Dr Eugene Lottering, Deputy CEO: Research Innovation Impact Support Advancement, NRF, reiterated that there could be no doubt that the NRF’s work had been done well, as shown by the properly spent and accounted funds as well as the clean audit. He highlighted that the NRF’s difficulty was that it needed more funds and resources to do more work and make a bigger impact.

He informed the Committee that currently, there was a student fund shortage of R1.3 billion. According to the National Development Plan, which had set a target of having 5000 PhD by 2030, it would mean that the Foundation had to be receiving at least R2 billion in funding. Hence, the shortfall would be at least R2 billion from now onwards. One had to be cognisant that the increased funding for students and the increased budget for researchers went hand in hand, as you would need the latter to train the former. Hence, the total funding shortfall would be somewhere between R2 to R3 billion.

He emphasised the importance of capacitating all universities within the country, particularly smaller institutions. He reiterated the urgent need for that R2.5 billion budget to realise the plan contained in the NDP. The NRF started its University Development Programme and had specific programmes for each individual university. It would prioritise those historically disadvantaged institutions with strategic plans on how to develop those institutions. The NRF took an integrated approach in looking at the matter and fully utilised the resources and the opportunity that higher education and science were within the same governmental ministry. That University Development Programme had been in the planning phase, and he hoped it would be implemented by 2024 onwards.

He informed the Committee that the decadal plan was approved at the end of 2022 and thus resulted in the Foundation only being able to reprioritise its programmes in order to align them with the current plan. Those plans had to be completed that year and would be implemented from 2024 onwards. He explained to the Committee that although the innovation fund used to be the responsibility of the NRF, since the establishment of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) in 2008, that fund went to TIA. He clarified that the majority of the NRF funding was spent on fundamental research, with less than 10 percent of its funded projects leading IPs.
Mr Kedirang Oagile, Group Executive: Corporate Services, NRF, acknowledged the challenge of the staff turnover rate, particularly for staff who possessed the skillset in the software development area who tended to be poached by the private sector. As of 2020/21, he noted that the targets were achieved were 8 percent, and he attributed that high percentage to those opportunities created and opportunities available due to the entity reviewing its employment equity plan. Hence, he explained that the entity was constrained by the employees’ contracts and ethics structure to perform on the target of 3 percent vis-à-vis performance. The CSIR’s Culture Improvement Project started about two and a half years ago to reflect the manifestation of the organisation. The purpose was to understand how things were done in the organisation and to unravel some of the deeper-level issues in the CSIR. The critical point was to know the useful element that could be infused into the organisational culture and what elements of the organisation had to be totally abandoned. The CSIR conducted a survey with a response rate of 42 percent of the total staff. The feedback from the survey has been shared with employees. The CSIR’s vacancy rate currently stood at 7 percent, translating to 98 unfilled positions. During the Covid-19 period, the organisation took a responsible resolution to hold back the filling of any vacancy. In addition, the organisational structure change also meant that the CSIR had placed a moratorium on some of the vacancies. Despite those two factors, the organisation would start filling those vacancies as soon as the budget came through.

Mr Bishen Singh, CFO, NRF, confirmed that the fencing money for MeerKAT National Park had been allocated to the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) by the DSI to address 1) the requirement of all national parks and 2) dealing with strayed animals to prevent them from wandering into farmlands.

On the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP) Phuhlisa Programme, a research programme was underway to examine the ecology and the ecosystem set up of a fish type that was thought to have been extinct. DSI funded the programme. However, very few takers from designated communities, researchers and students, applied for access to that research programme. The NRF looked at marine science researchers and students between 2010 and 2014 and only eleven researchers met the criteria. He highlighted the importance of growing the number of marine scientists in historically disadvantaged communities. The Phuhlisa Programme started to address that issue and yielded desirable outcomes.

In 2012, there were only 12 honours students, whereas now there were 30 honours, 51 master’s and 6 PhD students in the programme. All of them were black South African students. He assured that the programme specifically aimed at driving transformation within historically disadvantaged institutions such as the UWC, the University of Fort Hare, WSU and the University of Zululand. The capacitation of research infrastructure was further provided by the various partnerships between those universities and NRF national institutions. Through Joint Marine Laboratories, the UWC focused on microplastics, Fort Hare focused on bio-discovery projects, University of Zululand focused on eco-toxicology, and cost of livelihoods at WSU.
Mr Singh could not pinpointedly provide any cancer treatment breakthrough. However, he pointed out that production of radioisotopes. Not only was the old cyclotron (which was about 34 years old) built by South Africans, the country was now in a phase where it was able to bombard chemicals with high energy beams in order to produce the new cyclotron for the South African facilities. Two areas were being pursued. One was targeted Alpha therapy, which uses shortwave particles so that the treatment process would not damage healthy cells; the other was focused on producing radioisotope that could be combined with other chemicals such as particles to locate the image and trace of cancer cells. The NRF was also exploring the issue of why elephants did not get cancer as humans do and was exploring the non-cancer cells to investigate that.

He attributed the increase in foreign income to the factors of 1) Increased demand from existing local and international customers; 2) exploring and pursuing new markets; 3) the establishment of safe project; 4) radioisotope products. He indicated to the Committee that the preparation for the science centre was at an advanced stage and its conceptual design had been concluded. A team of specialists had been commissioned to design the exhibits that would be in the science centre. They would design some of the exhibits from scratch and utilise other exhibits that had been used locally and internationally. There was also advanced preparation for the construction of the facility.

A board member explained that contracts, by their very nature, were specific to the type of work done by the NRF and supplemented the work of NRF, but they did not cross-subsidise the work of the NRF. Any funds the entity received were underwritten and supported by a detailed contract in terms of the deliverables, turnaround time, funding, etc., but on a full cost recovery basis. It was instrumental that the NRF had not taken parliamentary funds to cross-subsidise other parties.
Dr Alex Tsela, the Executive Chairperson of Mzesi Energy (Pty) Ltd, a technical support organisation to the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), explained that the synergy between the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) and medical radioisotope was on the discussion level but not necessarily on the production of radioisotopes. He acknowledged that countries such as China and USA had made great strides in High temperature reactor technology (HTR technology). The greatest learning from the PBMR experience for South Africa was that when the country decided to finance research, it had to also have the stamina to take it all the way to commercialisation, given how the research could benefit the population.

Prof Moshabela highlighted the challenges the NRF faced when dealing with international partners. Those were largely due to the asymmetrical power resulting in the maldistribution of finances. The funding for fundamental research to which the NRF applied was from international funders. He urged the state to increase the funding for science and innovation to give more leverage to the NRF.

Response by the NACI
Ms Khumalo informed the Committee that the Council shared the same view with the Committee that it was urgent for the Council to have a permanent CEO. The matter had been taken up to the Minister. She noted the Chairperson’s warning about the involvement of the private sector and fully said she understood her concern that there might be ulterior motives by those private funders to dictate research directions.

She told Dr Boshoff that the NACI was a tiny organisation with 12 permanent employees. She jokingly indicated that the rest was cheap labour because the organisation had 11 council members who got paid meagre wages. In addition, the organisation also worked with experts to assist with projects that were also being remunerated with meagre wages. She confirmed with the Committee that the question around the positionality of the NACI to perhaps be within the Presidency instead of DSI had been raised and was an ongoing discussion.
Dr Oswald Franks, Strategic Project Support: Strategic Resource Mobilisation and Advancement, NACI, expressed his pride as a South African, to have sat in the meeting listening to the progress reports of those three entities, given that he had been in the higher education system for more than three decades. He commended them for the great work that had been done.

He indicated that he had attended two NACI meetings and a special NACI meeting. In one of the meetings, research was presented to the Minister which defined the role of implementing the NHI scheme. That was the advice given to the Minister and then the Minister would take that to the inter-ministerial committee for discussion. Similar research, which had been done and presented to the Minister included state commercialisation, cyber security, etc.

He indicated that in the short term, the work of the NACI was defined by the content in its APP. Those included the NACI’s webinar and round table discussion on local patents and technologies, the role of the national system on innovation, implementing the NHI, sovereign innovation fund, BRICS conference, etc.
He indicated that many of the Members’ questions were related to the work the entity planned to do in the medium term. There were six subcommittees within the Council, 1) renewal and repositioning agenda of the NACI; 2) monitoring and evaluation capability; 3) resourcing and capacitating; 4) communications and branding; 5) private participation and engagement and 6) transformation.

During the tenure, the NACI would also have several flagship projects, including the Africa Research Fund, which would engage with some entities, the science and innovation university, the sovereign innovation fund, the implementation of the hydrogen society roadmap, etc. In the longer term, the NACI was to be re-configured and to act as a national science and technology innovation monitoring and evaluation platform.

Dr Cele indicated that the entity could submit, in writing, a list of comprehensive advice to the Committee, which the NACI had submitted to the Minister since 1997. But he pointed out that the current legislation had not required the Minister to justify why the ministry had not accepted the NACI’s advice. However, it was an area that the Council was looking into. In the APPs of the last five years, there have been several advices, which had been provided including on water security, energy storage, the establishment of the sovereign innovation fund, regional integration of the renewable agenda, the assessment of the matric pass on maths and science, etc. He indicated that the Council would also be including the progress of what happened to its advice in its latest APP.

He explained that although the NACI was positioned within the Department, its actual reports were directed directly to the Minister as an advisory mechanism. That’s how the Council provided advice to the Minister. He informed the Committee that other Parliaments in countries such as Finland had different advisory mechanisms. The Finnish Parliament had the foresight advisory mechanism to enable the government to think ahead and plan. About where the NACI had to be posited, it was determined by legislation, the Members would have the power to decide. He indicated that one of the issues to be dealt with was how to deal with the National Planning Commission and the relations between the NACI and NPC.

The key question remained whether repositioning it into the Presidency would make it fulfil its mandates better. It could also draw experience from the Human Resource Development Council which was already within the Presidency. He indicated that the NACI’s responsibility was to advise, which was what it had done with the Department of Basic Education. It was up to the government to decide whether it would accept and act on the NACI’s recommendations. However, the NACI was committed to report on the progress through the SDI indicators. The NACI supported the view that the government had to think about ways to improve the performance of maths and science subjects.

 Although it had its views, Dr Cele thought that it would be the right platform to discuss the issue. He recalled a time when the question was asked whether the DSI had to be responsible for all science councils and the question remained unresolved. Although it would be easy for the NACI to submit advice to the Minister on the issue, relocating all those line functions would be an entirely different issue. Hence, the NACI had not yet advised the Minister about that because it would be for the Department to consider all the operational complexities that would arise after the change. He thought it would be premature to draw the dream list of what had to be included in the artificial intelligence strategy at that stage, but he would allow a stage to develop to enable more participation and for it to become more scientific.

Dr Cele stated that although establishing the Africa-wide Research Fund was a good initiative, the key would be about implementation. To that, he committed that the NACI would play its role to support the Minister’s drive towards the realisation of that initiative.

Speaking about public private partnerships, Dr Cele indicated to the Committee that the NACI’s overall interest now was to find ways to achieve that 1.5 percent which was the gross expenditure of R&D to 1,5 percent of GDP. The NACI had devised three instruments to engage with business as it wanted the private sector to come onboard to invest to start working towards that 1.5 percent target. However, he recognised and believed that the government had to also be mindful of the vested interest of those private sector investors.

He acknowledged that there were obstacles for the NACI regarding its structure, location, calibre of the Secretariat, etc. All of which made it difficult for the NACI to fulfil its mandate. However, the NACI was quite positive and optimistic that the consensus amending the legislation and the resource making would go a long way to address the obstacles.

Ms Khumalo concluded the NACI’s response by informing the Committee that the NACI would be having its first subcommittee meeting on the coming Friday to determine what would happen in the next 12 months for the entity. She committed that other questions would be submitted to the Committee in writing.
Responses from the DSI
Ms Gugulethu Zwane, DDG: Institutional Planning and Support, NRF, informed the Committee that the cabinet memo with the recommended candidate for the NACI’s CEO was with the DPSA and hoped that there would be some positive news. On the renewal process, she explained that at that moment, the Department reviewed the recommendations and allocated the DDGs the tasks which meant that each DDG was responsible for something in that process. The entire timeline would be a bit long as it would include the amendment of the NACI Act process, of which the legal team was of the view that it could take up from 18 months to two years. But within the Department, it had had certain deliverable steps and could update the Committee quarterly. The hope of the NACI was that the process would be finalised sooner.
On the amendment of Act, the Department had to look at the NACI’s location, its structure, the composition of Council as well as the expertise required from the NACI, the strengthening of the Secretariat, role clarification, etc. The Department was also looking at joint Initiatives between the NACI, the Council for Higher Education, etc. Although such discussions had not taken place yet, they would be underway once the roles and responsibilities were cleared.

On the 8.2% vacancy, she reported that there were 35 vacancies out of 426 staff members. However, the 35 were those vacancies which the Department had prioritised. The Department had to do it due to its organisational realignment process. Ideally, the Department would not want to fill those positions. But given the critical importance of those positions, the Department had applied for special permission from the DPSA to allow the recruitment process to unfold. The recruitment process was underway and the filling of those vacancies would commence right after the conclusion of the realignment process by Quarter Three.

On Cofimvaba Science Centre, a departmental official indicated that he had just notified the staff of concerns they had to investigate with the Eastern Cape Department of Education. Prior to establishing the centre, the Department had entered an MoU with the provincial department. The Department noted the comment made by Ms King and agreed with her that it had to use its assets effectively.

On infrastructure, the official indicated that the Department would send written comments to the Committee. He highlighted that since some infrastructural items were long-term investment, it was very difficult to set milestones as it would require ongoing investment in facilities etc.

Dr Muofhe acknowledged the detailed questions and appreciated the value of those questions.
He indicated that the DSI provided support for SMMEs through its technology stations. Furthermore, several small enterprises also were supported by TIA. He acknowledged that there was a risk in that it was natural that an institution or organisation would go with the agenda to someone who funded without an agenda. However, since the Department had an agenda, it was seeking funding from partners who had a mutual interest with the Department. The Department engaged partners based on the government’s foreign policy.

He confirmed that there was indeed budget coordination between departments as some departments had come forward to provide a budget for the work the DSI initiated. For instance, the DFFE had provided funding for the DSI’s oceans monitoring programme. Similarly, the Department of Small Business Development also provided funding for the small business initiatives the DSI started. He assured the Committee that the budget coordination across departments was beginning to take shape.
He clarified that informing the public of disastrous/extreme weather, such as floods and drought, lay with the weather service. But the Department had been working with every stakeholder, through CSIR, to offer the service and expertise. He informed the Committee that the DSI had been involved in the KZN flooding. However, he suggested they needed to formalise that partnership with COGTA so that there would be funding available at disposal and capacity being built at the Local Government level. Sometimes the conundrum was that there was no capacity on the ground to use certain equipment.

He indicated that energy was not a technology problem; it was rather a concoction of maintenance problem. He questioned the rationality of the suggestion to ration the science system. He decried the small budget that the DSI had been allocated. The Department’s R9 billion budget included supporting one of the biggest research councils on the continent, the CSIR. He expressed frustration that the limited budget was not even the size of an incentive budget in some governmental departments.

He commented on the issue of just transition, saying the principle was to change the country’s energy consumption at a pace without leaving anyone behind. He disagreed with some Members’ view that South Africa had to totally abandon its coal reserve whilst other countries, especially advanced economies, were buying coals to use for their energy sector. He pointed out that the export of coal to Europe had grown six times. Although he appreciated that we needed to move and incorporate renewable energy, it did not mean that we had to switch off coal-supplied energy completely. The rational way would be to carefully plan how much amount of coal had to be used by which year.

He agreed with Mr Yabo’s point that whether renewable energy would be accessible to everyone was a topic to be explored. For instance, he was uncertain about what it meant for local content. Otherwise, South Africa would just be importing content from Europe, and China and would not benefit its own. The Department was committed to working in the best interest of the country and the young people. He highlighted that for those nuclear energy or engineering graduates to find jobs, the country could not close PBMR, Space Agency, Eskom, etc.

Mr Robert Shaku, CFO, DSI, explained to the Committee that the Department complained about its limited budget due to 1) budget cut as a result of COVID-19 and 2) high inflation. The budget decline that the Members had seen resulted from the termination of the space infrastructural scheme, which was only for two years. As it came to an end, it resulted in the decline.

The Chairperson recalled the conversation around hydrogen energy and the hydrogen economy. She felt it unfair that developing countries had to be catching up with the energy of developed countries in terms of equity. She agreed with Mr Muofhe’s view on sustainability and that it had not meant to give up coal. She commented that the Committee was generally happy with the plans of the Department. The Committee recognised the importance of the impact, relevance, inclusivity, intersectionality of the work that was about to start. The Department had taken consideration of the Members’ inputs and implemented them. The Committee noted the great concerns around the budget. There was a need for the Committee to accelerate its advocacy in funding, particularly funding for students.

The Chairperson requested the NRF submit a breakdown of the funding shortage to the Committee. She indicated that the NACI’s advice to government could be zoomed into in the future. She indicated that people needed to be held accountable and that the investment the DSI had made, such as the science centre, had to yield its intended outcome and be maintained.

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Annual Performance Plan 2023/24
Dr Cassius Lubisi, Chairperson,HSRC, informed the Committee that the HSRC board had just appointed a new CEO at the end of October 2022. Since Prof Mosoetsa had to serve out her three-month notice period in her previous position, she was only able to commence her duty as the CEO recently which Dr Lubusi was also very pleased to introduce her to the Committee Members.

He provided the Committee with a structure of the presentation.

Prof Sarah Mosoetsa, CEO, HSRC, presented to the Committee with the Council’s 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan (APP).
The presentation covered the Council’s legal mandate, its five-year strategic plan which stretched to 2025, its planned performance, etc.
The HSRC’s planned outcomes included:

  1. National, regional and global leadership in the production and use of targeted knowledge to support eradicating poverty, reducing inequalities and promoting employment.
  2. A consolidated relationship of trust and influence with government to help guide and inform policy.
  3. Recognition as a trusted and engaged research partner within scientific communities and civil society.
  4. Transformed research capabilities.
  5. Sustainable income streams

The HSRC reiterated its promotion and capacity building for women, youth and persons with disabilities.
The information about the STI’s decadal plan and the District Development Model were provided to the Committee.

See attached for full presentation

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Annual Performance Plan 2023/24
Mr Vuyani Jarana, Board Member, CSIR, introduced the board of the CSIR and its executive team members. he indicated to the Committee that the CSIR would be focusing on commercialisation for the year. To do that, it needed to start working with provincial development agencies for patents coming out of the CSIR. The current main areas were data science and AI. Given the Council’s limited resources, it had to increase its efficiency in using the limited resources to its optimal outcome.

Dr Thulani Dlamini, CEO, CSIR, took the Committee through the entity’s 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan (APP). The Council’s legal mandate, strategic focus and key performance indicators were provided.
The Council’s programmes included strategic capabilities for local manufacture of pharmaceuticals, hemp and medicinal cannabis industries, 4IR skills development, and combat uniform and boots for the SA army.
The CSIR’s human resource plan was provided to the Committee.

See attached for full presentation

As the time was getting late and exceeded the originally scheduled time for the meeting, the Chairperson indicated that officials could respond to the Members’ questions in writing, but they had to adhere to the seven working day rule, and she would enforce that rule. She indicated that it became a concern to her that officials were often not responding to the Members’ questions in writing when requested.  

The Chairperson expressed her delight and support that women were taking the reign in the science and innovation sphere which historically had been predominated by men. She congratulated Prof Mosoetsa’s for her appointment as the CEO of the HSRC.  

She welcomed the target on community innovations which the HRSC was supporting. Since it was a new target, she wanted to know what that budget looked like for that performance target. She enquired about possibly employing Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS) practitioners into its cohort of senior researchers. She expressed her wish that the HSRC would consider employing more of them instead of exclusively being confined to its selection process within the Western-trained senior researchers and academics. She welcomed the prioritisation of young black women, as shown on slide 26 of the presentation.
She wanted to know more about the CeSTII measures which would track the local systems of innovation, whether it was about the general system, or the local system of innovation by the DSI, or systems of innovation which municipalities had already put in place and the HSRC just monitored its impact. She wanted to know the reason why the HSRC was registered for VAT.

Dr Boshoff wanted more information about the HSRC’s demographic analysis which showed that only 8 out of the 63 placements designated for white interns were placed. He wanted to know why they were not appointed or not pitched. How had the HSRC dealt with staff/students in last year? Were they students that could be employed, or going back to study? He noted that the skills exodus at the CSIR had been a recurring theme.

Though he had not wanted to engage on the issue of transformation, he was of the view that the focus on the indigenous knowledge system, not focusing on demography but on certain impactful businesses within the wider economy, might transform the economy rather than chasing quotas. He shared his concern about the non-growth budget but pointed out that the non-growth budget was not only for the CSIR but also for South Africa. He urged the CSIR to understand its instrumental role in exploring other avenues of potential for economic growth, as the country’s economic growth depended on institutions such as the CSIR. The Members, although not allocating further budget to the entity, expect the entity to perform more work and make a bigger impact with the limited budget.

He enquired about the CSIR’s royalties. He was certain that there had to be IPs or royalties which the CSIR owned in its 78-year history. He wanted to know if the CSIR would benefit from such royalty income, or if they just give away their IP knowledge so that people could benefit, and the reward would be in the form of economic growth. To whom had the CSIR provided its knowledge or IPs to? For instance, had the CSIR given its knowledge to someone with R10 million and wanted to start a small business, or had it been given to someone with no capital but great ideas?

Ms Sibiya welcomed the presentation. She asked the CSIR and the HSRC how they planned to fulfil their mandates and carry out the work, given that there was a decline in the parliamentary grant in their budget.

Ms King noted the CSIR’s ambitious outlook on embarking on commercialisation. However, she was concerned with the red tape around licensing. She told the Committee that she had personally spoken to someone who tried getting a product commercialised but was unable to do so because the process was full of red tape bureaucracy. She wanted the CSIR to propose any mitigating measures to address the red tape issue. She noted that the HSRC had made policy recommendations on the District Development Model and asked the HSRC to furbish the Members with views on that model in the Local Government sphere.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi appreciated both presentations and said she had worked at both entities. She requested the CSIR provide the Committee with a breakdown of the entity’s income derived from international companies and its income derived from the clinical work companies in South Africa had done. She said she was aware that some pharmaceutical companies had indicated their intentions to begin manufacturing here in South Africa, but she wanted to know how the water shortage challenge would be resolved given that there were interested pharmaceutical companies that wanted to invest in South Africa.

She commented that the CSIR was too important an entity to fail. She described the ageing infrastructure in the country as being worrisome. She wanted to know whether the CSIR had, within the huge number of IPs it owned, something that could guide the country to address the electricity or loadshedding issue.

Mr Yabo urged the HSRC to avoid the narrative such as “it wasn’t me since I had only been appointed recently” to avoid taking ownership of the responsibilities. He was of the view that any successor had to be well-informed of the memory of the institution which they were going to serve and own all responsibilities including the decisions that their predecessors made.
He noted that many commentators described the HSRC as a shadow of its former self. He described the entity as the brain of the country. Hence, he emphasised that the HSRC had to play a role in disseminating accurate and well-researched information into the public space. He was very disturbed by the number of lies circulated in the public domain about the state, the state of state, the general health of the country, etc. He believed that the HSRC had to play a role in rectifying false information. He further suggested that the Council do that by facilitating engagements between the public and the state.

He was of the view that the vast potential of the CSIR remained untapped. He indicated to the CSIR that the money issue could be discussed with the Committee Members and the Members would also find ways to assist the entity. He indicated that the Committee was on the entity’s side. Mr Yabo urged the CSIR to tap into other sources of revenue.

Ms Khakhau indicated that the Members always asked officials questions in good faith. Opposition party Members asked questions not because they were the opposition, the Members that were thought to love rembling, were doing that for the good of the country. She stated that for her, if something that smelt like misogyny equalled to disrespect which was something that she had experienced in her interaction with the leader of the delegation’s remark. She denied that she was being misunderstood and hoped that such incidents would not happen again.

She appreciated the HSRC’s appreciation of identity politics and noted it using the terms “male and female” instead of “men and women” in its presentation. It shows the HSRC’s sensitivity towards such an important issue. However, she also noted that there were no categories for Coloured and Indians in its intern selection. She pointed out that the pursuit of transformation, which she wholeheartedly supported, was about bringing everyone who was marginalised, including Coloured and Indian South Africans, onto the board.

She asked the CSIR how its tailing dam monitoring system differed from the system meant to be done by the national, provincial and district disaster management centres. For instance, the Free State had not had any of those. She observed that there were many duplications of work and asked the CSIR to review its work and examine whether some of the work that it had was duplicated.

Ms Mananiso appreciated the CSIR’s briefing on the topic of energy transition. She acknowledged the good performance of both entities, as shown by their audit outcomes. It showed that at least public servants truly understood the meaning of good governance. She wanted both entities to give the Committee their respective action plans on skills retention as it was a critical issue for both entities. She concurred with Ms King’s concern on the licensing issue and agreed that the red tape issue had to be addressed so that disadvantaged people could benefit from the process. She indicated that all those were done with the purpose of the transformation agenda so that the beneficiation process reflected the composition of the South African population.

She stated that there was no room for the Department to think about the actual percentages and how each demographic group had to be included as there was a law and policy framework governing those issues. But the aspect which she was concerned with was the implementation of such policy. For instance, if she was a disabled person, she would be offended by the 2 to 4 percent disabled population in one of the performance indicators whereas the policy clearly states that the percentage had to be 7 percent. She thus urged officials to adhere to those policies. She applauded the CSIR for the gender-specific uniform, which spoke to the transformation agenda. She described the meeting as fruitful and said they had taken each other to task. She commended the CSIR’s effort in promoting localisation which would benefit South Africans.

The Chairperson thanked all the Members for their inputs. Although the Members ideally would have wanted to engage with the entities further, given the time constraint, they would have to send those questions to the entities in writing. Those issues included procurement regulations which continued to persist, and the Members wanted to know the response of the National Treasury in denying the preferred service providers.
She asked the CSIR to review its duplication of functions vis-à-vis the doubling of effort. She noted that the CSIR had a technology commercialisation enterprise and wondered if it would not be like the work the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) did. The Members had not minded such duplication but wanted synergy to be there.

She requested the HSRC provide some progress on its audit finding from 2021/22 as there was a slight regression in its audit finding. She noted that the HSRC’s establishing of its Impact Centre focuses on the use of the impact of its own research and providing supporting mechanisms for collaboration, convening and communication of the HSRC’s work. She acknowledged the importance of that and requested a report on the progress. She reiterated that officials had to respond to the Members’ questions in writing within the seven working day period.

She summarised that the Members were concerned with the non-growth of the budget as she emphasised the important work those entities were doing and indicated that their work had to be aligned with promoting the interests and well-being of the citizens in the country. She commented on Dr Boshoff’s remark on the disaggregated data that it was not the Committee’s job to understand why white interns had not pitched and only 8 out of the 63 designated positions were placed. The aim was to understand the progress of the country’s transformation goal and inclusivity.

Mr Jarana thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present and undertook that the CSIR would respond to the questions in the seven-day period. He said that the entity was committed to executing its programmes. He emphasised the important role that the entity would be playing in leading society in the digital age where innovation had been centred.
Prof Leickness Simbayi, Deputy Chairperson, HSRC, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present. He expressed gratitude that the organisation’s plea had been heard and useful inputs had been made through such engagements. He undertook that the HSRC would respond to the questions in the seven-day period.

Dr Muofhe reiterated that those entities were the Department’s and the country’s assets. He appreciated the Committee’s support and reassured the Committee that those entities were doing their best for the interest of the country. He took note of the issue of the duplication of work. He clarified that the work of TIA and that of CSIR were different as the former focused on innovation, whereas the latter focused on commercialisation.

The Chairperson thanked the Department, the entities and all officials and then adjourned the meeting.

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