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SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
21 June 2005
NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT RATIFICATION: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING; NATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL ON INNOVATION: ANNUAL REPORT BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Department briefing on Non-Aligned Movement ratification
Summary of Briefing by NACI on its Annual Report 2003 – 2004 (see Appendix 1)
National Advisory Council on Innovation (see Appendix 2)
National Advisory Council on Innovation: 1997, Act 55
National Advisory Council on Innovation Annual Report 2003-2004
NACI Annual Report 2003 – 2004: PowerPoint presentation
The Department briefed the Committee on the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and explained the importance of international co-operation in science and technology in the developing world. South Africa would benefit from membership of the NAM Science and Technology Centre that facilitated this co-operation. Subscription cost US$10 000 per year and the Department asked that the Committee to promote Parliament’s ratification of membership. After Members raised concerns about the ethical implications of joining the Centre, the Department countered that existing legislation provided for their concerns. This satisfied the Committee and they recommended that Parliament authorise the country’s membership.
The National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) then presented its Annual Report. NACI was a legislatively constituted body whose core function was to present the Minister of Science and Technology with advice on innovation.
The Committee was not impressed by NACI’s Annual Report. They said it was unsystematic, did not demarcate the jurisdiction of the Department and NACI and some very important issues were not included. Other topics discussed included: low level unemployment, the difference between technologists and engineers, the number of engineers and South Africa’s spending on research and development.
Lastly, the Committee adopted its draft Programme for the Parliament third session, and the programme for their study tour in August 2005.
Department briefing on Non-Aligned Movement ratification
Ms Nozibusiso Madolo (Department Director of Multilateral Co-operation) presented some background information on the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). The NAM was a multilateral, transnational organisation of states with differing ideologies and purposes, brought together by the need for equity and justice. Its Chairperson rotated and South Africa assumed this position in 1998 after joining in 1994.
As one of the technologically advanced countries in the developing world, South Africa’s participation in the NAM Science and Technology Centre would serve as an extension of South Africa’s foreign policy.
The Group of 77 affirmed the very important role of Science and Technology in increasing collaboration among countries of the South, as well as for economic development.
The NAM Science and Technology Centre had been in existence since 1989 and was hosted by the Indian government in New Delhi. The aim was to promote co-operation between scientists from the developing world. It was a ‘clearing house’ for information and the promotion of technology transfer. Some of their work included workshops on microelectronics, pesticides and the role of science centres.
South Africa would benefit from participation in the NAM Science and Technology Centre as one person per country would get full financial support to attend a workshop organised by the Centre. There was also the Young Scientists Lectureship Awards that would facilitate the exchange of lectures between countries. There would also be various courses to attend and publications and information available. The membership fees would be US$ 10 000 per year.
The Minister made a presentation earlier this year and recommended that Cabinet approve South Africa’s acceptance of membership to the NAM Science and Technology Centre. Should the Committee support this membership, the Department would tabled a resolution in the National Assembly and then the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Foreign Affairs would draft a document for ratification. This would be presented to the government of India, as the host of the Centre.
Mr Ainslie (ANC), referring to the annual membership fee, asked if National Treasury had approved the expenditure. Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) said South Africa would benefit from the membership, so the money would not be a problem. Ms Madolo said they had made provision for membership fees in their Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). The Department would pay for the membership.
The Chairperson said that he remembered that the proposal was tabled during Parliament’s previous term – what had been the problem? Ms Madolo said it had never been submitted to Parliament.
Professor I Mohammed (ANC) was concerned about the ethics problem that had not been mentioned in the document the Department circulated to the Committee. There was no real legislation against cloning. There could be a problem that people would conduct such research in Africa. He asked if there were any provisions for ethical oversight.
Ms Madolo said that the members of the NAM Science and Technology Centre would also be members of other organisations, bound to an ethical code. In South Africa, the National Health Act prohibited cloning. It was highly unlikely that there would be unscrutinised research.
Professor Mohammed did not know of an approval by Parliament of an ethics organisation. He wanted documentation on an ethics organisation. Ms Madolo replied that there was no overall ethics body, albeit that there were plans in the Department to develop ethics. Professor Mohammed wanted to see a copy of the ethics code of the Department of Health. He accepted that they were given the assurance that no unethical procedures would be done, but it should have been covered by legislation.
Mr Blanché suggested that the Committee leave it and pass it later.
Mr Sello Sithebe (Department Ministerial Advisor) said the concern had been covered from a legal point of view. Mr Ainslie said it might not have been the case and that Mr Sithebe’s answer did not help.
Professor Mohammed was quite happy to accept the assurance given by the Department and willing to go ahead. Mr Blanché said that they were satisfied about the legal and health aspects, and should also be satisfied about the ethics. Ms Madolo said she would be happy to forward information on the National Health Research Committee and ethics on cloning to the Committee.
The Chairperson said that the proposal would not have come to the Committee had there been loopholes in it. Mr Blanché reminded the Committee that there would not be a debate about it in Parliament, so the Committee should not adopt it because of exhaustion. They should make sure that the ethics were "satisfying"; otherwise he could not support its adoption.
The Chairperson said the Department should bring the required information to the Committee before they would adopt the report.
Ms Madolo later returned to the Committee with the National Health Act. She read Section 57, paragraphs (1), (3) and (4) of the Act to the Committee. She focused on the section dealing with the National Health Research Ethics Council. The Chairperson said that was the information they needed. The Committee adopted the report on the NAM Science and Technology Centre and recommended that the Assembly approved the ratification instrument.
National Advisory Council on Innovation briefing
Professor Thsilidzi Marwala, representing the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI), said the institution had been founded in 1996 because of an indisputable correlation between innovation and economic growth. NACI was provided for in the NACI Act, 1997. Their main function was to advise the Minister of Science and Technology on matters pertaining to innovation.
The Annual Report was the culmination of the work of the first Council. It had been approved by the second Council and the Minister. It was a portfolio of their studies from 1999 to 2004 and included an overview of NACI’s first term, embedded in the highlights of the first decade of democracy. NACI’s outputs consisted of research advice, reports, conferences and seminars, and awards. Their plan was to present six advisory reports, but they only managed to present three: a performance audit of NACI, science and technology facts and figures, and an advanced manufacturing strategy. They reached their target of six reports and three awards, but only delivered four conferences and seminars where their target was five.
Mr Tjaart van der Walt (Manager: Financial Accounting, Department of Science and Technology) said NACI’s initial budgetary allocation was R6.25 million, but their revised allocation was R5.47 million. Their actual expenditure amounted to R5.46 million. Mr Van der Walt remarked that their expenditure on consultants was much less than other government departments.
Mr Charles Mokonoto, NACI secretariat, presented slides indicating that South Africa’s expenditure on research and development, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, has risen since 1997 to a figure of 0.8%, which was better than Malaysia and Argentina, but lower than Spain, China and others. The business sector had the highest expenditure on research and development, followed by the government and higher education institutions. Women represented 38% of researchers in South Africa; only Argentina and Russia had a higher percentage.
Professor Marwala said 2003/2004 had been a successful year and their Chairperson would approach the Committee for an opportunity to brief them on NACI’s new strategic thrusts and programme.
Mr Ainslie asked if their research themes were also covered by other research agencies and if there was duplication in the research done by NACI and other agencies. Dr Bok Marais (head of NACI’s secretariat) said NACI had commissioned research as they did not have the capacity to do research themselves. With the limited resources at their disposal overlaps might occur, but not duplication.
Mr Ainslie asked what the differences between engineers and technologists were. He also saw that the Annual Report indicated that the number of engineers had dropped. Professor Marwala answered that technologists were people trained at institutions formerly known as technikons and engineers were people trained at universities. The engineers accounted for in the report were registered at the Engineering Council of South Africa; thus their figures only reflected the registered engineers, and not everyone trained as an engineer.
Mr Mnyandu asked how NACI promoted inventors. Professor Marwala replied that NACI was an advisory body to the Minister. They would not advise inventors, but would advise the Minister how to stimulate invention.
Professor Mohammed said NACI’s report was deficient in many ways. He was concerned that the increase in technologists and engineers could lead to the loss of lower level jobs. Professor Marwala said the move to a technological industry was inevitable due to international competition. It might have an impact on employment, but it would increase the overall wealth of the country.
The Chairperson said the report was very "unsystematic". It lost the idea of what NACI was supposed to be. They were supposed to advise the Minister. Professor Marwala agreed that the report was unsystematic. The report consisted of the CEO and Chairperson’s writings, and the other things included in the report were to provide evidence, or show what they wrote about. He assured the Committee that their requests would be included in future reports.
The Chairperson said there was no demarcation between the Department’s Director-General and the Advisory Council. They had to form a team and the Committee wanted a proper report the following year. Professor Marwala said the relationship between the Chief Executive Officer of NACI and the Director-General was a legislative provision. The Act’s design made it very difficult to differentiate. The report was old; the current membership of NACI was elected in 2004.
Dr Marais said the report has been approved at a meeting of the previous Council. Referring to Professor Marwala, the Chairperson said it was an irregularity to be addressed by someone not in the report. Dr Marais said the definitions of the Act meant that their CEO would be the Director-General of the Department. They tried to handle the matter in a non-conflict of interest manner. The Chairperson mentioned the possibility of amendments.
The Chairperson was concerned about some very important things that were not included in the Annual Report, such as indigenous knowledge systems. He was very dissatisfied with the report. Professor Marwala said he did not have the specifics on indigenous knowledge systems.
Mr Ainslie said the core function of NACI was to advise the Minister. He was concerned that they were spending too much time on other things. They had delivered only three research papers to the Minister.
Mr Blanché said since 1997 there had been an increase in expenditure on research and development, but the levels of 1991 had still not been reached, and the country had better employment then. Many innovations had come from South Africa because the government spent money on research and development. He would like to see that NACI showed the Minister what would happen if they did not spent enough money on research and development. He would like to see more money spent in this regard.
Professor Mohammed said there had been an increase in people getting technical training, but the problem was lower down. The educational problem should be solved, and he expected NACI to say so. The impression was that there was a decline in what was being taught in schools regarding maths and science and NACI should point this out to the Minister. The Chairperson understood this point. He said there should be a national conference on the issue. He did not want cosmetic changes in the science sector, but radical changes.
The Chairperson said the NACI report had many loopholes. They should address this and come back to the Committee when it was completed.
The Chairperson emphasised that the third term programme could still be revised. The Committee adopted the tentative programme for the third term.
The Committee’s study tour would take place between 1 and 19 August 2005. The programme initially scheduled for the second week of August would move to 3 September. This week could then be used for training. The Committee adopted the programme. They also agreed not to arrange any events for the second week of August to allow Members to catch up with other activities.
The meeting was adjourned.
PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
SUMMARY OF BRIEFING BY NACI ON ITS ANNUAL REPORT 2003 – 2004
Tuesday 21 June 2005,11
To brief the Portfolio Committee: Science and Technology on the Annual Report of NACI for 2003 - 2004 and to respond to any questions that the Committee may have.
Prof. Marwala (Councillor), Dr Marais, Mr Mokonoto (NACI Secretariat) and Mr Tjaart van der Walt (DST)
1. The 22 members of Council (part time; business: 8; HE: 7, science councils: 4, government: 3) are appointed by the Minister (2004 - 2008) to advise him on matters pertaining to innovation. The support staff of the secretariat is provided by the Department of Science and Technology. The budget is also supplied and administered by DST.
2. The activities of NACI are guided by an approved Corporate Business Plan and all initiatives (e.g. publications, studies, conferences) undertaken by NACI are structured in terms of explicit terms of reference and projects plans and are on the bases of these approved by the Council.
3. The Annual Report 2003 - 2004 represents the culmination of the work of the First Council but was approved by the Second Council - the Minister of S&T subsequently approved it.
Content of the Annual Report
1. The report is embedded in highlights of South Africa's first decade of democracy.
2. NACI had planned for 20 substantive initiatives in the financial year 2003 - 2004 and completed 16 of them successfully (see #3 below); all were kept within budget (see p. 18) 2.1. Six reports (6)
2.2. Six advice memoranda (3)
2.3. Five conferences (4)
2.4. Three awards (3)
3. A small number of initiatives were suspended by the First Council to enable the new incoming Second Council opportunity to consider them anew. These initiatives have in the course of 2004 - 2005 been reactivated.
4. The financial year was concluded with a saving of R13, 684.82.
1. The Annual Review received very favourable coverage in the print media (a copy will be tabled at the meeting) 2. The cost of the Annual Report was R41 468. 3. The Chair will shortly approach the Portfolio Committee to request an opportunity to brief members on the recently approved priorities and programme for the next two years.
INNOVATION COUNCIL'S REPORT PACKS A HARD-HITTING PUNCH
March 15, 2005
By Renee Bonorchis
What must be the smallest annual report ever printed in South Africa was tabled in parliament this week- but it packs a powerful message that we are seriously lagging behind our competitors when it comes to innovation and research and development (R&D).
Published by the National Advisory Council on iNnovatton (sic), the A5-sized report is not only compact but is also well designed and to the point This is something some other government departments and entities, which sometimes publish the most dreadful waffle, could well emulate- and probably at half the price of their glossy A4, andsometimesevenlarger.annual reports.
Established in 1998, the council falls under the new department of science and technology, which was formed last year by separating out the science and arts components of the previously unwieldy grab-bag of odds and sods called the department of arts, culture, science and technology.
The National Advisory Council on iNnovation has a minute staff complement and a modest budget ofaboutR6 million, with one of its main roles being to advise the department of science and technology on key trends and issues relating to our scientific, engineering and technological prowess. It also consults on the human capital South Africa would have to develop to remain globally competitive.
But the statistics the National Advisory Council on iNnovation provides make ft abundantly clear that both the government and the private sector, never mind our universities and technikons, are not spending nearly enough time and money on R&D or training. In terms of gross expenditure on research and development, we lag well behind China. In both South Korea and China industry spends far more on R&D than we do, while our number of researchers and registered engineers is truly abysmal.
President Thabo Mbeki and several of his ministers appear to have caught on to this in recent months and are making noises about doing something about it Hopefully, their actual response will not be as bite-size as the National Advisory Council on iNnovation report. Effective as the report is, we need public-private sector intervention in this crucial area on a much larger scale. LL
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