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SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
6 September 2005
COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT VISIT REPORT AND PROGRAMME: ADOPTION
Documents handed out:
Committee Programme (available shortly at Committee Reports)
Committee oversight visit report (document awaited)
The Committee adopted their favourable report on recent oversight visits to various science institutions. Members raised issues surrounding unemployed graduates, poverty alleviation, the organisations’ budgets, and promoting science and technology among children.
The Committee adopted a revised programme for the fourth term from 10 October 2005, which incorporated reviewing the Annual Reports of various accountable institutions. Members also suggested holding more debates on GMOs, and a possible conference on the topic after the local government elections.
The Chairperson said the Committee would have to deal with Annual Reports in the fourth term. The reports had to be in by the third week of October and the reports from the Committee by the first week of November. They would therefore have to change their programme. They would look at the Annual Reports of seven entities, including the National Research Foundation (NRF), Human Sciences Research Council (HRSC), and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The Chairperson proposed a new draft programme, which was adopted by the Committee.
Oversight visit to scientific institutions
The Chairperson said the oversight visits to various institutions across the country had been very productive, and educational and technologically informative. They have also learned much about the problems facing organisations, such as human resources issues.
The Committee had found the visit to, among others, the SA Large Telescope (SALT) in Sutherland, Rhodes University, iThemba Laboratories and the Council Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) very informative and useful. However, there were some related issues they still wanted to address.
Mr R Ainslie (ANC) was concerned about unemployed graduates. Mr B Mnyandu (DA) said people with PhD degrees had very high expectations. This should be discussed in the context of South Africa’s high unemployment rate.
Mr Ainslie said they had to take a close look at how plans for poverty alleviation had been working. There seemed to be a duplication of effort and resources among the organisations they had visited.
Mr Ainslie asked if the organisations were getting the budgets they needed. Professor I Mohamed (ANC) was concerned about Rhodes University’s budget and felt the university should "push" their coelacanth programme more. Professor Mohamed had also raised the issue of iThemba Laboratories’ budget with the previous Minister, who had not wanted to spend more money there.
Mr P Nefolovhodwe (AZAPO) said children needed more exposure to scientific institutes and innovations. Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) said the issue should be raised with the Department of Education.
Mr Nefolovhodwe said the Committee should deal with the management and transformation issues raised at visited organisations.
Mr Mnyandu said the work of iThemba Laboratories seemed academic in nature. They Committee should table topics for discussion to streamline iThemba and give them direction in line with that of the Government.
Mr Mlangeni had been pleased to see black people heading certain departments and developing in the field of science and technology. He hoped their work would contribute to poverty alleviation.
Mr Mlangeni said the previous National Party government had to be congratulated for creating these institutions. The present government and future governments should ensure that these institutions would be developed and financed.
The Chairperson suggested that the Members raise problems with the Minister as questions in the National Assembly.
Committee Secretary’s Minutes
The Committee Secretary’s minutes of 30 August 2005 were adopted with amendments. Mr Ainslie asked if replacements for the terms "pro-GMO" and "anti-GMO" could be found, as these terms oversimplified the issue. The Chairperson said longer phrases should be used.
Members also suggested holding more debate on GMOs, and a possible conference on the topic after the local government elections. They also agreed to debate issues at meetings following briefings.
World Science Forum
The Chairperson reminded the Committee of the World Science Forum in November 2005. The Deputy Department Director-General dealing with their international programme, would brief the Committee on 1 November 2005.
The meeting was adjourned.
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