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SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
1 November 2005
BRIEFING BY NATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL ON INNOVATION (NACI) ANNUAL REPORTS
Chairperson: Mr E Ngcobo (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Summaries of NACI Reports [available at www.naci.org.za
Facing the Facts [available at www.naci.org.za, www.savg.org.za & www.dst.gov.za]
NACI Annual Report [available at www.naci.org.za]
The National Advisory Council on Innovation presented its 2004/05 annual report to the Committee. Topics discussed were the mandate of the Council, its focus, the advice that it provided, and a review of the financial statements and highlighted the future goals of the Council. It was agreed that the Council’s work had been sustained from the previous year, however Members felt that it would have been beneficial to have heard from, and had questions answered by the Chair of the Council.
Briefing by the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI)
Ms Luci Abrahams, Executive Council Member of NACI, briefed the Committee on the governances of NACI. The council met four times a year and the executive council met ten times per year, with sub committees meeting as needed. All actions and projects of NACI required the approval of the council and executive council. Advice was given to the Minister in the form of an advisory letter and summary report and it was up to him to decide on its approval. Expenditures were controlled through the Department of Science and Technology. The focus for the fiscal year 2004/05 report was to have strategic and operational rethinking of NACI’s mandate, priorities and procedures with a view to better advise the Minister and Government.
Ms Abrahams reviewed the strategic thrusts and priorities of NACI which included infrastructure for innovation promotion, a human capital and knowledge base, competitiveness, social dimensions of innovation, and advice rendering. She stated that NACI had a self assessment process that incorporated re-evaluating its priorities and assessing the NACI business plan against the setting of targets. The council of NACI adjudicated the assessment, and valued continuous improvement of projects rather then drastic revolutionary changes to NACI.
Ms Abrahams stated that three submissions had been sent to the Minister as advice. In chronological order, these had been on the mobility of research workers, the utilisation of research findings, and the impact of skills shortages in the construction industry.
NACI had had an independent assessor look at the 2003/04 performance, which had been found to be satisfactory, but nevetheless intensive strategic and operational rethinking had been put into the 2004/05 report. NACI had agreed to better align with national priorities and improve the position of women in the industry through a long term study which would monitor and evaluate the framework and performance of women.
Mr J Blanche (DA) asked why NACI wanted the equalisation of genders in science and technology. As this had been tried in other fields, he asked if it was not just a political ideology.
Ms Abrahams stated that the current levels of human resources were not sufficient and that NACI needed the growth of qualified individuals, both male and female. They required people who could promote change. They needed to build a better country, it was possible that there had been to much focus on hiring women, but broadly, they required qualified scientists.
Mr A Ainslie (ANC) wanted to know in absolute figures how much money would have to be spent in order to achieve the 1% expenditure on reconstruction and development that was projected. He also wanted to know what other resources NACI needed to ensure its longevity, He asked if NACI’s governing system was working for them.
Ms Abrahams replied that the business sector was the biggest contributor to NACI and it depended on government spending over the next five years to determine whether they would see an increase to the 1%. To achieve this increase NACI needed R1.3 billion. NACI was ensuring longevity by producing good research and advice. Their job was to justify future increments.
Ms Abrahams said that the governing system was not optimal but had been lived with successfully. Pursuit of governance did not limit or impact the quality of research or advice that NACI produced.
Mr V C Gore (ID) wanted clarity on the alignment of key priorities. He asked of what value the advice given to the Minister had been and how did they measure the impact of the advice.
Ms Abrahams stated that NACI would not blindly follow government priorities but NACI’s decisions with reference to projects needed to take into account government’s choices. On a macro-strategic level NACI referred to an alignment but was required to be independent.
NACI was involved in self assessments and always had to test the advice and actions that were taken. They also had to look at impact on a broader range, and for every study done, its impact was measured. The core function of NACI was to advise the Minister. In every case NACI gave specific solutions and it was not their job to interpret.
The Chair stated that he was disappointed that the Minister and/or the Chair of NACI were not present to give the report, because a lot of questions needed to be answered by them directly and Ms Abrahams was not in a position to answer these questions effectively.
The meeting was adjourned.
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