Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Business Plan for 2007/08

Science and Technology

27 March 2007
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


27 March 2007

Acting Chairperson: Mr E Ngcobo (ANC)

Documents handed out:
HSRC Business plan 2007/08 PowerPoint presentation

Audio Recording of the Meeting


The Human Sciences Research Council presented their strategic and financial objectives for the year 2007/08. They highlighted the need to rely financially on the parliamentary grant and to find a way around the parliamentary grant being taxed. The Committee asked questions about their research into poverty alleviation and HIV/AIDS. They agreed that a workshop should be arranged to brainstorm issues arising from the meeting.


The Chairperson opened the meeting extending apologies for Mr A Ainslie (ANC) who was critically ill and for three other members. He asked the Members and delegation to introduce themselves before the presentation.

The Members and delegation from the HSRC and the Department introduced themselves.

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) presentation
Dr Olive Shisana (CEO, HSRC) thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present to the Committee on their plans for the year. At the end of the year they will return to tell them what they have accomplished. The HSRC generates scientific knowledge in the human and social sciences. They are a non-partisan organisation. Strengths include the high quality of employees and their management. They are also strong in their infrastructure and geographic location. They plan to further strengthen the organisation by refurbishing their facilities, upgrading the IT facilities and growing the ties with higher education institutions. They want to enhance staff performance and morale through various initiatives including competitive salaries. They plan to ensure financial sustainability by relying more on the parliamentary grant. Transformation remains a focus and they hope to maintain their momentum in this.

She outlined their business objectives. Their major focuses were on unemployment (to assist Asgisa), improving education, skills, science and education, child youth and family, urban and rural poverty and development, democracy and governance, HIV and AIDS and knowledge systems. The Council has the opportunity to grow through the increasing grant from the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

Mr M Fox (Director of Finance, HSRC) presented the budget for the year including its PAITECS goals (Performance indicators). The proposed funding figures for the following three years were outlined including investments, grants and costs. He pointed out that salaries are the single largest cost items.

Dr Shisana pointed out that the parliamentary grant was taxed and they could not apply for tenders unless they pay this tax.

The Chairperson suggested another forum, like an economic meeting, for this issue.

Ms F Mahommed (ANC) asked for more details on their investment, asking how they see the return. She wanted to know a practical example of the overheads. Do they have specifics of what they are doing about the skills shortage for the Committee to look at? She asked for details of the Multi-country project.

Mr J Blanche (DA) asked about poverty, commenting that the country is in the same phase as in the late 1920s when there was a flu epidemic and depression. The Carnegie Institute led to the Department of Welfare and they got everyone active to counter this. The HSRC should look at poverty in every way and in all geographic regions.

Mr P J Nefolovhodwe (ASAPO) asked two questions relating to poverty. He asked if there was a link between child run households and poverty. What can the HSRC do to alleviate this apart from research it? If people are already doing something for poverty alleviation in their area, can the HSRC crate links with them to share expertise?

Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) said that he may have missed the detail, but in their strategy for staff morale boosting, what do they mean by relieving staff from getting external funding? He has a problem with the word PAITECS and asked what it stood for.

Prof I Mohamed (ANC) said that Dr Shisana always gave great presentations but was always cut short by time. The DST said they would get 1% for Research and Development and they seem even further away from reaching this. What research has been done on HIV/AIDS by the HSRC. His work in his constituency involves going to schools and talking about Maths. He heard that students can get into University even when they get a Maths symbol below a D. Could they explain the grade system? The health clinics in Kliptown are a problem with blocked toilets which pollutes the street. The HSRC should include this sort of thing in their research. There are lots of new houses but lots of flats that are too expensive remain empty. The tax issue must be highlighted in the Assembly and he will see to it that it is.

The Chairperson said that they should organise a workshop to brainstorm social issues in developing states.

Mr J Nyambe (ANC) asked how about how the HSRC organises its business. It used to have 6 programs and now has 5. Are they still managing to fulfil their objectives now that one program has been merged?

Mr S N Nxumalo (ANC) asked what the term of office is for the Council. He said that there are a lot of figures in the media about AIDS death numbers and even his 10 year old daughter calculated that there would soon be no people, could they explain this. Does the budget include funding from the Netherlands and the new salary benchmarks?

The Chairperson asked if there are relationships with other initiatives and can they co-ordinate with them? They should discuss all these issues in the workshop.

Dr Shisana said that the delegation would answer many of the questions.

Mr Fox said that the investment was with the CPD and there was a good return with little risk. They put the money back into the HSRC for refurbishment. The overheads are due to the running of 3 offices in the country. The Netherlands funding and salary benchmarks are included in the budget.

Ms M Altman (Special initiative for employment, HSRC) said that the skills deficit is dealt with through internships and DST grants for capacity building with young scientists. There are very few black economic graduate students. They will work on this. Things are different now to how they were in the 1920s. We have surveys and national population information. There are many poverty alleviation initiatives.

Prof A Habib (Democracy and Governance, HSRC) said that poverty is a primary focus of the research at the HSRC. They are, for example, researching the impact of 2010 and children. They have just published a report that citizens are the biggest funders of poverty alleviation after the government and this is mostly through religious institutions.

Dr T Masilela (Policy Analysis Unit, HSRC) said that they work with research programs and they are not duplications.

Dr Shisana said that they must talk to treasury and SARS about the tax issue. DST has been very helpful in applying to them. They do a lot of research into child led households especially in AIDS related studies. The research in AIDS involves children and understanding the high infection rate in them and the factors that cause this. They have investigated and found that the government strategies to counter this have not helped and have fed this back into the DOH HIV/AIDS strategic plan. They are developing an initiative for poverty alleviation called ‘going to scale’ to help children. They are looking at the programs that were successful in Latin America.

Prof M Khan (Knowledge Management, HSRC) said that 1% sounds low, it is part of the Lagos Declaration and they are trying to meet this. It will not always be 1%. It was 0.7% in the 90’s and now it is 0.87%. In the last 4 years it has doubled. They are moving forward but not fast enough.

Dr Shisano said that the term of the Council was 4 years. There are about 900-1000 deaths from AIDS each month and the same numbers of babies are born every month. This is why the population does not deplete itself.

The Chairperson thanked everyone and said they must look at a workshop. The meeting was adjourned.


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