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TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
15 May 2007
AFRICAN INSTITUTE OF SOUTH AFRICA (AISA); NATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL ON INNOVATION (NACI) BUSINESS PLAN: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Mr. E Ngcobo (ANC)
Documents handed out:
National Advisory Council on Innovation Business Plan
National Advisory Council Presentation [please email firstname.lastname@example.org]
African Institute of South Africa Presentation
African Institute of South Africa Business Plan
Committee members met with representatives from the African Institute of South Africa (AISA) and National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI). AISA outlined its achievements during the financial year and the governance structure.
Some members felt that AISA does work that is already being done by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). Members also asked for clarity regarding the turbulent times at AISA. Members enquired about how the organization planned on increasing income, and comments were made on the quality of their publications.
Members asked NACI to comment on the ethical role of the council, and also to provide details on the cost of the external review. Members asked how they plan on contributing to the economic growth of the country; to provide details regarding the current research and development (RnD) expenditure; and whether the advice given to the minister regarding poverty actually works.
Mr S Nxumalo (ANC) enquired about the turbulence at AISA, and asked why AISA does work that is already being done by the HSRC. He asked AISA to comment the cost of resignations and provide clarity about when the permanent positions for senior management will be filled
Mr HSRC. There is however a strong motivation to continue with AISA, as the organization has a dedicated focus on what is happening in the continent. The problem was trying to assess the potential mandate of what is currently happening and members should look at the mandate of what AISA is trying to achieve, in order to justify reasons for AISA’s continuation. With regards to the filling of posts, there is s complement of researchers, there is work done with researchers who are not part of AISA, but have access to some of the facilities. The process of interviewing the new CEO and CFO posts is underway, and senior management positions are being advertised.
Mr P Bhengu (ANC) asked about the turbulent times at AISA.
Mr various problems regarding the Chief Executive Officers and the Chief Financial Officers and a number of audit issues. The issues were picked up by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), and AISA submitted a detailed response to the chairperson. All matters from that period have been dealt with, and a new appointed council has made it a priority that interest and dignity of institutions are upheld. Members should ask the Department of Science and Technology for further details.
The Chairperson stated that it would have been very helpful if the information was available before hand, and the Department should provide the details of what happened as soon as possible.
Ms F Mahomed (ANC) stated that it was good to hear that damage control had been done at the organization, however there is an error in the report which states an incorrect date for two high level conferences. It is important that members of parliament to be part of the conferences, so that oversight work can be done. With regards to research, the research did not focus on gender in the region. It is important for women to play a much bigger role in the organization. She asked AISA to state the reasons why the head of the organization was on leadership leave. Finally, she enquired why 33% of the budget had been spent on corporate services.
Mr Mr Mabuza said according to AISA’s budgetary process the corporate services were responsible for all the fixed costs that can not be redistributed. It is important to note that the organization is planning to improve all systems. The core services take the direct costs of doing the core businesses. With regards to the leadership office, the CEO’s office also includes the running of the costs the council, which includes travel expenses.
Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) asked how AISA plans on increasing its other income. How do they plan on increasing the consciousness of Africa at grass roots level, and improve the quality of their publications?
National Advisory Council on Innovation Presentation
The presentation was made by NACI members - Dr Nhlanhla Msomi (Executive Director) and Dr Ntuthuko Bhengu (Executive Director of Afrika Biopharma Investments) and Dr Philemon Mjwara ( (NACI CEO and Director General of the Department of Science and Technology).
mission and is advice to the Minister of Science and Technology
The presentation outlined the role of NACI; the achievements during the financial year, and governance structure. He stated that NACI was a statutory council that provided advice and input from the Minister of Science and Technology. NACI’s planning and advice is informed by an internal synthesis provided by experts in the NACI secretariat both internally and globally. NACI is in the process of completing all the targets that were processed in 2004 and will hopefully be packaged as advice to the minister. A new executive director has been appointed for governance structures, and the new budget increase will take into account the employment of new staff.
hasrendered advice to the Minister on its functioning and role and suggested
changes to the NACI Act. The external review will be used in considering
amendments to the NACI Act according to the minister.
Ms Mohamed asked NACI to comment on the ethical role of the council, and to provide details on the cost of the external review. She said that NACI should comment on the progress regarding the organization’s gender policy.
A NACI member replied that in terms of ethics and the external review, there are many overlapping areas. One contentious issue has been the area of Genetically Modified foods. Understanding biotechnologies is very important, and the understanding of underlying issues is the only way NACI can address ethical issues. In terms of the external review, the process allows the chair of NACI to give their view of how NACI has performed.
Dr Msomi added that there is a system of three internal reviews followed by an external review.
Prof Sagadevan Mundree (CEO: PlantBio Biotechnology Regional Innovation Centre) replied that gender policy was undertaken by the women’s advisory study. The document is currently in a discussion stage; however it still can be made available to Committee members.
Mr Bhengu stated that NACI should provide clarity on their area of specialization and also comment and provide a detailed explanation of the budget process.
Mr Msomi replied that the CFO was unavailable; however NACI was willing to provide detailed information surrounding the budgetary process.
Ms Ngcobo said that there was no continuity at NACI as people were constantly moving out. NACI should also provide details on what is happening in the provinces concerning innovation strategies.
Mr Msomi replied NACI has set up various innovation projects. It was discovered that in South Africa, innovation strategies that were in provinces were very primitive, and in some instances did not exist. Concerning continuity, the terms of members ends after four yrs, and some do carry on, the subcommittees are chaired by NACI members. Constant interaction is made with academics in the relevant positions.
Mr Van Zyl asked NACI to comment on the provincial innovation systems, and whether or not the white paper in which NACI operated on is still relevant after 11 years.
Prof I Mohamed (ANC) asked that in terms of Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (ASGISA), NACI should provide details on the progress that has been made on recruiting engineers from abroad. NACI should also provide details on how they plan on contributing to the economic growth of the country.
Dr Mundree replied that the world of science, engineering and technology are still very much male dominated industries. The issue is not whether women take up science and technology or stay home; it is a question of whether how effectively people are encouraged to take up that field and activity.
Mr Msomi replied that in terms of the review of the white paper the NACI council is not mandated to deal with the white paper questions, because the advice goes to the minister who deals with these issues. NACI, however, plans on looking at some of the gains and issues around the implementation of the white paper, as part of the DST’s ten year plan. In terms of ASGISA, one of the key projects that were undertaken by the council was to look at the human capital dynamics, the study has been completed and a model has been developed.
Mr Nxumalo asked NACI to provide details regarding the current research and development (RnD) expenditure; and the organization’s innovation strategy in terms of the relations between the government; private sector and the innovation of research institutions.
Mr. Simon Mpele (NACI representative) stated that in terms of economic growth, South Africa requested the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), to conduct a review on the national innovation systems, which is complete and is about to be published. One of the recommendations that were made discussed the engineering gap.
Dr Hermi Boraine (NACI Representative) said that in terms of impact of advice to the Minister is not quantifiable. NACI performed an impact physical structure report last year, where the scientific infrastructure of the country was looked at. The study was used as part of the DST’s ten year plan. NACI supports the open source software drive, which was advised by NACI in 2005. The impact of some of the studies has resulted in the availability of detailed information around gender, which was obtained from the NACI report. With regards to the RnD, the current RnD figure stands at R12 million.
Mr Msomi replied in relation to the advice to the minister around the issue of poverty, that there has not been a specific project, however one of the key thrusts of the OECD report focused on the second economy and NACI hopes to address the issue in the near feature.
The Chairperson stated that he believes that NACI is beginning to function better as an organization, however there is a lack of continuity in terms of planning, as every year a new plan is unveiled. Many things have not been addressed from the previous years, issues such as the Director General of a Department who is elected as the Chief Executive Officer of an organization that advises the minister. Issues regarding the act have to be looked into, as it is the act that probably prevents the organization from clearing some issues.
Mr Van Zyl stated that there needs to be an investigation into the reporting of the NACI index, as there are many problems regarding some of scientific innovation products.
The meeting was adjourned.
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