Human Sciences Research Council Bill: deliberations

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Meeting report

EDUCATION AND RECREATION SELECT COMMITTEE
24 October 2007
HUMAN SCIENCES RESEARCH COUNCIL BILL: DELIBERATIONS

Chairperson:
Mr B Tolo (Mpumalanga; ANC)
Acting chairperson: Ms J Masilo (Northwest; ANC)

Documents handed out:
Human Sciences Research Council Bill [B 16B-2007]
Astronomy Geographic Advantage Bill [B 17B-2007]

Audio recording of meeting

SUMMARY
The Committee deliberated upon certain clauses of the Human Sciences Research Council Bill. Concerns and questions of clarity were raised on Clause 5(3), which was to be amended to reflect that the consultation should be with “parliament” and further by reference to “at least two national newspapers”. Clause 5(7) should also be amended to refer to parliament. It was agreed that there was no need to define the word “demographics” in clause 5(5). Members commented on the quorum in clause 7(5) but agreed to leave the clause in its present wording. It was clarified, in regard to clause 14, that the Department was preparing legislation to protect the work of traditional healers as intellectual property. Clarity was given on the application of the Public Finance Management Act, either alone or in conjunction with conditions on donations. It was clarified that the regulations envisaged under Clause 17 were not of a nature that would require the consent of parliament before publication.

MINUTES
Human Sciences Research Council Bill

Members raised concerns on specific clauses of the Bill

Clause 5(3)
Mr M Sulliman (Northern Cape, ANC) expressed concern about the fact that clause 5(3) stated that the Minister could appoint members of the board in consultation with the National Assembly.

Ms F Mazibuko (Gauteng, ANC) responded stating that the clause was to be amended to read that the Minister could appoint members in consultation with the parliament, meaning both houses. Members of the committee concurred with the suggestion.

Ms Mazibuko also proposed that the words “at least” should be inserted into line 43 before “two national newspapers”. The committee agreed with this suggestion

Clause 5(7)(b)
Mr Sulliman mentioned that he was concerned about the fact that that the word parliament was absent from the clause and that the Minister only needed to inform “the National Assembly” if he or she decided to remove a member of the board. The Committee agreed that the clause needed to be amended so that there was reference to parliament, instead of only to one house. Therefore the Minister must inform the National Assembly and NCOP if he or she decided to remove a member of the Board and the reasons for that decision should be stated.

Clause 5(5)(a)(i)
Mr M Thetjeng (Limpopo Province, DA) asked what the word “demographics” meant as used in this clause.

Ms Refilwe Mathabathe, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, stated that the word was used to refer to the gender and racial composition of the citizens of the republic.

Mr Thetjeng then asked whether it ought to be defined in the Bill.

Ms Mathabathe responded that a definition would have been provided if the intention had been to deviate from the original or dictionary meaning of the word. It was not necessary to define this word as there was no deviation from the ordinary meaning.

Clause 7(5)
Ms Mazibuko asked whether it should not be stated explicitly what would be a majority in the context of a quorum. She elaborated that perhaps the majority needed for a quorum should be specified as 51% or 66% of the members of the board present.

Ms Hala Sangoni, State Law Advisor, replied that the answer to this was found in Clause 7(6), which stated that the person who presided over the meeting had a casting vote should there ever be an equal split of votes by members of the board.

Ms Mathabathe disagreed with the opinion of Ms Sangoni. She said that the reason why the word majority was used in the clause was that the Bill did not provide for an exact number of members of the board; therefore it would be difficult to say that it had to be a specific number. If the board consisted of seven members, at least four members had to be present for a quorum. She said a board would usually have between six and nine members, therefore all that was needed is a simple majority.

The Chairperson agreed that only a simple majority need be reached.

Mr Thetjeng stated that the discussion then led him to question what was written in clause 5(2)(b), and whether this should perhaps not be amended, as it stated that the board must consist of not less than six, and not more than nine members. He wondered if, to avoid deadlock, the Board should consist of not less than seven members.

The Chairperson stated that if there was a deadlock of even numbers, the Chairperson had the casting vote, an additional vote used to break the deadlock.

The Committee agreed to leave the wording in clause 7(5) as it was.

Clause 14
Mr Sulliman stated that since sangomas and traditional healers were recognised in South Africa he wanted to know how they were protected in the realm of intellectual property. He was prompted to ask the question because he was aware of some traditional leaders being opposed to sharing their experiences with others.

Mr Vela Mbele, Department of Science and Technology, responded that clause 14(6) referred to research which may impact the work of traditional healers. He said that the department was preparing legislation on intellectual property bill and this would deal with the protection of the work done by traditional healers.

Clause 15(3)
Ms Masilo, now in the position of Acting Chairperson, sought clarity on clause 15(3).

Ms Mathabathe stated that if the donor did not set conditions, the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) would automatically applied to the Council because it was a public entity. When the donor imposed conditions, those conditions and the PFMA are to be applied.

Ms Mazibuko noted that clause 4(2)(c)(ii) stated that the council must, in respect of any other services rendered by it in terms of the Act, make financial arrangements with the concurrence of the Minister of Finance. However, clause 15(3) stated that the money received by way of donation had to be utilised in accordance with the conditions set by the donor. She questioned how the notion of concurrence with the Minister featured in the latter clause.

Ms Mathabathe responded that clause 4(2)(c)(ii) meant that when the Council applied for funding it should involve the Minister, so that when the conditions were imposed the Minister would have an opportunity to negotiate on the conditions.

Ms Mazibuko questioned whether the Council, which was a public entity, would not be vulnerable to manipulation by outside elements which dictated the conditions for giving donations. She questioned whether the influence of the donor should not be limited.

Ms Sangoni responded by stating that when a donor parted with money, which was to be used in a certain way, it would usually set conditions. If it did not, National Treasury would make sure that the money was handled properly.

No alterations were made to the clause.

Clause 17
Ms Mazibuko questioned whether the regulations should not be made in consultation with parliament.

The Chairperson stated that under normal circumstances regulations would be published in the Government Gazette, therefore everyone had the opportunity to go through them, and, if dissatisfied, could contact the Minister with regard to the matter.

Ms Mathabathe stated that regulations brought to parliament would normally be those which dealt with delegation of power. Where regulations were ordinary in nature, then parliament would not normally require to approve those regulations before publication. This, she felt, was an instance where the Minister should not have to go back to parliament.

The meeting was adjourned.


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