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SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
06 November 2007
ACADEMY OF SCIENCE & TSHUMISANO TRUST ANNUAL REPORT 2006/7 BRIEFINGS
Chairperson: Mr G Oliphant (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Academy of Science of South Africa Presentation
Academy of Science of South Africa Annual Report [available shortly at www.assaf.co.za]
Tshumisano Trust Presentation
Tshumisano Trust Annual Report [available at www.tshumisano.co.za]
Audio recording of meeting
Members met with representatives from the Academy of Science of South Africa and the Tshumisano Trust The Academy’s presentation outlined the key objectives of the Academy, the various programmes in place, the financial results and the challenges faced. Tshumisano’s presentation outlined the organisation’s strategic intent, the developments of the technology stations, and the financial year performance 2006/7.
Members sought clarity from the academy on the ranking of academics and asked whether there was a criterion in which academics were ranked. Members also sought clarity on the measures that had been placed in order to increase the involvement of women in the sciences. The Academy was also asked to provide comment on the level of mathematical literacy in schools and what was being done to improve youth involvement.
Members sought clarity from Tshumisano on the capacity of the various technologies that had been developed, and asked whether it was possible to measure a country’s capacity in relation to the technology that was available. Members also asked for clarity on the organisation’s relationship with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Department of Trade and Industry. Members asked for comment on what parliament could do to limit the use of imports and to improve South Africa’s textile industry and felt that the Committee needed to sit down with the Department and focus on issues with regard to the textile industry.
Academy of Science of South Africa (the Academy) Annual Report 2006/7 Briefing
Prof Wieland Gevers, Executive Officer, Academy of Science outlined the key objectives of the Academy, the various programmes in place, the financial results and the challenges faced. He summarised that the key objectives of the Council included the promotion of common ground in scientific thinking across all disciplines, and encouraging innovative and independent scientific thinking. The Academy faced many challenges during the financial year. These included the implementation of recommendations of the 2006 Report on Research Publishing in South Africa. Other challenges included the maintenance of a basic model of volunteer service on Academy panels. With regard to finances the Academy received an unqualified report from a team of independent auditors. In the future the Academy hoped to link South Africa with other scientific communities within Africa.
The Chairperson congratulated the Academy on achieving an unqualified report; however he stated that the presentation should have focused more on the emphasis of matter raised by the Auditors, as the Committee needed to understand the challenges.
Prof Gevers replied that the infrastructure that the Academy had depended heavily on the amount of work the organisation was given to do, and on ongoing donor support. The Academy did not have fees for the volunteers who took part in the studies, and planned on negotiating to commission work from government departments who were seeking solutions to problems.
Mr P Nefolovhodwe (Azapo) sought clarity on the ranking of academics and asked whether there was a criterion on which academics were ranked. Clarity should also be provided on the rural representation on the augmented committee of academics
Prof Gevers replied that the rural representation in the augmented sciences was inadequate, as there were a limited number of volunteers who came from the rural communities. The Academy had been looking at ways of addressing and working on rural representation, and would even ask members who were not part of the Academy to volunteer. With regard to ranking, he said that the panel would look at how many times the academic was cited in other journals. If a journal was not widely read or cited, then the journal was seen to be of poorer quality. A good readership and extensive citation, on the other hand, would be an indicator of success.
Ms F Mahomed (ANC) sought clarity on the measures that had been taken in order to increase the involvement of women in the sciences. Clarity should also be provided on the steps that had been taken to address climate change and ensure youth development and job creation.
Prof Gevers replied that the Academy was making every attempt to involve women, and was very committed to increasing women’s advocacy. The Academy was willing to help wherever it could, and he urged the committee to consult the Academy’s website in order to track the developments. With regard to climate change, the Academy was keen on exploring the topic further. With regard to youth development, the Academy had many younger members, and there were new organisations being formed that provided greater opportunities for young scholars and graduates. In terms of job creation, the Academy was to undertake a study on how a postgraduate degree could help contribute to the growth of the economy in terms of job creation.
Mr C Morkel (PIM) asked for clarity on the organisation’s ten year plan, and how it was developed and rolled out.
Prof Gevers replied that the organisation was very much pledged to the ten year plan and planned to increase the production and quality of scholarly journals as part of this plan
Mr Dithebe sought clarity on how the organisation planned on redeveloping its website.
Dr Xola Mati, Chief Operations Officer, Academy of Science, replied that the Academy aimed at developing a user friendly website which focused on the day to day activities of the Academy.
Mr A Ainslee (ANC) asked whether the organisation was in danger of duplicating research and whether there were any measures in place to monitor the organisation’s impact. Clarity should also be provided on the election of the Council.
Prof Gevers replied that there was no duplication in that the Academy did not do research, but reviewed the evidence that had been published and tried reach a consensus on what was the best way forward. With regard to the monitoring impact, all the projects had an in-built self regulation system, which was also monitored externally. The Council was appointed under the Act. There were 13 members who sat on an elected council which served for two years, following which there would be new elections.
Mr J Blanche (DA) stated that the teaching systems at school level needed to be improved in order to create high quality scientists.
Prof Gevers stated that these issues would be studied in more detail when the Academy undertook the impact study of postgraduate qualifications in job creation.
Prof I Mohamed stated that there was a problem with the Academy’s gender representation. Comment should also be made on the level of mathematical literacy in schools.
Prof Gevers stated that the Academy took the issue of gender representation very seriously, and was looking into the matter. The Council was considering forming a committee on the enhancement of maths and science education, which would be aimed at addressing the various problems.
Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) asked whether the organisation experienced any attendance problems in the councils. Clarity should also be provided on whether the Department of Science and Technology had engaged with the book of recommendations that had been published by the Academy. Comment should be provided on the progress of indigenous knowledge and whether South Africa was in line to achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets.
Prof Gevers responded that the council had full quorums, and more than half of the members had attended meetings. With regard to the reports, the Academy had had two full interrogations with the Department on the report, and would not rest until the Department had fully interrogated the report.
Tshumisano Trust (Tshumisano) Performance for 2006/7: Briefing
Dr David Phaho, CEO, Tshumisano Trust, in his presentation outlined Tshumisano strategic intent, the developments of the technology stations and institutes for advanced tooling and its financial year performance for 2006/7. He stated that the Tshumisano’s strategic intent was to be within reach of every Small, Medium & Micro Enterprises (SMME) in all nine provinces in South Africa. Tshumisano had set up technology stations all over the country, which offered support to SMMEs across the country. Some of the challenges faced during the financial year included the establishing a footprint in under-served provinces, and the mismatch between service demand by SMMEs relative to Trust’s capacity to supply adequate interventions. During the financial year, the overall Tshumisano expenditure ratio was R52 million of which 50% was spent on technology stations. In future Tshumisano hoped to improve competitiveness through the production of world class products, production technology and services.
Mr Nefolovhodwe sought clarity on the capacity of the various technologies that had been developed, and asked whether it was possible to measure a country’s capacity in relation to the technology that was available.
Dr Phaho replied that the technology was demand driven. This was seen as a great advantage to the economy. The technology developed was meant to improve regional and economic growth. However in order to ensure growth and increase capacity, infrastructure needed to be developed in poor and under-serviced areas.
Ms Mahomed stated that Tshumisano had indicated they had stations in the clothing and textile industry. Clarity should be provided on the technology stations and what was being done to address the challenges there.
Dr Phaho stated that there were many challenges faced in the industry, and many factories were closing down, mainly due to cheaper imports from countries such as China. Tshumisano would help SMMEs in finding uptake within the clothing industry. However, similar to the factories, the SMMEs were also experiencing shut-downs. Tshumisano planned on building a world class centre in which many of the SMMEs would be trained in producing high quality products.
Ms Mahomed sought clarity on the measures that had been taken in order to increase the involvement of women in the sciences. Comment should be made on why operation and administrative expenditure only amounted to 9%, and also on what was being done to motivate the youth.
Dr Phaho replied that Tshumisano had a number of women run businesses that it planned to assist. Many people still did not know about Tshumisano, and Tshumisano was looking into finding ways of making the organisation better known to communities. Tshumisano believed that youth involvement was very important, as the youth needed to be seen as making a contribution. Tshumisano had various programmes targeted at the youth. However, he conceded that the organisation could do much better in increasing the opportunities that had been made available for the youth.
Dr Phaho explained the 9% expenditure. Globally it was generally felt that 15%-20% was regarded as adequate expenditure, but Tshumisano believed that the money was better spent on improving the technologies and had therefore cut down on the administrative expenses.
Mr Morkel asked for clarity on the organisation ten year plan, and how it was developed and rolled out. Clarity should also be provided on how the organisation planned on supporting SMMEs in becoming job creators.
Dr Phaho replied that the ten year plan was seen as the way forward. With regard to the SMMEs there needed to be a balance between efficiency and technology. This would include improving the quality of products, which would hopefully end up being exported.
Mr Dithebe stated that the technology stations were important to the growth of the economy. He asked for input on the organisation’s role in facilitating the technological drive.
Mr Ainslee stated that during the previous financial year there was concern that there was an insufficient number of SMMEs. It seemed that Tshumisano had finally reached its targets in the current financial year. Clarity should be provided on whether there were any measures in place to assess the organisation’s involvement with the SMMEs, and whether there was a targeted figure related to the number of contractors.
Dr Phaho replied that Tshumisano’s input was on technologies. Tshumisano would identify the technology needs of the SMMEs and inform them about the technologies they would need in order to grow. However it was up to the entrepreneur to come up with innovative ways of efficiently using the technologies in order to maximise job creation. One of the challenges he was trying to address was to highlight what Tshumisano did, and persuading the SMMEs to come to the technology centres for advice. Some of the measures in place involved going to the SMMEs and obtaining information, which was in turn reported to the board. With regard to the targets, he said that many of the SMMEs tended to come to the organisation only when they were in trouble. This caused a mismatch in that it removed some most of Tshumisano’s resources from other matters in order to bail out the SMME contractors.
The Chairperson asked for clarity on the organisation’s relationship with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
Dr Phaho replied that the CSIR and Tshumisano both formed part of the CEO’s forum. The forum was aimed at enhancing institutional collaboration. The relationship with the DTI was very lucrative and there was a high level of collaboration that took place. Tshumisano also collaborated with South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and was also trying to break down barriers that existed between the various agencies.
Mr Blanche sought clarity on what parliament could do to limit the use of imports and to improve South Africa’s textile industry.
Dr Phaho replied that government should urge South African companies to support SMMEs instead of opting for cheaper imports. There were various government agencies that were supposed to be helping SMMEs and government should bring the agencies to account in order to make sure that they promoted the SMMEs.
Prof Mohamed stated that the clothing industry had been destroyed. He then sought clarity on whether the pharmaceutical industry mentioned in the presentation would be based on indigenous knowledge. He asked for clarity on how the organisation planned on tackling poverty.
Dr Phaho replied that Tshumisano looked at what DST did in order to enhance expertise and address issues such as poverty alleviation. The issue of pharmaceutical products and the poverty alleviation were raised as part of DST’s grand challenge. Tshumisano’s impact was through the development of well branched SMMEs.
Ms Ngcobo sought clarity on the extent to which the organisation was working with people with disabilities in the SMMEs. Comment should be provided on the issues of waste management and water conservation.
Dr Phaho stated that the organisation was not doing enough in aiding people with disabilities. However it was doing all it could to encourage SMMEs to employ people with disabilities. The organisation also planned on offering incentives to SMMEs to employ people with disabilities. With regard to waste management and water conservation, Tshumisano’s technology stations could look at manufacturing better systems for rural communities, and he felt that all institutions could do better in addressing the plight of rural communities.
Mr Blanche stated that the Committee needed to sit down with the DST and focus on issues with regard to the textile industry.
The meeting was adjourned
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