The Deputy Minister was welcomed to the meeting. The Committee debated the amendments being proposed to the Technology Innovation Agency Bill. Members probed the listing of the Technology Innovation Agency, its role, and whether the CEO should be represented on the Board. The Committee scrutinised the transfer of assets and liabilities from South African Inventions Development Corporation to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The Department and legal drafters were requested to tighten clauses 17 and 18, as Members would then conduct a clause-by-clause deliberation at the next meeting.
Introductory Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed the Deputy Minister to the meeting. He thanked the Committee section. Parliamentary Law Advisors and Members for consistently engaging on this legislation. This commitment enabled the Committee to accelerate the finalisation of the Bill. Furthermore, he announced that there were no major disagreements on the Bill because the majority of amendments were consequential in nature. The most noteworthy of the substantive amendments was in clause 18 (4)(a), which stipulated that all the assets and obligations of South African Inventions Development Corporation (SAIDCOR) would vest in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and no longer in the Technology Innovation Agency (the Agency) as initially planned. Finally, he invited all participants to offer general or specific comments on the Bill.
Mr S Farrow (DA) sought clarity on the proposed hybrid listing of the Agency. He asked whether the Committee should legislate for this, or work under the assumption that the Department of Science and Technology (DST) would resolve its negotiations with National Treasury.
The Chairperson clarified that the Committee did not have to legislate for “specifics”. Furthermore, he stated that the Department would continue to negotiate with Treasury and then report to the Committee on the outcome of these discussions. Lastly, he added that Clause 2 of the Bill was sufficient because it made the Agency subject to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
Mr Farrow observed that the Committee intended to repeal the Inventions Development Act, as set out in Clause 17 of the Bill. He cautioned Members to guard against any unforeseen consequences that could emanate from this action.
Ms F Mahomed (ANC) noticed that the some of the numbering was “problematic” in the Bill. She considered that perhaps the Committee needed to tighten up the clauses dealing with the funding of the Agency.
Mr A Ainslie (ANC) voiced his support for the Bill. He commended the Department for considering and reflecting the views of the stakeholders and the Committee in the new version of the Bill.
Mr Johan Hattingh, Group Manager: IP and Technology Transfer, CSIR, did not raise any objections and supported the transfer of all the assets and liabilities from SAIDCOR to CSIR.
Ms Refilwe Mathabathe, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, argued that the portion of clause 6 (c) – reading “or is appointed as a permanent delegate to the NCOP by a provincial legislature” was superfluous and should be deleted. She reasoned that a Member of Parliament could include both a member of the National Assembly and a permanent delegate appointed to the National Council of Provinces.
Hon Derek Hanekom, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, contested this argument and said that a separate process was involved when delegates were appointed to the NCOP.
The Chairperson concurred with Ms Mathabathe’s position on this matter.
Mr Farrow interrogated whether the CEO of the Agency would become an ex officio member of the Board. He would prefer that this position be occupied by a department official, which he pointed out would be similar to the Road Accident Fund and Civil Aviation Authority. Lastly, he questioned whether ex officio would mean not having voting rights.
The Chairperson countered that it would make for good corporate governance if the CEO was a functionary of the Board. He also disliked the idea of having someone from the Department represented on the Board, owing to reasons of independence and interference.
Mr Farrow insisted that the Department’s presence on the Board would enhance accountability and provide guidance. Moreover, this would enable the official to track policy and take back the requests of the Board.
Mr S Dithebe (ANC) responded that the Agency was subject to the PFMA, which ensured adherence to several rigorous requirements.
Mr P Nefolovhodwe (AZAPO) said that he was not convinced by Mr Farrow’s argument for having a department official as an ex officio member of the Board. He concluded that the Department could use the Shareholders’ Compact to hold the Agency to account.
Mr S Nxumalo (ANC) identified that clause 11 (4), which made the CEO accountable to the Board, covered all the concerns raised by Mr Farrow.
Ms Bongiwe Lufundo, Senior State Law Adviser, Office of the Chief State Law Adviser, confirmed that the CEO was a functionary of the Board and looked after its interests and management. She clarified that an ex officio member indeed had voting rights, unless stated otherwise.
Dr Boni Mehlomakulu, Deputy Director-General, DST, revealed that the Department had spent a substantial amount of time debating the issue of the Board. It was decided that the Board should be independent and that the Department would use mechanisms like quarterly reports, annual reports, meetings and the Shareholder Compact to keep informed about what was happening in the organisation.
The Chairperson instructed the Committee section and Parliamentary Law Advisors to check the consequential amendments, and also to tighten clauses 17 and 18. Members would study the Bill clause-by-clause and vote on it the following week.
The meeting was adjourned.