The Committee further deliberated on the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) Bill. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) briefly summarised the main objects of the Bill. Members questioned the year numbering, then went through the Bill clause by clause and agreed to adopt the Bill.
The Department of Science and Technology described the nomination process for the appointment of the National Research Foundation Board. It set out that the process had been open and transparent, with a public call for nominations being published in three newspapers, and a direct approach also to academic institutions. One hundred and seventy nominations had been received, narrowed down to ten. The Minister would make the final appointment. Members questioned the press in which the advertisements had appeared, questioned the gender composition of the Board, and sought the Department’s confirmation that it had been happy with the process.
Technology Innovation Agency Bill (the Bill): Department of Science and Technology (DST) Briefings
Dr Boni Mehlomakulu, Deputy Director General, Department of Science and Technology, summarised the purpose and functions of the Bill. She said that the Department had worked on the Bill for a year, and had gone through a very extensive public consultation process. It consulted most of the affected stakeholders who had responded to the call for public comment. The Bill proposed the establishment of a Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), which would be a funding agency that would attempt to close what was referred to as the innovation chasm, which was the gap between research performed at research institutions, including universities, and the commercial product and services resulting from that research. In South Africa such as innovation chasm had been identified, which resulted from a funding gap, a skills gap, and a culture gap. The Department intended, through the creation of this Agency, to put resources into the system that would form a bridging tier, and would to fund technology development to address the skills. It would also educate scientists about entrepreneurship and the benefits of commercialising technology. She explained that the Bill would articulate the powers, responsibilities and establishment of the Agency, and would also set out the powers and duties of the Board, the management, including the executive, and would deal with the purpose and functioning of the Agency. She did not go into great length, but noted that the presentation would cover the main points raised. The TIA was to be a juristic person.
The Chairperson noted that it had been decided, on broad consultation, that there was no need for public hearings, based on the consultations already carried out by the Department and the extent of involvement of the public. He asked Members if there were any issues to be raised before proceeding to deal with the Bill on a clause by clause basis.
Ms J Masilo (ANC) (North West) supported the Chairperson’s view that there was no need for public hearings.
The Chairperson read out the motion of desirability, and this was agreed to by the Committee.
The Chairperson then proceeded to go through the Bill, clause by clause.
Ms K Kgarebe (UCDP, North West) suggested that the Committee agreed that the year of the Bill should change, as it would be passed in 2008.
Mr M Sulliman (ANC,Northern Cape) wanted to know whether the Bill was written in 20007 or 2008, when it was presented to the National Assembly.
Dr Mehlomakulu said that the State Law Adviser had certified that the correct date would be 2007.
Ms P Ngema, Senior State Law Advisor, noted that the Bill was drawn in 2007 and this date was reflected on the Bill. The Act would be passed in 2008 and the Act would bear the 2008 date.
The Chairperson confirmed that this was correct.
The Chairperson read through each of the clauses from clause 1 to clause 18.
Members agreed unanimously to accept each clause.
The Bill was therefore adopted by the Committee.
National Research Foundation (NRF): Board Selection process
The Chairperson noted that the Department of Science and Technology had been asked to brief the Committee on the nomination process for the new NRF Board.
Ms Nozipho Buthelezi, General Manager: Governance, DST, said that the Department was confident that it had consulted broadly before coming up with a list of nominees for the Board. It was an open process. A call was issued in three national newspapers for nominations and there was also consultation with higher education institutions. In accordance with the NRF Act, the Minister was required to set up an advisory panel, and this was done. This advisory panel followed a specified criteria based on the Act. Proof of technical skills was a major criteria and there were also added criteria that took into account national priorities in terms of representivity of gender and race, and other general abilities in terms of management and financial skills. The Board had an oversight responsibility as “the eyes and ears of the Minister”. Ten members were proposed, of whom three were from the previous Board to allow continuity of work.
Mr Sulliman asked the Department if they were happy with the consultation and the process.
The Chairperson asked whether the Department was satisfied that the panel did a good a job.
Ms Buthelezi responded that the Department was happy with the process and believed that the panel was fair in carrying out its responsibilities, and it followed the set criteria.
Chairperson requested Ms Buthelezi to touch on the qualification of the nominees.
Ms Buthelezi referred the committee to page 2 of the letter from the Minister which had the qualifications of the members.
Ms Masilo noted that the Department wanted the Committee to endorse their decision, but noted that the Committee was not sure what had happened, and was not sure whether there had been gender parity.
Ms Buthelezi responded that the Department was of the view that the process was open and that it followed the legislation.
Ms Masilo said that she understood the process, but not the short listing process.
Mr Sulliman asked who made the final appointment.
Ms Mehlomakulu said that the Minister would appoint the Board, which would be chaired by the Director General.
The Chairperson wanted to know if, before the appointment of the Board, there should be interaction with Parliament, to inform committees as to what had been done and how many people had been interviewed, nominated and short listed.
Ms Mehlomakulu said that the Department had received one hundred and seventy CVs in the first phase and the panel shortlisted only ten.
Chairperson asked if there were any interviews.
Ms Mehlomakulu said there were no interviews. The panel screened the CVs and short listed ten.
Ms Kgarebe said she noted that the Department had advertised on the Mail and Guardian, Sunday Times and City Press. She asked why advertisements had not been placed in other press such as The Star, The Sowetan and Daily Sun.
Ms Mehlomakulu reiterated that the Department needed well educated people with specialised skills and did not see those newspapers as having the ability to reach the required audience.
The meeting was adjourned.
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