The Committee was briefed by the Department of Science and Technology on their annual report. Due to time constraints the Chairperson asked the Department merely to gloss through the report quickly and prepare for further engagement during the next sitting of Parliament. Issues raised for discussion at the next engagement included the need to have a comprehensive look at poverty alleviation through application of science and technology, the problems with the Sumbandila satellite project, under spending on the budget, and the failure to reach set research and development spending targets.
Annual Report 2007/08: Department of Science and Technology (DST) briefing
Mr Dan Moagi, Deputy Director-General: Operations, Department of Science and Technology, apologised for the absence of the Director-General, who was in Russia, dealing with the Sumbandila Satellite issue.
Mr Moagi noted that the key objectives of the Department of Science and Technology (DST were derived from the White Paper on Science and Technology, and the various programmes were informed by the White Paper, the National Research and Development Strategy and the Ten-year Innovation Plan.
Mr Moagi then briefly described the various programmes, stating that there was more detail contained in the attached document. He outlined the achievements of Corporate Services and Governance, stating the need to assess the department’s investments. He noted that Key Performance Indicator (KPI) reports were done and available, and furthermore the unqualified audit received from the Auditor-General reflected good attention to “housekeeping issues” within the Department.
The Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) programme provided policy leadership and played a role in developing strategic institutional arrangements in order to drive research and innovation. The service delivery achievements of the RDI were alluded to. These included the establishment of the South African Space Agency (SASA) interim office and the approval of The Technology Innovation Bill. Negotiations were under way with Russia in order to finalise the Sumbandila Satellite project.
Achievements in the International Cooperation and Resources, Human Capital & Knowledge Systems and Socio-economic Partnership programmes were also outlined.
Mr Moagi stated that 99.5% of the budget was spent, and he provided a breakdown of programme spending. He noted again that the DST had received an unqualified audit.
Mr Moagi added that the vacancy rate was at 11 %. He then stated that performance of entities reporting to the DST was also contained in this document but that he would not go through them due to time constraints. In conclusion, he stated that most of their targets were met.
The Chairperson asked how much the 0.5% of the unspent budget translated into, in actual figures.
Mr Moagi replied that it was approximately R16.9 million, adding that R7 million should have gone to the South African Engineering Organisation SAVI, but that this had not been done due to unsatisfactory progress on their part.
The Chairperson added that as only ten minutes remained it would be fruitless to engage in extensive questions. He added that there was a need for the Department to return to have further engagement with the Committee, especially on the key performance indicators and the associated institutes’ reports. He also said that there was a need for further engagement on MeerKAT and poverty interventions.
The Chairperson asked for any other comments from the members.
Prof I Mohamed (ANC) stated that it was rather alarming that Research and Development had not reached the 1% target yet, as Members had been told that this would have occurred within a year or two from the determined inception of the target.
Mr A Ainslie (ANC) stated that the reports over the years were saying less and less with regard to the application of science and technology to poverty alleviation. He stressed that the Committee needed to take a more detailed look at this. Furthermore, a more honest report about the entities reporting to the DST was needed, as there was no reference to any problems in this report. Mr Ainslie also said that he needed to know what the exact problem with Sumbandila was.
Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) stated that DST should also account for the 0.5% unspent budget
The Chairperson asked for a fuller report on these issues, reiterating that Members and the Department would engage at a later date.
The meeting was adjourned.
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