ATC201016: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology on the consideration of the Financial and Non-Financial Performance of the 2019/20 Second, Third and Fourth Quarters; and the 2020/21 First Quarterof the Department of Science and Innovation, Dated 13 October 2020

Higher Education, Science and Technology

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology on the consideration of the Financial and Non-Financial Performance of the 2019/20 Second, Third and Fourth Quarters; and the 2020/21 First Quarterof the Department of Science and Innovation, Dated 13 October 2020

 

The Portfolio on Higher Education, Science and Technology, having considered the Financial and Non-Financial Performance of the 2019/20 Second, Third and Fourth Quarters; and the 2020/21First Quarter of the Department of Science and Innovation, reports as follows:

 

  1. Introduction

 

Section 5 of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act (9 of 2009) (hereafter, the Money Bills Act), as amended by Act 13 of 2018, requires the National Assembly, through its committees, to annually assess the performance of each national department. This culminates in a committee submitting a Budgetary Review and Recommendation (BRR) Report where the committee may make recommendations on the forward use of resources to address the implementation of policy priorities and services, as the relevant department may require additional, reduced or re-configured resources to achieve these priorities and services.

 

To give effect to the requirement of Section 5 of the Money Bills Act, the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology (hereafter, the Committee), on 26 August 2020, considered the 2019/20 second, third and fourth quarters and 2020/21 first quarter financial and non-financial performance of the Department of Science and Innovation (hereafter, the Department) against the Department’s predetermined objectives and targets.

 

  1. Department of Science and Innovation

 

  1. 2019/20 Financial and Non-Financial Performance

 

The 2019/20 financial year represented the final year of the 2014 – 2019 Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and Vote 30: Science and Technology pertained to the Department of Science and Technology as constituted before the Cabinet was reconfigured.

 

The Department’s 2015-2020 Strategic Plan directed its efforts and resources to the following five strategic outcome-oriented goals:

  • Goal 1: Responsive, co-ordinated and efficient National System of Innovation (NSI) – build on previous gains to create a responsive, co-ordinated and efficient NSI.
  • Goal 2: Increased knowledge generation – maintain and increase the relative contribution of South African researchers to global scientific output.
  • Goal 3: Human capital development – increase the number of high-level graduates and improve their representivity.
  • Goal 4: Using knowledge for economic development – derive a greater share of economic growth from research and development (R&D)-based opportunities and partnerships.
  • Goal 5: Knowledge utilisation for inclusive development – accelerate inclusive development through scientific knowledge, evidence and appropriate technology.

 

Over the medium-term and in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), the Department would use its budget allocation to produce new knowledge, use this knowledge to stimulate economic and social growth and development, develop human capacity, fund research and innovation, and fund the acquisition and provision of infrastructure. The Department’s budget allocation increased by R192.6 million from R7.8 billion in the 2018/19 financial year to R8.151 billion in the 2019/20 financial year. This denoted, when adjusted for inflation, a real decrease of 2.6%, a trend that had persisted since 2016/17.

 

In terms of economic classification, the apportionment of the Department’s 2019/20 budget allocation of R8.1 billion remained the same as in previous years and comprised Current payments of R635.3 million (7.8%), Transfers and subsidies of R7.5 billion (92.2%) and Payments for capital assets of R2.7 million (0.03%). Programmes 2, 4 and 5, received 93.5% of the Department’s total budget allocation.

 

The Department’s 2019/20 budget allocation decreased by R4.8 million (Table 1) with the October 2019 budget adjustment process due to Programme 1: Administration declaring this amount as unspent funds on compensation of employees in its Institutional Planning and Support sub-programme. Furthermore, virements and shifts were effected within economic classifications and Programmes. These comprised:

  • R10.3 million taken from Goods and services property payments in Programme 1 and allocated to Programme 5: Socioeconomic Innovation Partnerships for transfer to the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) for building maintenance under the Innovation for Inclusive Development sub-programme. This increased the 2019/20 transfer to the HSRC to R324 million.
  • Within Programme 2: Technology Innovation, R20 million was moved from Innovation Projects Research to the Space Weather Centre, increasing the 2019/20 allocation from the Economic Competitiveness and Support Package for Space Science Research to R50 million. This change reduced the total allocation to Innovation Projects Research to R15.3 million. Furthermore, the R31.7 million allocation of the South African National AIDS Council was moved to the South African Medical Research Council (social impact bond on HIV, and sexual and gender-based violence against adolescent girls and young women), increasing the allocation to Health Innovation Research to R82.8 million.

 

Table 1: Vote 30: Science and Technology - 2019/20 Adjusted Appropriation

Programme

2019/20 Appropriation

(R’ thousand)

Total adjusted

2019/20 Adjusted appropriation

(R’ thousand)

1. Administration

380 282

(15 093)1

365 189

2. Technology Innovation

1 224 305

 

1 224 305

3. International Cooperation and Resources

149 008

 

149 008

4. Research, Development and Support

4 572 935

 

4 572 935

5. Socioeconomic Innovation Partnerships

1 824 439

10 300

1 834 739

Total

8 150 969

(4 793)

8 146 176

Economic Classification

 

Current payments

635 271

(15 093)

620 178

Compensation of employees

380 466

(4 793)

375 673

Goods and Services

254 805

(10 300)

244 505

Transfers and subsidies

7 513 025

10 300

7 523 325

Departmental agencies and accounts

5 605 144

10 300

5 615 444

Public corporations and private enterprises

1 541 908

 

1 541 908

Non-profit institutions

365 973

 

365 973

Payments for capital assets

2 673

 

2 673

Machinery and equipment

2 673

 

2 673

Total

8 150 969

(4 793)

8 146 176

Source: National Treasury, 2019 Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure

1Numbers in brackets indicate reductions

 

  1. 2019/20 Second Quarter – 1 July to 30 September 2019

 

Overall, the Department had spent R4.1 billion (50.3%), against a projection of R5.6 billion, of its total 2019/20 budget allocation. The underspending was mainly attributed to Programmes 4 and 5 where the slow processing of transfer payments and delays in project payments were primarily due to administrative delays and the late submission of progress reports to the Department by its public entities and various service providers. The Department’s expenditure on compensation of employees stood at R160 million against a projection of R180.1 million. The staff comprised 385 (328 in Quarter 1) employees against an approved establishment of 392 employees, this translated to a 2% vacancy rate.

 

The Department achieved 19 (76%) and did not achieve six (24%) of the planned 25 performance targets.

 

Programme 1: Administration- Spent R135.8 million of the intended R146.6 million. The underspending was primarily driven by the delay in payment for the National Intellectual Property Management Office’s(NIPMO) Review Panel.

 

Programme 1 achieved three of its four planned performance targets for Quarter 2. It did not achieve the target set for tabling the first draft of its 2020 Annual Performance Plans.

 

Programme 2: Technology Innovation- Spent R469.6 million of the intended R504 million. The lower spending was primarily driven by transfers and subsidies due to the Department waiting for quarterly progress reports from the Agricultural Bio-economy Innovation Partnership Programme (ABIPP) and the Space Propulsion project of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. In addition, there were delays in the implementation of Phase II of the National Space Programme and in the submission of proposals for the International Moringa, Medical Cannabis, Coach Lab Technology Transfer and Cosmeceuticals Symposium.

 

Programme 2 achieved one of its two performance targets for Quarter 2. It did not achieve the target set for instruments funded in support of knowledge utilisation, where it funded seven as opposed to eight instruments because the payment could not be effected since TIA had not spent 90% of the funds.

 

Programme 3: International Cooperation and Resources- Spent R56.1 million of the intended R88.1 million. The underspending was primarily driven by the delays in the finalisation of the bilateral agreements with partner countries and donor agencies, which in turn delayed spending on hosting delegations from the respective countries.

 

Programme 3 achieved three of its four performance targets for Quarter 2. It intended to occupy two leadership positions by South Africa in internal science governance structures. However, confirmation had not been received for one appointment.

 

Programme 4: Research, Development and Support- Spent R2.6 billion of the intended R3.7 billion. The underspending was mainly on transfers and subsidies to Strategic Science Platforms. Payment for the Global Change Research project could not be processed due to financial statements not being received from the implementing agency.

 

Programme 4 achieved six of its eight performance targets for Quarter 2. It did not achieve the targets set for:

  • Awarding bursaries to pipeline postgraduate students, funding 7 756 of the planned for 8 100 students.
  • Awarding research grants to researchers, funding 2 557 of the planned for 3 500 researchers.

 

Programme 5: Socioeconomic Innovation Partnerships- Spent R881.1 million of the intended R1.2 billion. The underspending was mainly driven by delays in processing payments for the Aeroswift and Collaborative project in additive manufacturing due to capacity constraints. In addition, the work plan was sent back to the implementing agency due to the unsatisfactory quality of the work plan and the contents of the agreement contract. Moreover, the business plan for the Research Information Management System (RIMS) project and annual report for the Titanium Centre of Competence were received late from the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), respectively. Hence, the transfers to the two implementing agencies were withheld.

 

Programme 5 achieved six of its seven performance targets for Quarter 2. It did not achieve the target set for providing preapproval decisions for the Research and Development Tax incentive within 90 days of receiving the application. None of the 31 applications received between April and June 2019 received decisions. An additional (new) step, where the Department’s legal team needed to vet submissions, and ongoing capacity constraints continued to hamper the Department’s progress in this performance area.

 

  1. 2019/20 Third Quarter – 1 October to 31 December 2019

 

At the end of Quarter 3, the Department had spent R6.4 billion of the intended expenditure of R5.6 billion, which translated to a 16.3% faster than projected expenditure. The faster than projected spending was mainly attributed to Programme 4 due to the processing of payments for the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR) project, National Integrated Cyber Infrastructure System, Science Engagement and Marine and Palaeosciences Research Strategies. Cumulative spending on compensation of employees amounted to R245 million, against a projected spending of R249.4 million.

 

The Department achieved 19 (70%) and did not achieve eight (30%) of the planned 27 performance targets.

 

Programme 1: Administration- Cumulatively spent R211 million of the intended R275.5 million. The underspending was mainly due to delays in the processing of invoices for office building refurbishments, procurement of laptops and printers and payments for international travels.

 

Programme 1 achieved all three of its performance targets for Quarter 3.

 

Programme 2: Technology Innovation- Cumulatively spent R991.6 million of the intended R1 billion. The underspending was mainly due to the Department withholding transfers for the development of the Hydrogen Strategy owing to an outstanding external validation of the 2018 financial statements; outstanding invoices for the Innovation Bridge event and payments to the Bio-Energy Atlas, Nanotechnology Innovation Centres and Bio Portal and Rice Cultivar projects.

 

Programme 2 achieved all four of its performance targets for Quarter 3.

 

Programme 3: International Cooperation and Resources- Cumulatively spent R94.2 million of the intended R97.1 million. The underspending was mainly driven by delays in submitting financial and milestone reports by implementing intermediaries for the Global Science project.

 

Programme 3 achieved three of its seven performance targets for Quarter 3. The four targets that were not achieved were:

  • Securing R19.9 million of the intended R80 million in international funding for science human capital development programmes and research infrastructure.
  • Securing postgraduate international training programmes for 10 of the intended 80 South African students.
  • Collaborating with 25 of the intended 50 international partner organisations.
  • Facilitating seven of the intended 10 international technical exchanges.

 

Programme 4: Research, Development and Support- Cumulatively spent R3.8 billion of the intended R2.9 billion. The overspending was mainly under transfers and subsidies due to payments made towards the implementation of the SARIR project, National Integrated Cyber Infrastructure System, Science Engagement and Marine and Palaeosciences Research Strategies.

 

Programme 4 achieved three of its five performance targets for Quarter 3. It did not achieve the targets for:

  • Awarding bursaries to pipeline postgraduate students, funding 8 506 of the planned for 9 500 students.
  • Awarding research grants to researchers, funding 2 831 of the planned for 4 000 researchers.

 

Programme 5: Socioeconomic Innovation Partnerships- Cumulatively spent R1.3 billion of the intended R1.2 billion. The overspending was mainly on transfers and subsidies owing to the late processing of payments that could not be honoured in the previous quarter as the business plan, performance reports or financial statements were outstanding. These include among others, delaying the information and communication technology modernisation projects because the Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research (CAIR) did not submit a business plan, and the failure of the Local Manufacturing Capacity Technology Stations Programme to produce credible financial forecasts.

 

Programme 5 achieved six of its eight performance targets for Quarter 3. It did not achieve the targets for:

  • Producing statistical reports and policy briefs, where one of the intended three reports was approved for publication.
  • It did not achieve the target set for providing preapproval decisions for the Research and Development Tax incentive within 90 days of receiving the application.

 

  1. 2019/20 Fourth Quarter – 1 January to 31 March 2020

 

By the end of the Quarter 4, the Department had spent 98.9% of its total allocation, i.e. R8.053 billion of R8.146 billion (Table 2). The accounting authority for the Department approved the shifting of R91.1 million between various Programmes within the 2019/20 financial year. At 31 March 2020, the staff comprised 384 employees. The underspending was mainly attributed to:

  • Programme 1: Suspension of filling vacancies due to the transitional measures from the 5th to the 6th National Administration, including the macro-organising of the State.
  • Programme 2: The Department withholding transfers for the development of the Hydrogen Strategy and the Social Impact Bond owing to outstanding progress reports.
  • Programme 3: A decrease in the uptake of European Union-funded projects by South African institutions.
  • Programme 4: The cancellation of some international trips.
  • Programme 5: The delays in contracting a service provider for the online Research and Development Tax Incentive System as a result of disagreements on the “limitation of liability clause” and the delay in the start of the Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property (IP) survey.

 

Table 2: Budget and expenditure summary as at 31 March 2020

Source: National Treasury, 2020. 4th Quarter Expenditure Report, 2019/20 Financial Year to the Standing Committee on Appropriations

 

The Department achieved 35 (76%) and did not achieve 11 (24%) of the 46 performance targets for Quarter 4. The performance per Programme was:

 

Programme 1: Administration -Achieved four of its five performance targets. It held one of the three planned public participation programmes. The others were cancelled due to COVID-19.

 

Programme 2: Technology Innovation - Achieved eight of its 10 performance targets. It funded seven of the intended eight knowledge utilisation instruments, and seven of the planned 10 disclosures were reported by publicly funded institutions.

 

Programme 3: International Cooperation and Resources - Achieved sevenof its 10 performance targets. It facilitated 430 of the intended 490 collaborations with international partner organisations. It co-funded or supported 77 of the intended 100 human capital development projects with other African partners; however, with previous quarterly performance, the overall target had been achieved for 2019/20. It supported seven of the intended 15 AU or SADC science initiatives; however, with previous quarterly performance, the overall target had been achieved for 2019/20. It recorded no decisions made in intergovernmental science fora of the intended two.

 

Programme 4: Research, Development and Support - Achieved six of its nine performance targets. It awarded bursaries to 2 991 of the intended 3 100 doctoral students. It awarded bursaries to 8 632 of the intended 10 800 pipeline postgraduate students. It awarded research grants to 3 205 of the intended 4 500 researchers. The drastic reduction in the number of researchers supported was due to the revision of the Rated Researchers Programme funding model. Previously, this Programme awarded grants annually to all rated researchers for the duration of their rating period. With the revised model, only P-rated researchers received annual grants, and those in other rating categories received once-off grants in the year in which they got their rating. The Department intended to engage the NRF on the implications of this change.

 

Programme 5: Socioeconomic Innovation Partnerships - Achieved 10 of its 12 performance targets. It funded 231 of the intended 252 masters and doctoral students in designated niche areas. It did not achieve the target set for providing preapproval decisions for the Research and Development Tax Incentive within 90 days of receiving the application.

 

The Department reported that the targets that were not achieved were mainly due to process delays, which were out of its control; target formulation deficiencies; and the ineffectiveness of its implementers. They further reported that measures were implemented to address underperformance.

 

  1. 2020/21 Financial and Non-Financial Performance

 

Succeeding the 1996 White Paper on Science and Technology, the 2019 White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation, which seeks to specifically enhance the role of innovation, now sets the current long-term policy direction for the NSI and seeks to ensure an increasing role for science, technology and innovation (STI) to accelerate inclusive economic growth, increase the competitiveness of the economy, and improve the livelihoods of South Africa’s citizens.

 

The Department, building on the successes of the previous period and to ensure that the NSI expands its positive impact on reducing poverty, inequality and unemployment as envisioned by the 2019 White Paper, identified the following six outcomes for the period 2020-2025:

 

  • Outcome 1: A transformed, inclusive, responsive and coherent NSI - seeks to improve the contribution of the NSI to achieving the goals of the NDP.
  • Outcome 2: Human capabilities and skills for the economy and for development - seeks to further address the lack of transformation within the NSI.
  • Outcome 3:Increase knowledge generation and innovation output – seeks to increase South Africa’s research productivity, currently 0.88% of global share, to 1% of global output.
  • Outcome 4: Knowledge utilisation for economic development in (a) revitalising existing industries and (b) stimulating R&D-led industrial development - seeks to drive economic development through various initiatives associated with the sectoral masterplans and revitalised industrial strategy.
  • Outcome 5: Knowledge utilisation for inclusive development – seeks to advance the vision of an inclusive and responsive NSI that provides equitable access to the country’s knowledge infrastructure, and supports the broader concept of innovation.
  • Outcome 6: Innovation in support of a capable and developmental state – seeks to increase the spatial footprint of innovation support so that innovation will enable localised socio-economic development.

 

The Department’s original 2020/21 budget allocation increased from R8.1 billion in the 2019/20 financial year to R8.8 billion. This represented, when adjusted for inflation, a real increase of 3.1%; and was the first real increase in the Department’s budget allocation since the 2015/16 financial year. In terms of economic classification, the apportionment of the Department’s 2020/21 budget allocation of R8.8 billion remained the same as in previous years and comprised Current payments of R632.5 million (7.2%), Transfers and subsidies of R8.2 billion (92.8%) and Payments for capital assets of R2.8 million (0.03%).

 

The 2020/21 Special Adjustment Budget revised the Department’s 2020/21 budget allocation from R8.8 billion to R7.36 billion. The total funds suspended for COVID-19 purposes amounted to R1.76 billion, where R324 million had been reprioritised for the Department’s COVID-19 interventions. Hence, the total net downward revision of the Department’s budget allocation equalled R1.44 billion, and comprised R40 million from Compensation of employees, R53.4 million from Goods and services and R1.34 billion from Transfers and subsidies (Table 3). The budget cut to Transfers and subsidies comprised R295 million from the Parliamentary grant transferred to entities and R1.05 billion from transfers to specific projects and programmes. The latter amount constituted 72.9% of the total cut to the Department’s budget.

 

The apportionment of the Department’s revised 2020/21 budget allocation across its five Programmes (as well as the economic classification) remained more or less the same, and these Programmes continue the priorities of strengthening and expanding STI human capital development and ensuring that innovation and knowledge underpin the government’s growth strategy. Hence, Programmes 2 (19%), 4 (52%) and 5 (24%) that are responsible for the transfers to the Department’s entities; still received 94% of the Department’s total budget allocation. Within the Programmes, the largest net adjustment of R1.07 billion was effected on Programme 4: Research, Development and Support because it is allocated the largest share (52%) of the Department’s total budget; R1.8 billion of Programme 4’s budget was earmarked for infrastructure projects that would now be delayed due to COVID-19 measures; the other programmes had already redirected substantial amounts of their current budget to support COVID-19 initiatives; and most of Programme 4’s projects reported surpluses from the 2019/20 allocation. It is hoped that these surpluses will sustain these projects for the remainder of the 2020/21 financial year; however, this will be monitored and assessed mid-year.

 

Table 3: Vote 35: Science and Innovation - Revised 2020/21 allocations

Source: National Treasury, 2020. Supplementary Budget Review

 

  1. 2020/21 First Quarter – 1 April to 30 June 2020

 

Overall, the Department spent R1.1 billion of the intended R2 billion in Quarter 1. The underspending was mainly due to delays in finalising agreements, the late processing of payments due to restricted access to the CSIR’s campus and the closure of the Department’s building, the late submission of progress reports by higher education institutions due to the closure of institutions, delays in finalising a business plan for the Data Science for Impact and Decision Enablement (DSIDE) initiative, and the postponement of the Mining Indaba to December 2020.

 

At the end of Quarter 1, cumulative spending on compensation of employees was R78 million, against a projected spending of R101.7 million. The staff comprised 378 employees against an approved establishment of 470 (392 in 2019/20) employees.

 

The Department achieved 11(39%) and did not achieve 17 (61%) of the planned 28 performance targets.

 

Programme 1: Administration- Spent R46.4 million of the intended R82.6 million. The underspending was primarily due to slow spending as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown that drastically limited the attendance or hosting of meetings abroad and domestically.

 

Programme 1 did not achieve any of its three performance targets for Quarter 1. The targets that were not achieved were:

  • No consultations held with NSI stakeholders with regards to finalising the Decadal Plan.
  • Zero platforms engaged, of the planned six, to profile the Department and entities.
  • Zero branding and marketing initiatives implemented.

 

Programme 2: Technology Innovation- Spent R321.1 million of the intended R360.6 million. The underspending was primarily due to delays in finalising contracts, the late receipt of financial reports from implementing agencies, the redirection of funds for COVID-19 initiatives and the delay in the approval process for funding the COVID-19 deployment of fuel cells at One Military Hospital.

 

Programme 2 achieved one of its three performance targets for Quarter 1. The targets that were not achieved were:

  • Not completing the engineering model for the maritime domain awareness (MDA) intuitive for the Oceans Economy Phakisa.
  • 109 disclosures received from publicly funded R&D institutions, as opposed to the 125 that was planned for. This may have been due to reduced activity at institutions due to COVID-19, and a few non-compliant institutions that NIPMO will follow-up.

 

Programme 3: International Cooperation and Resources- Spent R12 million of the intended R31.5 million. The underspending was primarily due to delays in projects because of the reprioritisation of the budget to accommodate budget cuts and commitments related to COVID-19.

 

Programme 3 achieved two of its seven performance targets for Quarter 1. The targets that were not achieved were:

  • No South African students, of the planned 10, participated in international training programmes due to COVID-19.
  • Had seven, of the planned eight, international policy dialogues and technical exchanges to support the policy intents of the 2019 White Paper.
  • Did not support any of the two planned STI initiatives of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan due to COVID-19.
  • No engagement (planned to have one) with a global science leader due to COVID-19.
  • Did not support the planned international STI initiative focused on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) supported by South Africa.

 

Programme 4: Research Development and Support- Spent R263.3 million of the intended R1 billion. The underspending was primarily due to delays in finalising contracts, late processing of payments due to restricted access to the CSIR campus and closure of the Department’s building, and the late submission of reports by higher education institutions due to the closure of institutions.

 

Programme 4 achieved threeof its seven performance targets for Quarter 1. The targets that were not achieved were:

  • Due to COVID-19, consultations with government departments regarding the Regulations for the Indigenous Knowledge Act could not be held.
  • The Department could only meet with the NRF, and not with the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP), to ensure plans align with national priorities.
  • The data to verify that the targets set for awarding bursaries to pipeline postgraduate and doctoral students was met, was not available at the time the quarterly performance report was finalised.

 

Programme 5: Socioeconomic Innovation Partnerships- Spent R423 million of the intended R510.5 million. The underspending was primarily due to delays in finalising the consolidation of some contracts, the late processing of payments due to delays in finalising a business plan for the DSIDE initiative and the postponement of the Mining Indaba to December 2020.

 

Programme 5 achieved five of its eight performance for Quarter 1. The targets that were not achieved were:

  • Added two, instead of the minimum of three, industrially relevant knowledge or innovation products to the industrial development IP portfolio. This was due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
  • Not providing preapproval decisions within 90 days on 80% of applications received for the Research and Development Tax Incentive. The delays were attributed to the review process of non-approval letters by the newly appointed Director, the resignation of the Chief Director, and the election of a new chairperson of the Research and Development Tax Incentive Committee.
  • Due to the COVID-19 lockdown and the focus on how best the NSI can support the COVID-19 response, no formal technical or strategic bilateral engagements were held with either the CSIR or the HSRC. However, several technical meetings were facilitated with both entities with respect to specific areas. These meetings qualify as technical bilateral engagements but as they were not minuted, they could not be counted as formal technical engagements in terms of the indicator definition.

 

COVID-19 Spending in 2020/21 First Quarter:The Department spent R37.095 million on different initiatives in response to COVID-19 through the Strategic Health Innovation Programme (SHIP), as well as R677 000 on personal protective equipment, foot pedals and decontamination of its building.

 

The Department reported that the main reason for the non-achievement of targets was due to process delays, mainly as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent lockdown.

 

  1. Committee Observations

 

The Committee made the followingobservations in relation to the financial and non-financial performancefor the 2019/20 Second, Third and Fourth Quarters:

 

  1. The Department and its entities did well and performed optimally; notwithstanding the COVID-19 crisis and the resultant budget cuts and the effect of these on the work of the Department and its Programmes.
  2. The Committee expressed concern about the cuts to the Department’s budget and the effect of this on the research and development agenda. Members reiterated that consideration should be given to not implementing these cuts or that further measures should be implemented to lessen the impact of the budget cuts.
  3. The Committee expressed their concern around the lack of adequate funding for postgraduate students and rated researchers. They welcomed that the discussion around these matters with the National Research Foundation and the Department of Higher Education and Training was on-going.
  4. The Committee noted the Department’s indication of a Joint Task Team comprising the two departments that was looking at developing a single approach to assist with funding for postgraduate students.
  5. The Committee noted the Department’s current vacancy rate of 26 percent and the Programmes which were affected by these vacancies.
  6. The Committee further noted the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the Department’s recruitment processes.
  7. The Committee noted the lack of opportunities for science graduates once they have completed their studies and requested that the Department explain what mechanisms were in place to absorb these graduates in the workspace of the science portfolio.
  8. The Committee noted the Department’s explanation about the limited funding and capacity of institutions to absorb the students and that they were attending to the matter. In this regard, the Committee further noted the example of the two programmes; namely, the National Youth Employment Programme and the Internship Programme, whereby students are exposed to the work situation to gain experience post their studies.
  9. The Committee noted the lack of information, in the presentations, regarding the Department’s involvement in work around gender-based violence (GBV). The Department, however shared that international funding was made available to undertake some research studies in the area of GBV within the SADC region.

 

 

  1. Committee Recommendations

 

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology, having considered the financial and non-financial performance of the Department of Science and Innovation for the 2019/20 Second, Third and Fourth Quarters; and the 2020/21 First Quarter, recommends that:

 

  1. The Department provide a detailed, written report on its vacancies and the Programmes affected. The report should also detail its recruitment plan, including timeframes, to deal with these vacancies. This report should be presented to the Committee when it considers the Department’s next quarterly performance report.
  2. The Department update the Committee on progress with regard to the work of the Joint Task Team in harmonising the funding instruments to support postgraduate students. The Committee will schedule a briefing to consider this matter in the next term.
  3. The Department provide a detailed, written report on the work undertaken in respect of GBV. The Committee will schedule a briefing to consider this matter in the next term.

 

Report to be considered.

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