Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, on the performance of the Department of Science and Technology for the 2011/12 financial year, dated 24 October 2012

The Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, having assessed the performance of the Department of Science and Technology, reports as follows:

 

1.†††††† Introduction

 

The purpose of the report is to provide an analysis of the performance of the Department of Science and Technology (hereafter, the Department) against its predetermined objectives. The report includes an assessment of the financial performance of the Department and its entities for the 2011/12 financial year and records the observations, conclusions and the recommendations made by the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology (hereafter, the Committee) during their deliberations.

 

1.1          Mandate of the Committee, including provision of Section 5 of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act, No 9 of 2009

 

The Committee oversees the activities of the Department as well as the entities reporting to it. A key element of its oversight function includes scrutinizing the annual reports and expenditure of the Department and its entities.

 

The Money Bills Procedures and Related Matters Amendment Act, provides Parliament with the legislative mandate to make recommendations to the Minister of Finance to amend the budget of a national department. The Committee must submit an annual Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR) for the Department, which may contain recommendations relating to funding allocations. This annual review and analysis of performance includes both financial and non-financial indicators.

 

The Committee considered the budget allocation to the Department for the 2012/13 financial year on 18 April 2012. The Committee considered the Departmentís 2011/12 Annual Report on 11 October 2012. Engagements with entities were also conducted during the period under review. These entities included inter alia the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), the South African National Space Agency (SANSA), the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) and the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI).

 

 

2.†††††† Policy Priorities of the Department of Science and Technology

 

The Departmentís major policy documents are the 1996 White Paper on Science and Technology, the 2002 National Research and Development Strategy (NRDS), the 2004 New Strategic Management Model for South Africaís Science and Technology System and the 2007 Ten-Year Innovation Plan (TYIP). These strategies, specifically the TYIP, all aim to assist with the transformation of South Africaís resource-based economy into a knowledge-based economy. Consequently, the measure of success will be the degree to which science and technology (S&T) is used to improve productivity and increase the rate of economic growth and socio-economic development.

 

A fact further enforced by the call of the Minister in the Presidency: National Planning Commission for South Africans to embrace the key drivers of change outlined in the National Development Plan Ė Vision for 2030. These include; the shift in the world economy from West to East, globalisation, the resurgence of Africa, climate change, increased interconnectivity among people (for example, through cellphones and internet) and the increasing reliance on technology, which means South Africa would have to spend more on research and development (R&D).

 

The Department's policy framework is embedded within and aligned to broader government priorities and policy, as articulated in the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and the New Growth Path (NGP). In addition, the Department contributes directly to three of the 12 national government priority outcomes. These are:

 

                Outcome 2 (helping realise a long and healthy life for all South Africans);

                Outcome 4 (decent employment through inclusive economic growth); and

                Outcome 5 (a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path).

 

With regard to Outcome 4, the Department is expected to contribute to the achievement of two targets. These are, (i) improving the country's global competitiveness rating and (ii) developing a strategy to increase the country's gross expenditure on research and development (GERD) as a percentage of GDP to 1.5 per cent by 2014.

 

With regard to Outcome 5, the Department has committed to contribute towards four outputs which are: increase access to high level occupationally directed programmes in needed areas; research, development and innovation in human capital for growing the knowledge economy; provide support to industry-university partnerships and; increase investment in research and development, especially in the science, engineering and technology sector.

 

The strategic goals of the Department are to:

 

                Develop the innovation capacity of the National System of Innovation (NSI), thereby contributing to socio-economic development;

                Enhance South Africaís knowledge-generation capacity in order to produce world-class research papers and turn some advanced findings into innovative products and processes;

                Develop appropriate science, technology and innovation (STI) human capital to meet the needs of society;

                Build world-class STI infrastructure to extend the frontiers of knowledge, train the next generation of researchers, and enable technology development and transfer, as well as knowledge interchange; and

                Position South Africa as a strategic international research, development and innovation (RDI) partner and destination through the exchange of knowledge, capacity and resources between South Africa, the region and other international partners, thereby steering the NSI.

 

2.1††††††† Planned Policy Initiatives

 

The Department plans, over the next three to five years, to focus its activities on three priority domains, that is, research and development, human capital development and infrastructure. It will, therefore:

 

                Finalise the Human Capital Development Strategy for Research and Innovation;

                Develop a science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation (STEMI) promotion and engagement strategy;

                Continue to pursue enhanced investment and co-operation on STI across Africa and globally;

                Re-assess the R&D Tax Incentive and the Venture Capital Tax Company Incentive to improve its effectiveness;

                Establish an astronomy entity;

                Finalise an Antarctic Research Strategy;

                Finalise a Marine Biology Research Strategy;

                Complete three policy case studies, for government planning and service delivery improvement through innovation, on housing, water and sanitation; and

                Develop a sustainability model for the ongoing development and rollout of cyberinfrastructure, and an investment and growth strategy for the provision of scientific equipment to support research and innovation.

 

 

3.†††††††† Programme Structure and Performance

 

As stated, the Departmentís fundamental responsibility is to develop RDI policies in line with the White Paper on Science and Technology and, therefore, does not provide services to any institution or persons on a recoverable basis.

 

The Departmentís operational activities are structured into five programmes, namely, Administration; Research, Development and Innovation; International Co-operation and Resources; Human Capital and Knowledge Systems; and Socio-Economic Partnerships. Each of these Programmes has a set of strategic objectives that are linked to performance indicators. The amount each programme and sub-programme is allocated can be used to identify and assess the Departmentís key focus areas.

 

Table 1.††††† The 2011/12 programme and sub-programme budget allocation of the Department of Science and Technology

 

Programmes and percentage allocation of total budget

Sub-programmes

2011/12

(R thousand)

Sub-programme allocation of programme allocation

1.     Administration

 

195 701

1.79 per cent

4.4 per cent

Ministry

3 494

Management

72 085

36.84 per cent

Corporate Services

108 108

55.24 per cent

Governance

8 022

4.09 per cent

Office Accommodation

3 992

2.04 per cent

2.     Research, Development and Innovation

854 610

15.14 per cent

19.4 per cent

Space Science

129 434

Hydrogen and Energy

140 578

16.45 per cent

Biotechnology and Health

112 920

13.21 per cent

Innovation Planning and Instruments

471 678

55.20 per cent

3.     International Co-operation and Resources

137 194

43.73 per cent

3.1 per cent

Multilateral Co-operation and Africa

59 955

International Resources

47 212

34.40 per cent

Overseas Bilateral Co-operation

30 027

21.87 per cent

4.    Human Capital and Knowledge Systems

1 950 427

72.08 per cent

44.3 per cent

Human Capital and Science Platforms

1 405 844

Indigenous Knowledge Systems

17 132

0.88 per cent

Emerging Research Areas and Infrastructure

527 451

27.05 per cent

5.    Socio-Economic Partnerships

1 269 071

74.52 per cent

28.8 per cent

Science and Technology for Economic Impact

945 676

Science and Technology for Social Impact

296 798

23.39 per cent

Science and Technology Investment

26 597

2.10 per cent

TOTAL

4 407 003

 

 

The key focus areas of the Department for the medium term is to build and strengthen STI human capital; generate and maximise the use of knowledge; and strengthen international co-operation in science, technology and engineering (SET). Table 1 show that the Departmentís budget allocation speaks directly to this. Hence, the first key focus area, namely human capital development, received in 2011/12 at a programme level (Programme 4), 44.4 per cent of the Departmentís total allocation and 72 per cent of Programme 4ís allocation. The second key focus area, namely, generating and using knowledge, received 19.4 per cent (Programme 2) and 28.8 per cent (Programme 5) of the Departmentís total allocation. The last key focus area, namely, strengthening international co-operation, received 3.1 per cent (Programme 3) of the Departmentís total allocation. Here the spending focus is on advancing and facilitating South Africaís participation in strategic bilateral and multilateral agreements and leveraging resources that support the NSI through global science initiatives.

 

Programme 1: Administration Ė This programme, consisting of five sub-programmes, is responsible for the overall management of the Department, and ensures that the organisations funded, comply with good corporate governance practices, and align their activities with the strategic focus of the NSI. It is also responsible for monitoring and evaluating the performance of the science councils.

 

Programme 2: Research, Development and Innovation Ė This programme, consisting of four sub-programmes, facilitates knowledge generation and exploitation through R&D in space science, the bio-economy and energy. Its purpose is to provide policy leadership in long term and cross cutting research and innovation in the NSI. The strategic objectives of Programme 2 are:

 

                Enhancing South Africa's knowledge-generation capabilities in frontier areas of science;

                Facilitating the commercialisation of R&D outcomes; and

                Promoting co-ordination among relevant stakeholders in the NSI.

 

Notable achievements for the 2011/12 financial year includes winning the bid to host the bulk of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope project, making SANSA operational; establishing an interim National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO); and completing the review of the technology platforms. The TIA established regional offices in Limpopo and the Free State and provided technical and financial support services, which included support to 18 new technology-based enterprises, and the development, with TIA funding, of 10 new technology products/processes/services.

 

Programme 3: International Co-operation and Resources Ė This programme, consisting of three sub-programmes, aims to strategically develop, promote and manage international relationships, opportunities and science and technology agreements that strengthen the NSI and enable an exchange of knowledge, capacity and resources between South Africa and its regional and international partners. The strategic objectives of Programme 3 are:

 

                Leveraging foreign STI funds;

                Increasing funding of STI development in Africa;

                Increasing access to global knowledge and STI networks; and

                Increasing participation of South African students in international co-operative STI research projects.

 

Notable achievements for the 2011/12 financial year includes leveraging R285 million in foreign STI funds; spending R63.8 million on S&T based socio-economic development in Africa; 3 460 South African STI role players had access to foreign participants in global knowledge and STI networks; and 1 270 South African students participated in international co-operative STI research projects under development partnership programmes. Furthermore, the Department secured R120 million from the African Renaissance Fund for the Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (VLBIN). The number of strategic African partner countries with which S&T agreements have been signed reached 18 when an agreement was signed with Tanzania in April 2011.

 

Programme 4: Human Capital and Knowledge Systems Ė This programme, consisting of three sub-programmes, aims to develop and implement national programmes to produce knowledge and develop human capital and the associated infrastructure, equipment and public research services. The strategic objectives of Programme 4 are:

 

                Building a SET human capital pipeline;

                Increasing South Africaís world share of knowledge outputs;

                Developing new and emerging research areas;

                Ensuring the availability of appropriate infrastructure; and

                Promoting research, development and innovation in indigenous knowledge systems (IKS).

 

Notable achievements for the 2011/12 financial year includes the awarding of bursaries to 1 692 Honours, 3 478 Masterís and 1 913 PhD students and supporting 2 886 researcher. The national Nanotechnology Innovation Centres (NICs) published 103 papers, filed one patent and have three patents under development. Furthermore, the Department awarded 50 research equipment grants and connected 86 research and teaching institutions to the South African National Research Network (SANReN). Under the IKS R&D platform, the commercialisation process was initiated for one cosmeceutical candidate product, preclinical studies were completed on a diabetes lead and good progress was achieved on preclinical studies for TB and HIV projects.

 

Programme 5: Socio-Economic Partnerships Ė This programme, consisting of three sub-programmes, aims to enhance the growth and development priorities of government through targeted science and technology interventions and the development of strategic partnerships with other government departments, industry, research institutions, and communities. Hence, interventions include high potential R&D-led industrial development programmes, technology support programmes for industry, introducing new approaches to government service delivery and planning, strengthening science-based policy development and decision-making, demonstrating technology-led opportunities for creating sustainable jobs and wealth creation, and strengthening the contribution of technology in sustainable human settlements. The strategic objectives of Programme 5 are to:

 

                Demonstrate strategic technology-based interventions for poverty reduction;

                Grow and strengthen S&T capability for sustainable development and a green economy;

                Promote growth in public and private sector investments in S&T and R&D; and

                Support the development of new industries in advanced manufacturing, chemicals, advanced metals and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

 

Notable achievements for the 2011/12 financial year includes supporting 33 postgraduate students in minerals beneficiation technology, 39 postgraduate students in titanium research, and 49 full-time ICT studentships at masterís, PhD and postdoctoral level. The Technology Stations and Institutes of Advanced Tooling (IAT) hosted 130 interns at different levels. Of the interns, 22 per cent were deployed directly in industry and 78 per cent were based at various technology stations and IATs. A biocomposites Centre of Competence (CoC) was established and a number of biocomposite parcel trays have been produced and submitted to one of the automotive firms for product acceptance testing. Furthermore, a joint patent application for biocomposite panels in the aviation industry was submitted. 1 918 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) received technology support through the Technology Stations Programme. The Kleinmond Low-cost Housing demonstrator was successfully completed in the Overstrand Local Municipality in the Western Cape. The aim of the demonstrator was to explore an improved approach to low-cost housing development and the incorporation of new technologies that enhance the quality of housing and reduce the overall level of dependency of the community on municipal services (such as water, electricity, etc.). The settlement was planned in a holistic manner and provided shelter to 410 families. The Southern African Housing Foundation awarded a special merit award to this project. The Accelerating Sustainable Water Service Delivery (ASWSD) initiative provided clean water to 600 households in Cwebe, Mbelu and Ntilini villages in the Amathole District Municipality and 1 176 households in Jali/Bakhuba, Khwenxura/Khalalu and Mnxekazi in the OR Tambo District Municipality.

 

During 2011/12, the Department reported that, overall, it had achieved 67 per cent of its performance targets. The Departmentís programme performance is as follows:

 

                Programme 2 achieved 56 per cent (9 of 16) of its targets, 25 per cent (4 of 16) of its targets were partly achieved and 19 per cent (3 of 16) were not achieved;

                Programme 3 achieved 87 per cent (13 of 15) of its targets, one target was partly achieved and one target was not achieved;

                Programme 4 achieved 60 per cent (21 of 35) of its targets, 34 per cent (12 of 35) of its targets were partly achieved and 6 per cent (2 of 35) were not achieved; and

                Programme 5 achieved 60 per cent (9 of 15) of its targets and partly achieved 40 per cent (6 of 15) of its targets.

 

The Department also achieved 80 per cent (8 of 10) of its performance targets listed in the 2011 Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE). The remaining two targets were partly achieved. The targets listed in the ENE demonstrate the strategic link between the Departmentís performance and its expenditure.

 

The performance targets that were not achieved include:

 

                Creating 100 construction jobs in the Northern Cape. The Department states that administrative delays during the bidding process for the contract was the reason these jobs were not created;

                Establishing and/or recapitalising four Offices of Technology Transfer (OTTs). The Department states that this target could not be achieved because of the lack of budget allocation to NIPMO;

                Establishing four CoCs and/or technology demonstrators. The Department states that the process towards technology demonstrators for the Biotechnology (sugarcane beneficiation and industrial wastewater treatment) and Solar CoCs had been delayed. The Space CoC budget was transferred to SANSA since no allocation had been received from National Treasury for the operationalisation of SANSA;

                Securing 10 countries to exhibit at the 2012 International Science, Innovation and Technology Exhibition (INSITE 2012). As at 30 September 2011, only two countries were secured and the Departmentís Executive Committee (EXCO) decided not to proceed with the hosting of INSITE 2012;

                Approving the guiding principles for the integrated science awareness framework. This was not approved by the EXCO. Instead, the EXCO provided guidance on the development of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Innovation (STEMI) engagement strategy; and

                Approving the framework for the expansion of the Centre of Excellence (CoE) programme. The Department states that this target was not met because it decided to prioritise the improvement of the existing CoE programmeís performance.

 

 

4.†††††††† Expenditure Information

 

4.1††††††† 2011/2012 financial year

 

The main appropriation of the Department for the 2011/12 financial year was R4.404 billion, which represents an inflation-adjusted increase of 1.8 per cent from the 2010/11 financial year allocation. The main appropriation increased by R2.4 million to R4.407 billion after the budgetary adjustment process. The R2.4 million was to cover inflationary increases to salaries. This increase, as well as R1.2 million from Programme 5, increased Programme 1ís appropriation from R192 million to R196 million. The original appropriation of Programmes 2 to 4 remained the same. Programme 5ís appropriation decreased (by R1.2 million) to R1.269 billion.

 

According to the data published monthly by National Treasury, the Department spent R1.203 billion (27.3 per cent) of its total appropriation during the first quarter of 2011/12. The Department spent, according to economic classification, R72.9 million of the R369.7 million allocated for Current Payments, R1.129 billion of the R4.032 billion allocated for Transfers and Subsidies and R1.3 million of the R3.3 million allocated for Payments for Capital Assets. The total monthly expenditure was R647.5 million in April, R194.7 million in May and R361.3 million in June.

 

The Department spent a further R1.284 billion of its total appropriation by the second quarter of 2011/12, bringing the total expenditure to R2.488 billion (56.5 per cent). The Department spent, according to economic classification, R156.5 million of the R369.7 million allocated for Current Payments, R2.328 billion of the R4.032 billion allocated for Transfers and Subsidies, R3.1 million of the R3.3 million allocated for Payments for Capital Assets and R183 000 on Payment for Financial Assets. The total monthly expenditure was R615.2 million in July, R479.9 million in August and R189.5 million in September.

 

The Department spent a further R1.032 billion of its total appropriation by the third quarter of 2011/12, bringing the total expenditure to R3.520 billion (79.9 per cent). The Department spent, according to economic classification, R252.8 million of the R365.3 million (revised estimate, down from R369.7 million) allocated for Current Payments, R3.263 billion of the R4.038 billion (revised estimate, up from R4.032 billion) allocated for Transfers and Subsidies and R4.6 million for Payments for Capital Assets. The total monthly expenditure was R691.9 million in October, R235.7 million in November and R104.8 million in December.

 

The Department spent a further R883 million of its total appropriation by the end of the fourth quarter of 2011/12, bringing the total expenditure for the 2011/12 financial year to R4.403 billion (99.9 per cent of total appropriation). In the 2010/11 financial year, the Department had spent 98 per cent of its total appropriation.

 

During 2011/12, the Department spent according to programme classification, the following amounts:

 

                Programme 1: Administration - R195.6 million of the R195.9 million appropriated;

                Programme 2: Research, Development and Innovation - R854.9 million of the R855.4 million appropriated;

                Programme 3: International Co-operation and Resources - R132.3 million of the R132.6 million appropriated;

                Programme 4: Human Capital and Knowledge Systems Ė R1.956 billion of the R1.957 billion appropriated; and

                Programme 5: Socio-Economic Partnerships Ė R1.264 billion of the R1.266 billion appropriated.

 

The Department attributes its under-spending in 2011/12 specifically to staff turnover and the resultant administrative costs and to delays in the procurement of goods and services in Programmes 4 and 5.

 

The Department incurred irregular expenditure amounting to R1.5 million, where R1.2 million and R35 000 was for goods and services that were procured without following procurement procedures; and R325 000 was for officials from various African countries who attended, without Ministerial approval, the 7th SKA Working Group meeting in Botswana that was arranged by the Department. The Department also incurred fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounting to R60 000 due to two external officials not arriving for the 7th SKA Working Group meeting. These instances are reported as being under investigation.

 

As at 31 March 2012, the Departmentís vacancy rate was 8.79 per cent (384 of 421 posts filled), with the Senior Management salary band having the highest percentage of vacancies, i.e. 14.29 per cent (16 vacant positions).

 

4.2††††††† First quarter of the 2012/13 financial year

 

The Department received an allocation of R4.9 billion in the 2012/13 financial year, which represents 0.5 per cent of the national budget (R969.4 billion). In real terms (inflation-adjusted), the Departmentís 2012/13 budget allocation has increased by 6.2 per cent compared to the 2011/12 financial yearís allocation of R4.4 billion. The Department spent R1.3 billion (25.8 per cent) of its total budget by the end of the first quarter of the 2012/13 financial year.

 

During the first quarter, the Department spent according to programme classification, the following amounts:

 

                Programme 1: Administration Ė R55 million of the R202.7 million appropriated;

                Programme 2: Research, Development and Innovation Ė R468.5 million of the R1.2 billion appropriated;

                Programme 3: International Co-operation and ResourcesĖ R35.1 million of the R141.2 million appropriated;

                Programme 4: Human Capital and Knowledge Systems Ė R387.7 million of the R2 billion appropriated; and

                Programme 5: Socio-Economic Partnerships Ė R334.5 million of the R1.4 billion appropriated.

 

 

5.†††††††† Findings of the Auditor-General

 

The Auditor-General (AG) awarded the Department an unqualified audit opinion for the 2011/12 financial year. The AG, however, reported the following findings in relation to the Departmentís predetermined objectives and internal control. The AG found that 42 per cent of the reported performance indicators and targets were not consistent with those reported in the Departmentís strategic plan and annual performance plan. Furthermore, the required performance could not be measured for 25 per cent of Programme 2ís targets and four targets that were selected for audit. The AG also states that the targets that were not achieved (33 per cent) were not suitably developed (measurable, specific and well defined) during the strategic planning process. The AG states that with regard to leadership in the Department that the implementation of internal controls relating to performance information can be improved so that there is alignment between these controls and the Departmentís operational plans.

 

These findings of the AG reflect a regression by the Department in relation to the previous financial year, when the Department received an unqualified audit opinion with no findings.

 

 

6.†††††††† Observations of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology

 

6.1          Emanating from oversight activities and engagements with the Department

 

In fulfilling its oversight mandate, the Committee had a number of engagements and undertook visits to some of the entities and projects, which the Department reported on in their annual report.

 

The Committee welcomed the positive outcome of the SKA site bid decision. This is a clear acknowledgement of the immense efforts by the Department and in particular the SKA project teamís work over the past number of years. As one of the biggest science and engineering projects in the world, the SKA represents an unprecedented research advantage for the entire African (and global) scientific community and will provide many opportunities for the development of very high-level skills and expertise in Africa. This will allow Africa to be a significant contributor to the global knowledge economy. The funding and establishment by the Department and the NRF of the five Research Chairs relevant to the SKA project, is welcomed. The Committee is keen to oversee how the Department will realise their strategic goals in this regard.

 

The Committee had a number of briefings that focused on the Departmentís Grand Challenges, in particular updates thereof. The five Grand Challenges in science and technology are geared towards addressing an array of social, economic, political, scientific and technological benefits and are designed to stimulate multidisciplinary thinking and to challenge researchers to answer existing questions, create new disciplines and develop new technologies.

 

The Committee urged the Department to finalise the Bio-economy strategy because the completion of the strategy is important in guiding the research, development and investment priorities for the programmes governed by this strategy. The Department indicated that the strategy would be finalised by the end of November 2012. They assured the Committee that despite the strategy not being finished, work was still taking place in implementing the objectives of the strategy.

 

With regard to the Human and Social Dynamics Grand Challenge, the Committee was assured that the impact of the programme would be closely monitored. The Committee looks forward to progress briefings on this intervention.†††

 

Oversight of the Departmentís role in the implementation of South Africaís IKS policy would be on going. The Committee wishes to be informed of the outcome of the consultations between the Department and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as to how the sui generis legislation, currently being developed by the Department, would complement legislation developed by the DTI to protect intellectual property stemming from indigenous knowledge.

 

The Committee encouraged the Department to provide more detail on their role of science and technology in energy security, the development of alternative energy generation technology and green energy resources to minimize the impact of climate change.

 

The Committee notes that many government departments are responsible for addressing the five Grand Challenges; therefore, intergovernmental collaborative partnerships are instrumental in ensuring the success of these challenges. Enhanced co-ordination is necessary even at parliamentary level amongst the various portfolio and select committees in instances where science and technology issues are transversal.

 

The Committee visited the European Union Parliament and engaged with officials on matters of science and technology. The Committee notes that South Africa (SA) and the European Union (EU) enjoy a longstanding political, economic and development co-operation partnership, and the co-operation agreement on science and technology is considered, by both countries, to be one of their most strategic partnerships in international science and technology relations. The committee recognises that South Africa, through the Department, is one of the most engaged EU partners in terms of uptake in the Framework Programmes. They however concluded that much more can be done by the Department to access and secure more investment and partnership opportunities for South Africans, especially in capabilities such as energy, health and space science and technology.

 

With particular reference to the Kleinmond low-cost housing demonstrator and the aquaculture farms, the Committee noted that one of the major obstacles for the uptake and/or large-scale rollout of the technology solutions emanating from the research and development funded by the Department, is the lack of co-ordination and co-operation at all levels of governance. The Committee has resolved, therefore, that when it formulates its future programme, it will as far as possible, try to arrange joint sittings with other Committees and invite national Departments that have an interest in the work being done by the Department and its entities. Furthermore, the Committee has also requested that the Department and its entities report on and enhance their efforts to get other Departments to consider and adopt technology solutions developed by South Africans for South Africa.

 

The Committee noted the 41 recommendations made by the Ministerial Review Committee on the Science, Technology and Innovation Landscape on how the NSI could be strengthened going forward. The Minister of Science and Technology formulated an Internal Working Committee to evaluate these recommendations. The Committee will have to remain informed of which recommendations will be accepted since it could mean extensive changes to the countryís science system.

 

Members raised their concerns regarding the efficacy of the R&D Tax Incentive Programme. Though not as effective as the Department would wish it to be, the objective of the Tax Incentive Programme was to ensure that there was an overall increase in the number of private sector companies conducting R&D in South Africa. The Department asserts that in administering the R&D Tax Incentive Programme, it hopes to influence positively the R&D investment and activities of the private sector, thereby, promoting South Africa as a R&D destination within a comprehensive programme of attracting Foreign Direct Investment.

 

The question around governmentís level of involvement in Sunspace, arose throughout the Committee proceedings. Interest was also expressed about the status of the African Resource Management Constellation (ARMC). It was agreed that the Department would brief the Committee specifically on these matters.

 

Members expressed concern about the possible negative effects that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of the Karoo may have on the astronomy advantage areas. They requested assurance that the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act would be used to protect the astronomy advantage areas. It was agreed that the Department would brief the Committee on this matters.

 

6.2†††† Emanating from the 2011/12 Annual Report briefing

 

The Committee noted the AGís finding that 42 per cent of the reported performance indicators and targets were not consistent with those reported in the Departmentís strategic plan and annual performance plan.

 

The Committee requested an explanation of the findings made by the AG regarding the Departmentís predetermined objectives. The Department attributed their shortcomings to an oversight in understanding/implementing National Treasury requirements to manage performance information. The Department assured the Committee that this would not happen again.

 

In light of the above, the Committee noted the Departmentsí undertaking to review the manner in which they define their performance indicators to better align them with their mandate. The current challenge was that inappropriately defined performance indicators resulted in targets being set, which when they are not achieved reflects as underperformance. The Department undertook to ensure that future targets would be specific, measurable and time bound.

 

The Committee noted the number of high-level vacant posts. The Department assured them that processes were underway to fill these positions. The Committee, nevertheless, undertook to monitor the filling of posts.

 

The Committee wanted to know to what extent there was engagement with the National Treasury to have the Intellectual Property Fund, managed by NIPMO, increased. The Department answered that they had made proposals to the National Treasury to have the fund increased.

 

The Committee wanted clarity on the Departmentís strategy to increase research and development investment and whether their aim of spending 1.5 per cent of GDP on research and development by 2014 could still be achieved. The Department explained that GDP had grown faster than the national investment in R&D. The amount currently invested in R&D would have to double to realise the 2014 goal. The Department was currently working on a draft strategy to increase R&D investment in South Africa. Once finalised, the Committee wants to be briefed on the report.

 

Members noted that intergovernmental collaborative partnerships were instrumental in ensuring the work done by the Department and its entities, were used and implemented. Members particularly singled out the Departments of Higher and Basic Education, and stressed that the relationship between the Department and the education departments should be strengthened to address similar issues of concern regarding mathematics and science at school level. Other matters where members called for joint initiatives were student drop-out rates, support for Dinaledi schools, low rate of doctoral student enrolments, curricula research and support, etc.

 

 

7.†††††††† Conclusions

 

The Committee, having assessed the work of the Department through the annual report as well as its expenditure patterns through the year, commended it for attaining an unqualified audit opinion in the 2011/12 financial year, and for spending 99 per cent of its budget.

 

The Committee is confident that the Department is able to correct the challenges experienced in its final reporting of performance targets.

 

The Committee commended the Department for developing and implementing programmes to enhance the countryís science and innovation system.

 

The annual report briefings by the Department and its entities indicated that there was concerted effort and progress towards delivering in key priority areas for social and economic development.

 

In some instances the Committee found that the Parliamentary grants were inadequate to fulfil the total funding requirements of the entities and it was difficult for them to advance their mandates fully.

 

The Committee is, therefore, of the opinion that the Departmentís budgetary allocation is not sufficient to completely fulfil its mandate and provide science and technology with the national status and priority it needs to provide the technological solutions needed to enhance the lives of all South Africans.

 

The Committee has and will continue to, through the processes available to it, ensure that the Department remains accountable and fully implements its mandate as directed by the White Paper on Science and Technology.

 

 

8.†††††††† Recommendations

 

1.               The Committee recommends that the Department should make concerted efforts to correct the shortcomings of reporting as highlighted by the Auditor-General.

 

2.               The Committee advises that the Department should ensure that systems and proper resources are in place to facilitate that there is complete information on performance and achievement of targets. A monitoring and evaluation plan should be in place to detect and address weaknesses on time.

 

3.               The Department should brief the Committee on its vacant posts and their overall HR plans. Vacancies should be filled within a reasonable amount of time and the Committee should be informed of the challenges experienced in filling the posts.

 

4.               The Committee recommends that the Department should finalise the Bio-economy strategy as a matter of urgency. The Committee expects the Department to provide them with a brief on the completed strategy.

 

5.              The Committee recommends that the Department should speed up initiatives to strengthen the governance relationship with their counterparts specifically in education, health, energy, agriculture and human settlements. This relationship is crucial to the success of the National System of Innovation.

 

 

Report to be considered.

 

 

References

 

BuaNews (2012) Manuel calls on South Africans to embrace key drivers. 14 March 2012.

 

Department of Science and Technology (2011) Strategic Plan for the Fiscal Years 2011-2016.

 

Department of Science and Technology (2012) Annual Report 2011/12.

 

Department of Science and Technology (2012) 2011/12 Annual Report Presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology. 18 October 2012.

 

National Treasury (2011) 2011 Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure.

 

National Treasury (2011) Monthly Press Releases, 29 July 2011.

 

National Treasury (2011) Monthly Press Releases, 28 October 2011.

 

National Treasury (2012) 2012 Estimates of National Expenditure.

 

National Treasury (2012) Monthly Press Releases, 30 January 2012.

 

National Treasury (2012) Monthly Press Releases 30 April 2012.

 

National Treasury (2012) Monthly Press Releases 30 July 2012.