Parliament Briefed on Science and Technology Laws Bill

Department of Science and Technology

The science and technology department recently briefed parliament on the Science and Technology Laws Amendment Bill.

The bill was tabled in parliament in November 2018.

The bill’s explanatory summary was published in Government Gazette 41704 in June 2018.

It seeks to amend a raft of acts including the Scientific Research Council Act of 1988, the Academy of Science of South Africa Act of 2001, the Human Sciences Research Act of 2008, the Technology Innovation Agency Act of 2008 and the South African National Space Agency Act of 2008.

One problem that the bill seeks to address is inconsistent, inadequate and uncoordinated management of public entities reporting to the science and technology minister.

The bill seeks to:

•    Harmonise the processes for the termination of the membership of Boards or Councils of the entities established by these Acts;
•    clarify the requirements for the disqualification of persons from membership of Boards or Councils;
•    provide for the appointment of external persons to committees of Boards or Councils;
•    provide for the determination of the remuneration and allowances of members of the Boards or Councils and committees of the Boards or Councils;
•    provide for consultation with the Minister in the appointment of the Chief Executive Officers of the entities;
•    provide for the limitation of the term of office of the Chief Executive Officers of the entities;
•    provide for the determination by the Boards or Councils of the procedures at Boards or Councils meetings;
•    provide for the procedure for the convening of the Boards or Councils meetings at the request of members of the Boards or Councils;
•    provide for disclosure by members of the Boards or Councils of interests in the business of the entities and to harmonise the timeframes for making such disclosures to the Minister;
•    provide for the circumstances where members of Boards or Councils are prohibited from participating or voting in Boards or Councils meetings;
•    provide for the circumstances where the decisions or acts authorised by the decisions of Boards or Councils may not be invalidated;
•    provide for the appointment and secondment of employees of the entities by the Chief Executive Officers and the determination of the conditions of appointment and secondment of employees by the Boards or Councils;
•    provide for the repeal of sections dealing with matters that are contained in the Public Finance Management Act, 1999;
•    provide for the circumstances under which the entities may be liquidated;
•    provide for consultation by the Minister with the Boards or Councils of the entities before making regulations in terms of these Acts;
•    provide for the delegation of functions in writing by the Boards or Councils of the entities to individual members or committees of Boards or Councils;
•    provide for the requirements for the performance of functions by the entities outside the Republic; and
•    provide for matters connected therewith.

During the briefing, the department pointed out that the proposed amendment to ensure that the science and technology minister is consulted during the appointment of CEOs will ensure that the department is aware of appointments before the relevant entity communicates the appointment.

The proposed provision on requiring all appointees to disclose conflicts of interest will facilitate good corporate governance.

The proposal to delete all provisions provided for in the PFMA will ensure that there is no provision contrary to the PFMA and governance of the entities will be made easier.

Meanwhile, the department has announced that it will invest R27 million over the next three years in the country's Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) Satellite programme.

The department’s director-general, Dr Phil Mjwara, announced this at the ZACube-2 plenary held at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
“The MDASat constellation will provide cutting-edge data exchange systems for the maritime industry in support of Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy), as well as veld fire detection applications for South Africa and the region.”

The department also indicated that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has developed the Oceans and Coastal Information Management System to support Operation Phakisa.

Three new satellites to support the MDA satellite constellation will be ready for launch in 2020.

Sabinet Cape Town Office

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