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Science and Technology Laws Bill Sent for Assent

July 6, 2020

Parliament

Parliament has passed the Science and Technology Laws Amendment Bill and sent it to president Ramaphosa for assent.

The bill was tabled in parliament in November 2018.

It lapsed in May 2019 but was revived by the national assembly in October 2019.

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.

The national assembly passed the bill and sent it to the national council of provinces for concurrence in February 2020.

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.

The select committee on education and technology, sports, arts and culture adopted the bill without amendments.

Meanwhile, the science and innovation department has announced the development of a mobile application to assist with quick and effective screening of learners for COVID-19.

“Named “Tjop Tjop”, the app collects and stores the key health information of learners, teachers and support staff without the need for any paperwork.”

The app was developed by a team of engineers from North-West University (NWU) Led by Prof. Leenta Grobler and Dr Henri-Jean Marais.

The NWU team were named the winners of the COVID-19 Innovation Challenge held alongside the virtual Africa Innovation and Investment Forum 2020 from 15 to 19 June.

The department organized the Forum in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Once a learner has been issued with a quick response code and scanned using the app, the information is submitted to a database.

“This makes reporting and storage of information significantly quicker and easier, and lowers the chances of human error creeping in.”