The national assembly has passed the Science and Technology Laws Amendment Bill and sent it to the national council of provinces for concurrence.
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.
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 will now process the bill.
Meanwhile, regulations to the Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Act are being developed.
The science and innovation department confirmed this during a briefing on the act in parliament.
President Ramaphosa assented to the act in August 2019.
Parliament passed the bill and sent it for assent in March 2019.
The Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Act aims to provide for:
• the protection, promotion, development and management of indigenous knowledge;
• provide for the establishment and functions of the National Indigenous Knowledge Systems Office;
• provide for the management of rights of indigenous knowledge communities;
• provide for the establishment and functions of the Advisory Panel on indigenous knowledge;
• provide for access and conditions of access to knowledge of indigenous communities;
• provide for the recognition of prior learning;
• provide for the facilitation and coordination of indigenous knowledge-based innovation; and
• provide for matters incidental thereto.
The act will come into effect on a date still to be determined by the president.
During the briefing, the department pointed out that the act addresses various concerns including bio piracy, misappropriation, promotes registration of Indigenous Knowledge, recognises prior learning of practitioners, benefit sharing for communities, facilitates research and development and creates mechanisms for dispute resolution for communities.
The department also indicated that a phased implementation of the act will come into force once it has been promulgated.
In another briefing on the state of readiness of implementing the act, the department declared that challenges include inadequate funding for a functional NIKSO Office, a legal framework that addresses sustainability of the Special Service Delivery Unit and acceptance of the IKS based services and innovation.