A shake-up of the National Advisory Council on Innovation (Naci) would allow it to report directly to the minister and Cabinet, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said on Tuesday.
This is one of the recommendations put forward in the 2012 ministerial review into the science, technology and innovation landscape, which painted the picture of a national innovation system with core competencies that were not being correctly harnessed and were falling through communication gaps.
“We’re trying to respond to the 2012 ministerial review report,” Pandor said. “We’re seeking to [set up an organisation] with a strong advisory role to the minister and Cabinet.”
This advisory role was why Naci, established under the Naci Act of 1997, was set up but “[it] has previously been disadvantaged by the limited statutory status it was given under the Act. The location of an advisory body to the minister within the authority of the department is a factor that has at times diminished Naci’s right to interact with the minister,” she said.
This would change, with the council mandated to prepare advisory reports for Cabinet and the minister and have regular meetings with the minister, Pandor said.
Also, “[Naci] will be given a response to all advice it offers”, creating an “accountability mechanism”, she said.
Asked whether these advisory reports and responses would be available to the public, Pandor said “this is a very open government” and that it would be determined between government and Naci.
She said that Naci would play a fundamental role in the review of South Africa’s entire innovation system, which was laid out in the white paper on science and technology of 1996. “The objective would be to craft a new white paper to be published in 2015 and the development of a decadal strategy to be developed for the 10 years of 2016 to 2026,” Pandor said.
The Naci shake-up has involved the induction of new blood into the council, with many high-profile people joining the council to advise on, according to Pandor, “the steps that must be taken to develop appropriate skills and strengthen institutions, and to support activities to promote socioeconomic development and growth in South Africa”.
They include Standard Bank chief executive Sim Tshabalala, executive chairperson of Dimension Data Middle East and Africa Dr Andile Ngcaba, Human Sciences Research Council chief executive Professor Olive Shisana and Econometrix chief Azar Jammine, among others.
Professor Cheryl de la Rey, the vice-rector and principal of the University of Pretoria, is to head up the council.