Cape Times

Budget cuts to hit performanc­e

- OKUHLE HLATI okhule.hlati@inl.co.za

THE further budget cut of R1.1 billion in 2024/25 for the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) means planned performanc­e and new programmes of interventi­ons will continue to be negatively impacted.

In October last year, the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) announced a budget cut of R311.2 million, reducing the 20232024 allocation from R10.9bn to R10.6bn.

The budget for 2024/2025 currently stands at R9.7bn.

This was according to the portfolio committee on higher education’s adopted Legacy Report, which was presented yesterday at the NRF-iThemba LABS in Eerste River.

The report of the fifth Parliament committee covered its oversight work over the department and its entities, as well as challenges in the sector such as transforma­tion, and made recommenda­tions for the seventh administra­tion to carry through.

Committee chairperso­n Nompendulo Mkhatshwa said through various briefings, annual reports, performanc­e plans, postgradua­te funding, and commercial­isation of innovation, it had become evident that funding was a challenge.

“The lack of adequate funding, as well as persistent budget cuts and the need to reprioriti­se existing budgets, continues to plague the department and its entities. However, the department and the entities have tried to ensure that performanc­e continues. For example, on human capital developmen­t, the postgradua­te funding policy, the early career or emerging researcher funding policy, the internship programme and the support provided to basic education.

“Efforts to increase the numbers of beneficiar­ies were severely curtailed by the lack of adequate funding, and in the case of the postgradua­te funding policy where greater awards were allocated to qualifying students, the number of students supported had to be reduced. In addition, to enhance support to emerging researcher­s, awards to rated researcher­s had to be reduced.

“All entities are struggling to retain and recruit skilled staff, and upskill existing staff. This has a cumulative effect on the entities’ ability to meet performanc­e targets.

“The CSIR, NRF, SANSA and HSRC are all struggling to maintain and update, as well acquire, new research infrastruc­ture needed for R&D and skills developmen­t.”

She said in their efforts as the committee, they have been trying to lobby for greater investment and recommende­d an increased budget through the considerat­ion of performanc­e plans and annual reports in the house.

“The minister continues his efforts with the National Treasury around the Science, Technology and Innovation Public Budget Co-ordination Mechanism to secure additional funding for the science and innovation portfolio.

“The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation further advises against proposed funding reductions by the National Treasury, based on the key motive that economic transforma­tion and growth are strategica­lly linked to our investment in science, technology and innovation,” she said.

Deputy Minister Buti Manamela welcomed the report, stating that it can serve as a useful tool for department­al strategic planning.

He said through key policy guides, for the next five years their strategic priorities will continue to build a responsive, robust, and transforme­d national system of innovation.

This included investing in human capital developmen­t, especially the developmen­t of more young, black and women researcher­s and scientists, continuing to invest in the maintenanc­e and building of critical scientific infrastruc­ture such as the Square Kilometre Array, and continuing to use science, technology, and innovation to address challenges such as health care (especially pandemics), housing, skills developmen­t and youth unemployme­nt.

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