Technology Innovation Agency's outgoing CEO Barlow Manilal. Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA
Technology Innovation Agency's outgoing CEO Barlow Manilal. Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA

The board of the government agency that supports the development of technological innovation in SA, and which is chaired by new Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter, has elected not to renew CEO Barlow Manilal’s contract.

This is despite the agency singing Manilal’s praises, including saying that under his tenure the agency achieved unqualified audit reports for the past four consecutive years.

The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) falls under the department of science and technology.

The TIA also aims to provide SA with appropriate and effective support for innovation with a high social and economic impact, and enhancing technology innovation in Africa and globally to support, establish and create partnership initiatives.

According to its annual report for 2017/2018, the TIA received a parliamentary grant of R397m during the period under review. Project funding disbursements amounted to R309m, while employee costs were R99m.

This week, the board said it was satisfied that the TIA had substantially achieved its annual performance plan, which was submitted to parliament. It noted that Manilal, who was appointed as CEO in April 1 2015, “agreed” that his contract will not be renewed and that he will leave the organisation at the end of June.

“The board members have extended their sincere appreciation to Mr Barlow Manilal for his contribution and sacrifices over the past four years and wish him well in his future endeavours. The process to recruit a new CEO will commence immediately.” 

A high-ranking official at a government research entity who is privy to details, has questioned why Manilal’s contract has not been renewed.

“He was pushed. Yes, his contract did end, but the TIA plays a very critical role in the ecosystem of innovation in this country. It’s stability matters,” the official noted. “We invest a lot as SA in research and development and we don’t have big companies that can take researches further in terms of public-private partnerships.”

Chartered accountant and erstwhile board member Fuzlin Levy-Hassen has been appointed as the interim CEO effective June 13. Neither Manilal nor Levy-Hassen could immediately be reached for comment.

Levy-Hassen was senior account manager for venture capital at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) until 2015. She’s also worked as a senior lecturer at the University of the Western Cape, and for the National Empowerment Fund, Norwich Investments, Ernst Young, and UCT.