Barlow Manilal is not someone to shy away from a challenge.
And in keeping with his personality, the new CEO of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA)
is also not afraid to acknowledge that the state-owned enterprise that he has inherited will need a lot of work to turnaround.
A task, he believes, is not insurmountable.
The agency was launched in 2010, following a merger of nine institutions, to boost investment in innovation.
But it has had is fair share of problems, including top staff leaving and going through four CEOs in just five years.
Despite this Manilal, the former head of the Automotive Industry
Development Centre, remains steadfast in his belief that he can turn the embattled agency into a top performer.
“I have a plan and I am urgently going through this plan,” says a resolute Manilal.
Eluding to the dismissal of former high ranking officials who were dismissed last year after a forensic investigation found several irregularities,
such as irregular investment transactions, Manilal admits that the agency has faced governance challenges in the past.
The fi rst six months of his five-year contract has been about stabilising the agency and putting in place better systems and processes.
When Manilal took over in April the agency had already undergone a voluntary staff retrenchment process after its budget was cut from R521 million in the 2014/15
financial year to R385 million in the current fi nancial year. The cut followed a 2013
ministerial review that found the agency had underperformed in a number of areas.
In July the agency completed a consolidation and rationalisation exercise to reduce staff numbers and branch offices.
The agency shut its offices in Limpopo and Bloemfontein.
It now has offices in Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban. But Manilal points out that the TIA will still have a national presence.
After consultations with the Department of Science and Technology and trade unions, a new staff organogram was also completed and 60 staff members took voluntary severance packages last year.
Manilal says a second window for staff to take voluntary severance packages was held earlier this year but that only a single staff member took up the retrenchment offer.
At the end of the restructuring process 22 unplaced staff needed to be placed in the 27 vacancies that had opened up.
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