Manilal has plans to boost TIA

The new head of the Technology Innovation Agency has a clear plan for his tenure. He aims to get a clean audit for the beleaguered state organisation, become the employer of choice, and make excellence part of the daily work ethic for everyone.

 barlow_manilal_technology_ceo_article Barlow Manilal said he aspirations for TIA include a clean audit and being the employer of choice in South Africa. (Image: Supplied, Technology Innovation Agency)

Melissa Javan

A clean audit, being the employer of choice in South Africa, and being regarded as benchmark in the funding arena, are just a few of the aspirations of Barlow Manilal, the new chief executive officer of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) has pencilled in for his term at the helm.

Manilal took office on 1 April, after interim chief executive Prof Rivka Kfir stepped down at the end of her tenure. She was assigned by Derek Hanekom, at the time the minister of science and technology, in April 2014 with a year-long contract.

The TIA was established in terms of the TIA Act, with the objective of stimulating and intensifying technological innovation in order to improve economic growth and quality of life in South Africa by developing and exploiting technological innovations.

According to the agency, it primarily uses South Africa’s science and technology base to develop new industries, create sustainable jobs and help to diversify the economy. It invests in advanced manufacturing, agriculture, industrial biotechnology, health, mining, energy and information and communications technology.

The previous chief executive, Simphiwe Duma, and the chief financial officer, Barbara Kortjass, were dismissed in March 2014 after a disciplinary process. It arose after the TIA board received several allegations in May 2013 levelled against Duma and five other agency officials.

“Deloitte was appointed in July to investigate allegations of nepotism, intimidation of external auditors, irregular investment transactions, Duma’s expenses, and procurement of goods and services,” reported News24. “Disciplinary proceedings against six staff members, including the CEO and CFO of TIA, were conducted after the report by Deloitte.”

Regarding their dismissal, Manilal said last week it was neither appropriate nor ethical for him to discuss matters of this nature as the processes and parties involved needed to be respected. “We need to put a stake in the ground and say we are moving forward as TIA. I am accountable and my journey starts here.

“TIA’s positioning, effectiveness and demonstration of being an effective instrument to advance the objectives of the National System of Innovation are areas of focus. I guess trust is earned and TIA will commence this journey with a view to earning that trust in a very sustainable and credible manner,” he said.

Automative chief

Manilal holds a Bachelor of Science honours in industrial technology and management, among several other management qualifications.

He was previously the head of the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) and is no stranger to working with a big team – he had a team of 160 at the centre. He spend 14 years at this organisation, seven of which he was the chief executive.

During his tenure, the institution posted several accomplishments to show. Manilal was nominated for the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Business Awards in July 2012 and won the Black Business Quarterly’s Public Sector Visionary Award in October 2013. He and the AIDC also won the Oliver Empowerment Awards’ Most Transformed Public Sector Award in 2014.

Manilal also served as the national president of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transportation of South Africa from 2006 until the beginning of 2015. He is an editorial advisory board member of Transport World Africa, a representative on the Federation of Supply Chain Management Associations of South Africa, and is on the Automotive Industry Advisory Council to the University of Johannesburg.

The challenges

His challenges at the TIA, he said, included a restructuring process, dealing with day-to-day business activities and service delivery. He planned to work closely with staff and management so that nobody was left behind in the process. “We then have to take a very pragmatic approach and prioritise effectively. The most important factors will be diligence, discipline and accountability.”

“Make excellence an attitude” is his motto, which he takes to his private life too. Manilal once said that Richard Branson was his favourite businessman. “He [Branson] is one of the few people who has mastered the art of having outrageous fun whilst achieving immense success… having fun is extremely important to me.”