The Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), No 2 of 2000, was enacted in an effort to foster a culture of transparency and accountability in the public and private sector. It gives effect to the constitutional right of access to any information held by the State or any other person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights of any person.
This implies that any person whose rights may be affected may request any of the prescribed information as defined in the Act from a public or private body by following the applicable procedures. The public or private body is then legally compelled to provide such information in the prescribed manner.
Section 51 of this Act requires the head of a private body to compile, within six months after the commencement of this section of the Act or within six months after the establishment of the private body, a manual containing certain prescribed information, such as:
- postal and street address, phone and fax numbers and email address of the private body;
- the latest notice regarding the categories of records of the private body which are available without a person having to request access in terms of the Act;
- a description of available records generated by the private body, indicating which records are automatically available and which records are available on request;
- the request procedure to be followed in terms of the Act, as well as the applicable fees;
- a statement confirming the head of the public body;
- other information as prescribed by the Act.
This manual should be updated every time a change in the prescribed information occurs and must be:
- submitted to the Human Rights Commission;
- submitted to the controlling body of which the private body is a member (if applicable);
- published on the private body’s website (if applicable).
A private body is defined as:
- a natural person who carries on any trade or business or profession;
- a partnership that carries on any trade or business or profession;
- any former or existing juristic person, but excluding a public body.
When a person requests information in terms of this Act, it must be provided if:
- the information is requested to exercise or protect a right;
- the person follows the correct procedure as prescribed by the Act;
- access to that information cannot be denied on any of the grounds of refusal as stated in the Act.
The deadline for the submission and publication of the PAIA Manual for public and private bodies was 31 December 2011. However, for certain private bodies in certain economic sectors, this has been extended until 31 December 2015. These exceptions are based on:
- the economic sector in which the private body operates its business;
- the total number of employees being less than 50;
- the turnover of the private body being less than a certain amount per economic sector.
This extension does not otherwise impact on the enforcement of this Act, and the rest of the requirements of the Act are currently enforced.
The penalty for non-compliance is two years imprisonment or the possible option of fines.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice.