Promotion of Access to Information Act
The Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 (“PAIA”) and the PAIA Manual enables individuals (“requester”) to gain access to information held by
- a public body being “any dept of state in the national or provincial government”, or
- a private body being “a person, partnership, company or political party”.
A personal requester (“personal requester”) means a requester seeking access to a record containing personal information about himself/herself.
PAIA prescribes that every public and private body must publish an information manual to assist requesters who wish to access a record.
Private bodies are defined:
- per GG Notice No 39504 of 11 December 2015 which exempted certain private bodies from compiling the manual contemplated in section 51(1) for a period of five years. These were companies with less than 50 employees and has a turnover of less than defined values based upon the industry sector they operate in; or
- any business which was established after 11 December 2015 which have to compile the manual within 6 months of commencement of business.
The above exemption applies for a period of five years, i.e. to 31 December 2020. By this date, all exempted companies must have submitted their PAIA Manual (“Manual”) to the South African Human Rights Commission (“the SAHRC”).
There are penalties for non-compliance with PAIA outlined per section 90. If the head of private body wilfully, or in a grossly negligent manner fails to comply with the provisions of section 51, it is deemed to commit an offence and may be liable, upon conviction, to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.
The PAIA Manual
Section 14 of PAIA outlines the function and index of records held by a Public Body.
Sections 17 and 51 of the Protection of Personal Information Act (“PoPIA”) respectively provide that Public bodies and Private bodies shall compile the Manual.
A Manual in at least 3 different languages (this requirement is not currently enforced) must be compiled, containing:
- a description of its structure and functions (Public bodies only);
- the postal and street address, phone and fax number and, if available, electronic mail address of the information officer of the Public body and the head of the Private body and of every deputy information officer of the body designated in terms of section 17(1) (Public bodies only);
- a description of the guide referred to in section 10, if available, and how to obtain access to it (this is available at com/y3ujbxav);
- the latest notice in terms of section 52(2), if any, regarding the categories of record of the Private body which are available without a person having to request access in terms of this Act;
- a description of the records of the Private body which are available in accordance with any other legislation;
- sufficient detail to facilitate a request for access to a record of the body, a description of the subjects on which the body holds records and the categories of records held on each subject; and
- such other information as may be prescribed.
The head of the Private body must on a regular basis update the Manual in accordance with the provisions of Section 9(1).
A generic template compiled by the SAHRC is available on their website.
Availability of the PAIA Manual of a private body
Regulation 9 of the Regulations (“Regulations”) to the PAIA Act provides as follows:
The head of a private body must, immediately after the manual has been compiled in terms of section 51 (1) or updated in terms of section 51 (2) of the Act –
- make available a copy of the manual to –
- the Human Rights Commission; and
- the controlling body of which that private body is a member, if applicable;
- publish the manual in the Gazette (this requirement is not currently enforced); and
- make available the manual on the website, if any, of the private body.
The head of a Private body –
- must, during office hours and upon request, make available for public inspection a copy of the manual;
- may not charge a fee for a public inspection; and
- may, in respect of a copy of the manual or part thereof made available, charge the fee prescribed in item 1 of Part 111 of Annexure A.
Request for Access
A request for access to a record of a Private body by a requester must substantially correspond with Form C of Annexure B of the Regulations.
Contact us should you need advice or assistance with compiling and filing your PAIA Manual.
A PDF copy of this article can be found here.