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Mandatory Compliance - Section 51 of Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) - 31st December 20

2011-11-28


The South African Human Rights Commission is a constitutional body established in terms of Chapter 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996, and their core mandate is to promote, protect and monitor the observance of human rights.
The Commission has a specific mandate in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 (PAIA), to monitor compliance with the legislation, report compliance levels to National Parliament, and to enhance implementation of the Act within both the Public and Private sector.

The Commission has expressed grave concern regarding poor levels of compliance despite the inception of this legislation more than a decade ago. The Minister declared a moratorium exempting small business from complying with Section 51 of PAIA. This moratorium is set to expire on 31 December 2011.

Section 51 of PAIA carries a mandatory compliance obligation for the Private Sector and aligns with the advocacy of information sharing and transparency related to the right of people to receive information. Regulations permit the imposition of a fine or a sentence of imprisonment for willful or grossly negligent non-compliance with the obligations of Section 51.

PAIA is a component of a framework advocated by the Companies Act, the King reports, etc. vital to securing good corporate governance incorporating accountability and transparency; improved efficiency and reduced corruption.

PAIA legislation creates the framework to the right to access information enshrined in section 32 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996. The purpose of this legislation is to promote a culture of transparency, accountability and good governance both in the private and public sectors.

PAIA gives a requester the right to lodge a request from the information officer (head) of a private body. A private body as defined in the Act includes juristic bodies. The Act further defines the head of a private body as "the chief executive officer or equivalent officer of the juristic person or any person duly authorized by that office...."

In terms of Section 51 of PAIA, the head of a private body must:
1. compile a section 51 manual which is a roadmap of the company
2. submit the manual to the South African Human Rights Commission once, electronically and in hard copy format
3. effect material changes when these occur and resubmit to the SAHRC
4. manuals must be submitted to SAHRC head office at the address listed below
5. make the manual available as prescribed by the Act at the company offices and on their website;
6. must annex a request form to the manual and also make request form available on the website and at the company premises access points;
7. there are penalties for non compliance - please see section 90 of PAIA, the Commission has not imposed fines for non compliance to date but reserves the right to do.

The manual must, amongst others, contain the following information:
1. details of the company's postal, email and street address, fax and phone of the company;
2. the description of available records generated by the company stating those which are automatically available and those that are available on request;
3. outline the request procedure in terms of PAIA;
4. state who the head of the company is (CEO is usually the Information Officer in terms of PAIA);
5. stipulate the fees applicable as legislated by the Act which are chargeable to requesters;
6. remedies available to requesters if their request for information has been refused;
7. details facilitating request for access to a record etc.
The Human Rights Commission is mandated to provide training and support to all sectors of society, and so can be contacted for assistance.

DRG Outsourcing and NKADavis will assist you to complete your Section 51 Manual with ease and simplicity. We have created an easy to use data gathering tool, and our fast and friendly service will ensure that your Section 51 Manual is done correctly and timeously. (www.paiacompliance.co.za).
 




Mandatory Compliance - Section 51 of Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) - 31st December 20

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