The purpose of the Promotional of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 (PAIA) is to give effect to the Constitutional right of access to information held by both private and public bodies. It aims to promote a society in which South African’s can easily access or obtain information to enable them to exercise and protect all their rights.
A formal request for information in terms of PAIA is a powerful tool one can use to gain access to the information or records of a private or public body. However, there is some uncertainty about how one can access this information in terms of PAIA. PAIA addresses this issue by requiring private and public bodies to publish manuals to guide information requesters.
In terms of Section 51 of PAIA, all private bodies are required to compile a manual (PAIA manual) and are further required to submit their PAIA manuals to the South African Human Rights Commission (the SAHRC). The PAIA manual should provide information to guide information requesters or the public on how they can use PAIA to access the records of a specific private body.
The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services exempted certain private bodies from having to compile PAIA manuals for a period of five years, with effect from 1 January 2016. However, the current position is that it is compulsory for all previously exempted private bodies to compile and submit their PAIA manuals to the SAHRC by 1 July 2021.
It is compulsory for the following private bodies or companies to compile a PAIA manual if they employ over 50 employees in the following industries or have an annual turnover greater than the amounts listed below:
- Agriculture -R6 million
- Catering, Accommodation and Other Trade -R15 million
- Community, Special and Personal Services -R15 million
- Construction -R15 million
- Electricity, Gas and Water -R30 million
- Finance and Business Services -R30 million
- Manufacturing -R30 million
- Mining and Quarrying -R22.5 million
- Retail, Motor Trade and Repair Services -R45 million
- Transport, Storage and Communications -R30 million
- Wholesale Trade, Commercial Agents and Allied Services -R75 million
The Minister has also indicated that all companies that are not defined as ‘private companies’ in terms of Section 1 of the Companies Act 71 of 2008 are required to compile and submit a PAIA manual to the SAHRC.
Private bodies or companies required to compile a PAIA manual must make their PAIA manual available and accessible to the public in the following ways:
- By making a copy available for inspection at every office of that specific private body during office hours. A private body may not charge an inspection fee;
- By making a copy available on their website.
Section 90 of PAIA sets out the penalties for non-compliance by private bodies with the requirements of Section 51. If the head of a private body wilfully or in a grossly negligent manner fails to comply with the provisions of Section 51 commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.
Should you require any legal advice on PAIA or assistance with drafting a PAIA manual for your business, please contact your nearest SEESA office for assistance. Alternatively, you can leave your contact details on our website.
About the Author:
Sandrisha Govender is a Legal Advisor for Labour, Consumer Protection and POPI at SEESA’s Port Elizabeth office. She obtained her LLB from the Nelson Mandela University. She is also an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa.
- The SAHRC Guide on How to Use the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000
- The Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000
- Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (Act No. 2 of 2000): Exemption of Certain Private Bodies from Compiling Manual. Government Gazette No. 44003: 1354 18 December 2020