All ‘private bodies’ that have not already done so, have until 31 December 2021 to compile a manual in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000 (PAIA).
What does PAIA require?
The Act requires public and private bodies to compile a manual containing information about the records and information held by that body.
The Information Regulator took over the functions of the Human Rights Commission in respect of PAIA as from 30 June 2021. The Information Regulator issued the following statement:
“Please note that the public or private bodies are no longer required to submit their PAIA Manuals with the Regulator. They are required to develop and publish updated PAIA Manual (PER POPIA AMENDMENT) on their websites, keep a copy at their principal place of business for inspection by the members of the public during their office hours.”
If you have a business of any kind, PAIA probably applies to you. A ‘private body’ includes every private person, partnership or juristic person that does business, irrespective of the size or the nature of such business.
The Minister has over the years granted exemption based on certain criteria, e.g., those who employ less than 50 employees with an annual turnover of less than a prescribed amount. The exemption was extended on several occasions. However, on 30 June 2021 the Minister for Justice and Correctional Services granted a further and final extension until 31 December 2021. This means that as from 1 January 2022 all businesses have to comply.
What is it all about?
The main purpose of PAIA is to foster a culture of transparency and accountability. It gives effect to the constitutional right of citizens to gain access to certain records and information in order to exercise and protect their human rights. The Act provides for certain procedures to be followed to gain such access, as well as the grounds on which access may be refused.
The Act and regulations cover a range of other matters, such as request and appeal procedures, remedies, forms, fees, public participation, etc.
Failure to comply
In terms of PAIA, it is an offence to destroy, damage or conceal a record in order to deny a requester access to it. It is not clear what action the authorities will take against those who fail to submit a manual.
The Information Regulator has compiled a free template to assist businesses – see here (highlighted in red)