Information Technology/IT Law: Does Your Business Have a Promotion of Access to Information Act Manual (‘PAIA Manual’)?

Lately there has been a great deal of talk on whether organisations need to have a PAIA manual and whether they must have such manual published on their website. Section 32(1) of the Constitution establishes the fundamental right of access to information. This section provides a statutory right to request any record held by the state, as well as access to records held by public and private bodies.

What is a PAIA manual? The Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 (“PAIA”) allows people to obtain access to information held by both public and private bodies. PAIA prescribes that every public and private body must publish a PAIA manual to assist requesters who wish to access a record the organisation holds on them. A PAIA manual addresses, amongst other things, who the head of the organisation is, the head of the organisation’s contact details, the organisation’s physical location and how to request access to personal information held by the organisation.

Previously, the mandate of PAIA was governed by the South African Human Rights Commission (“SAHRC”) and PAIA provided for exemptions in which certain organisations that fell into particular industries with limitation on staff and annual turnaround did not have to produce and publish a PAIA manual. However, since the 30th June 2021 this role has been taken over by the Information Regulator.

With the Information Regulator taking over the mandate of the SAHRC, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services has specified that there has been an amendment to these exemptions. The Minister has exempted certain private bodies from producing and publishing a PAIA manual, following the implementation of the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013 (“POPIA”). However, this expires on the 31st of December 2021 upon which all public and private bodies must have complied and published a PAIA manual.

But what does this mean? From the 1 of January 2022, all organisations will be required to compile and publish a PAIA manual on their website (should they have a website), make the manual available at their principle place of business (in cases where the organisation is a private body) and make the manual available to any person that requests it (at payment of a reasonable amount). Non-compliance puts your organisation’s information officer at risk of being fined or imprisoned for a period of not exceeding two (2) years.

Don’t wait for the last minute to get your PAIA manual in order. The exemption will not be extended further so you will need a PAIA manual from 31 December 2021. Contact us and ask for the IT and IP law department so that we can assist you and your organisation in drafting and/or reviewing your PAIA manual in order to be compliant before it is too late.

*Note: that a PAIA manual is only one step towards your organisation becoming website compliant. Let us know whether you would like us to assist your organisation in becoming fully compliant at the same time (at a reduced subscription based rate).

For any assistance or guidance contact Claire Gibson at cgibson@dkvg.co.za or Gerrie van Gaalen at gvgaalen@dkvg.co.za.

This article is for general information purposes and should not be used or relied on as legal or other 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 us At DKVG Attorneys for specific and detailed advice.