Procedural requirements relating to information sought from a public body regarding the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 (“PAIA”).
Section 32 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 provides that everyone has the right of access to any information held by the state and any information that is held by another person that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights.
PAIA is the legislation envisaged in terms of section 32 (2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
From 1 July 2021, the Information Regulator takes over the oversight of PAIA in South Africa. PAIA has been in effect since 2002 but will now have a more significant impact with the appointment of a dedicated regulator to enforce it.
S11 of PAIA firstly emphasises that it is peremptory for a requester of information to comply with all procedural requirements set out in PAIA when requesting information from a public body.
A requester “must” be given access to the information on the condition that the procedural requirements are complied with and that the information requested is not protected from disclosure by one of the exemptions set out in the Act.
What are some of the procedural requirements?
- Public bodies must publish a Manual that provides guidelines to members of the public on how the information they hold is to be made available to requesters.
- Some public bodies have designed their unique form for the requesting of information. However, the prescribed form A, which applies to all public bodies, can be used and is attached as an annexure to the Regulations regarding the Promotion of Access to Information, promulgated in Government Notice 187, Government Gazette 23119 dated 15 February 2002. Therefore, it is essential to obtain the Manual of the public body in question and ensure that the guidelines contained therein are complied with, such as completing the correct form requesting information.
- The requester must send the prescribed form to the listed Information Officer and to the recorded email address.
- A required fee may be applicable if the information is not freely available.
- The requester must provide sufficient particulars to enable an official of the public body to identify the record or records requested.
- The requester must indicate which appropriate form of access is required and state whether the record concerned is preferred in a particular language.
- Details of a postal address or fax number of the requester in the Republic of South Africa.
- If in addition to a written reply, if the requester wishes to be informed of the decision on the request in any other manner, to state that manner and the necessary particulars to be so informed.
- If the request is made on behalf of a person, the requester must submit proof of their capacity to the reasonable satisfaction of the information officer must be submitted.
It is therefore crucial that all the procedural requirements are adhered to by a requester. Failing compliance, a public body is not obliged to provide the information, and the requester is not entitled to the information.