The South African Human Rights Commission has a specific mandate set out by the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000, to promote the right to access information and monitor compliance with the legislation.
Since the inception of the legislation, the Commission has committed its resources to heighten awareness, monitor compliance and provide assistance to members of the public to assert their right to information. The Commission carries out its PAIA mandate through the PAIA Unit and has designed programmes to implement the Commission’s mandate, including:
- Training and assistance to DIOs
- Compliance Audits
- Receipt of compliance reports and manuals from both the public and private sector
- Consultation and assistance to requesters
- Research and publications
- Law reform
- SAHRC compliance with PAIA
- The National Information Officers Forum and CC
Training and assistance to DIOs
One of the central areas of the Commission's work in advancing access to information is the promotion and awareness aspect of its mandate. This includes the provision of training to DIOs and practitioners both in the public and private sectors on request. The training sessions are aimed at providing implementers with basic application and interpretation skills and enabling them to link access to information with the daily operations of their departments. Through this approach the Commission aims to link access to information to improved service delivery, transparency, accountability and the Batho Pele principles.
In addition to training sessions the Commission hosts seminars on PAIA issues to provide further assistance to DIOs. The intention of these seminars is to stimulate conversations and learning on access to information and related issues for interested persons. Seminars are designed to include expert participants and usually cover topical developments relevant to the information community.
Training is provided free of charge on request.
Consultation and assistance to requesters
Part of the Commission’s mandate is to provide assistance to requesters wishing to exercise their rights. Requesters can be assisted through lodging a request for assistance via email or telephone. Requesters may also come in for consultations on appointment. In exceptional circumstances, requesters will be permitted to consult without having to make prior appointments.
As part of its duty to ensure that PAIA stays relevant to all people in South Africa, and that the legislation itself remains true to its objective to promote access to information, the Commission continually monitors emerging legislation. In this regard the Commission will make recommendations for legislation which may be contrary to the information sharing objectives of PAIA to be aligned with PAIA. Through engaging with Parlaiment and other stakeholders the Commission is able to ensure that the right to access information is not impacted negatively by any new legislation which Parliament may be considering.
The Commission also makes recommendations for reform to PAIA itself. It does this by submitting recommendations annually to the administrative authority of PAIA, which is the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. These recommendations are informed by the Commissions monitoring, its work with ordinary people and the socio-economic factors which influence the working of the legislation.
The Commission encourages comment on the legislation from the public. These comments can include personal experiences in using the legislation and suggestions for how such challenges if any can be overcome. Comments may be submitted through the PAIA email box.
SAHRC's compliance with PAIA
The PAIA Unit is also responsible for ensuring that the Commission itself complies with PAIA. This means that the Commission must demonstrate its commitment to information sharing, public participation in its policy making, and conduct itself openly and accountably.
The road map or information directory of the Commission can be accessed on the homepage of the Commission.
All requests for information from the Commission must be directed to the Information Officer, the CEO of the Commission, Mr Kayum Ahmed.
The National Information Officers Forum and CC
The National Information Officers Forum (NIOF) is an annual event hosted in partnership with Open Democracy Advise Centre (ODAC). The conference marks the international right to know day in September and is a celebration of the right to know. It boasts participation by access to information champions and experts and has come to be an event looked forward to with keen anticipation by members of the information community.
The rationale behind the celebration is to provide a platform for Deputy Information Officers and implementers of PAIA to interact with experts, share the challenges of implementation and share best practice tools. The forum has been used as a means to:
- raise awareness; facilitate responsiveness and openness through information sharing;
- cultivate a culture of social justice and respect for human rights within multiple levels of government;
- keep Information Officers and Deputy Information Officers abreast of developments in PAIA and International trends in access to information;
- give Information Officers and Deputy Information Officers the opportunity to engage with the SAHRC and to inform the work of the SAHRC;
- provide academics and policy makers with insight on practical impediments in implementation;
- provide Deputy Information Officers time and space necessary to organize themselves through coordinating Committees;
- reward and honour best practice; and
- accelerate the implementation of PAIA.
The NIOF consists of the Information Officers and designated deputy information officers from: public bodies including each of the national; provincial, and; local government departments, delegates from the State Owned enterprises and parastals; representatives from the private sector; and representatives from Civil Society.
Guest speakers often include Parliamentarians, heads of state departments, experts, academics and activists. The Commission has found that delegates’ interaction with presenters gives them an opportunity to share challenges and acquire knowledge and skills for implementation of PAIA. The forum further allows DIOs to gather important information to share with their peers within their own institutions to enhance PAIA implementation within their respective institutions.
The Golden Key Award (GKA) ceremony follows immediately after the NIOF. The ceremony is hosted to recognize best practice in the implementation of PAIA, and to acknowledge entities and organizations which model openness, responsiveness and information sharing. A methodology for determining winners was established. The research aims to ascertain the internal readiness of institutions to implement PAIA. Areas of evaluation during the research include policy, compliance, records management and the availability of human and capital resources for the administration of PAIA to determine the readiness of institutions.
The awards are given under the following categories:
- The openness and responsiveness award by institution;
- Deputy Information Officer of the year award;
- Requester award; and
- The best media usage /engagement with PAIA.
The objective of the awards goes beyond recognizing practice; however it aims to encourage non performing institutions to accelerate their performance and possibly stand a chance of nomination and winning an award.
The NIOF and the GKA’s have over the years played a significant role in increasing awareness and accelerating excellent performance and compliance in the public sector.
A detailed report of the GKA is available on the publications link.
The Coordination Committee
The Coordinating Committee (CC) is elected by the NIOF. The CC comprises of DIOs from the various tiers of government, and representatives from civil society. The South African Human Rights Commission serves as the secretariat of the CC and ODAC is a partner of the CC. The CC is tasked with overseeing the activities of the Forum and establishing Provincial Information Officer’s Forums. In addition to the abovementioned functions the CC must represent the interests of DIOs and inform interventions to accelerate awareness and implementation of PAIA through the secretariat. CC members serve for a period of two years.
The 2013 - 2015 CC comprises of the following members:
1. Mr. Letshokgola MP (Department of Agriculture, Limpopo)
2. Mr. Kaisen Khoza (Department of Tourism, Free State)
3. Adv Nandipha Ntsaluba (Department of Defence)
4. Mr. Hein Spingies (National Research Foundation)
5. Adv. Ernest Chipu (City of Johannesburg)
6. Ms Trudy Moshodi (Department of Arts, Limpopo)
7. Ps Mandla Zembe (Stats SA)
For more information on PAIA click on the links below: