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South Africa: Deadline looms for submission of PAIA Reports by private and public bodies

21 June 2024
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Overview

  • If you are an information officer or deputy information officer of your organisation, chances are that you have received an ‘invitation’ to submit an annual report in respect of access to information requests in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 (PAIA).
  • Although entitled ‘invitation’, this is not a voluntary exercise and the Information Regulator has advised that all private and public bodies are required to submit a report detailing the access to information requests received and processed by no later than 30 June 2024.

On 22 April 2024, the Information Regulator of South Africa (Regulator) circulated an invitation to submit the 2023/2024 financial year annual reports in respect of access to information requests received and processed by public and private bodies in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 (PAIA).

In terms of section 32 of PAIA, the information officer of a public body is obliged to annually submit a report to the Regulator in respect of access to information requests received and processed by the public body. In respect of private bodies, section 83(4) of PAIA provides that the Information Regulator may request the information officer of a private body to submit a report and the private body may furnish the Regulator with details relating to the requests for access to records received and processed by that the private body.

Although entitled ‘invitation’, and whilst section 83(4) provides that a private body ‘may’ furnish the report to the Information Regulator, this is not a voluntary exercise, and the Regulator has confirmed that all private and public bodies are required to submit a report.

How and by when must the report be submitted?

The report must be submitted through the Regulator’s eServices Portal accessed here.

To submit the report, the information officer of the private or public body concerned must be registered on the eServices Portal. Accordingly, to the extent not yet done so, the information officer must register as such on the eServices Portal to proceed with submitting a report.

The report is required to be submitted by 30 June 2024, and it is the information officer who is permitted to submit the report on behalf of the organisation.

What details are required to be included in the Report?

When submitting the report on the eServices Portal, the information officer will be presented with a list of questions requiring responses. Regardless of an organisation’s financial year, the responses provided to the questions need to cover the period from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024.

The questions cover:

  • The number of requests for access received by the organisation.
  • The number of requests for access granted in full.
  • The number of requests for access refused in full or refused partially and the number of times each provision of PAIA was relied on to refuse access in full or partially.
  • The number of cases in which the prescribed time periods to respond to the request were extended.
  • The number of internal appeals lodged (if applicable).
  • The number of complaints lodged against the organisation with the Information Regulator.
  • The number of Information Regulator reviews against providing access.
  • The number of applications made to a court, and the number of court decisions appealed against and the outcome thereof.

Once submitted, the information officer will receive a confirmation email. It is important to ensure that accurate and complete information is submitted, failing which the Regulator may issue an information notice to the organisation concerning the lack of information provided.

What happens if a Report is not submitted?

A failure to submit a report timeously may result in the Regulator conducting an own-initiative PAIA assessment in respect of the private or public body in question. This assessment will include a physical inspection and a review of documents relating to the organisation’s compliance with the provisions of PAIA. The consequences of non-compliance with PAIA can include enforcement proceedings being instituted by the Regulator.

It is accordingly prudent for organisations to ensure compliance with their obligations under PAIA. The process to submit a report is quick and user-friendly, and organisations are encouraged to submit their reports timeously.