The Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 gives effect to the constitutional right of access to information held by the State and any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights.
The Act requires private bodies to prepare and submit a copy of their information manual (“PAIA Manual”) to the Human Rights Commission. A private body includes a natural person who carries or has carried on any trade, business or profession, but only in such capacity; a partnership which carries or has carried on any trade, business or profession; or any former or existing juristic person, but excludes a public body.
The PAIA Manual must contain the following information:
- The postal and street address, phone and fax number and, if available, electronic mail address of the head of the body;
- A description of the guide referred to in section 10, if available, and how to obtain access to it;
- The latest notice in terms of section 52(2) of the Act, if any, regarding the categories of records of the body which are available without a person having to request access in terms of this Act;
- A description of the records of the body which are available in accordance with any other legislation;
- Sufficient detail to facilitate a request for access to a record of the body, a description of the subjects on which the body holds records and the categories of records held on each subject; and
- Such other information as may be prescribed.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development previously granted a five year extension for private bodies to prepare and submit their PAIA Manuals by 31 December 2011, but has recently extended the exemption of private bodies until 31 December 2015, providing private bodies with a further period of respite in order to get their affairs in order and compile their PAIA Manual.
The following private bodies however still have to submit their PAIA Manual to the Commission:
A private body which is not a private company as defined in the Companies Act of 2008 and a private body which is a private company as defined in the Companies Act of 2008, which operates within any of the sectors listed in the exemption notice’s schedule and has 50 or more employees in their employment or has a total annual turnover that is equal to or more than the applicable amount mentioned in the schedule.
Private bodies are strongly advised to contact their attorneys to ascertain if they qualify for the exemption and to assist them with the preparation of their PAIA Manual to ensure compliance with the Act.