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Dereliction of duties: how the constitutional right of access to information is being undermined

- Access to Information Network

The Access to Information Network releases its annual shadow report

Year after year, the Access to Information Network’s Shadow report have indicated poor levels of compliance with the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 by government, state owned companies and private companies. The 2017 iteration of the Access to Information Network’s Shadow Report once again shows that PAIA compliance levels remain below expectations, despite PAIA having been around for 16 years now.

Statistics from PAIA requests for information submitted by members of the Access to Information Network (ATI Network), over the period 1 August 2016 till 31 July 2017, form the back bone of the report and are supplemented by narratives of specific experiences of network members. A grand total of 408 PAIA requests were submitted to both public institutions as well as private entities. The key findings of the report are as follows:

Outcomes of the requests to government and SOCs:

  • 5% of requests were ignored ;
  • Access was granted, in full or in part, to 33.15% of requests;
  • The number of inter departmental transfers increased relative to the 2015/16 reporting period, with 11.8% of requests transferred in full or in part;
  • Compliance with prescribed statutory timeframes was alarming, with 65% of requests not responded to within the statutory time period of 30 days;
  • The most common ground for refusal was that the requested records do not exist and this was hardly ever confirmed by way of affidavit, as is required by PAIA; and
  • The ATI Network lodged 164 internal appeals. While five of those appeals were still pending at the date of reporting, 79.25% of the appeals were simply ignored.

Outcome of requests to private companies:

  • 40% of requests were ignored by private companies; and
  • Access was granted, in full or in part, to 31.8 % of requests.

The ATI Network’s recommendations to improve the situation:

  • Stricter sanctions for statutory non-compliance, especially with respect to non-compliance with the statutory time frames;
  • Implement the proactive disclosure of records in terms of section 15 of PAIA;
  • De-formalisation of the PAIA request process;
  • The amendment of PAIA to include an emergency access to information provision for time sensitive requests; and
  • The provision of adequate resources by government to the Information Regulator and National Archive.

About the ATI Network

The ATI Network was established in 2008 in response to the need for civil society collaboration to strengthen the effective use and implementation of PAIA, the mechanism via which our constitutional right to access information should be realised. The ATI Network currently consists of the following members (in alphabetical order):

  • amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism
  • Centre for Applied Legal Studies
  • Centre for Environmental Rights
  • Corruption Watch
  • Equal Education Law Centre
  • Khulumani Support Group
  • Open Democracy Advice Centre
  • Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism
  • Public Service Accountability Monitor
  • Right2Know
  • South African History Archive
  • Wits Justice Project       

A copy of the report is available here

To find out more about the report, please contact:

  • Imraan Abdullah
  • Freedom of Information Programme Researcher
  • 011 718 2563
  • CER and EELC
  • Christine Reddell
  • Attorney at the Centre for Environmental Rights
  • 021 447 1647