07 December 2008

Initiating engagement with Local Government

The Local Government PAIA Tools for Community Intervention Seminar was initiated and chaired by the South African Human Rights Commission on Thursday 04 December 2008. The purpose of the seminar was to share PAIA Tools that have proven effective for local government bodies in terms of engaging with PAIA and ensuring effective community intervention.

It was unfortunate that the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) were unable, at the last minute, to attend the seminar, as they had the role of contextualising the purpose of the event. A presentation from the Department of Provincial and Local Government offered insights into Integrated Development Programmes (IDP) and what should be happening in local governments. The City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality presented a brief overview of Community-based Planning (CBP). What the two representatives from local government failed to do, however, was to address the central theme of the seminar: namely, PAIA Tools for Community Intervention.

The Human Rights Commission and the National Community Radio Forum offered useful tools that may be taken up by local government in order to assist with successful implementation of PAIA as well addressing the broader task of sharing information and facilitating community engagement.

Melvis Pieterson from the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) expertly mediated an ensuing discussion. FOIP offered some insight and suggestions in view of its experience with dealing with local government as well as community engagement and PAIA.

Key issues raised during the seminar include: there need to be stronger accountability mechanisms and structures; local government needs to look beyond the internet in terms of providing information to communities (the internet is not part of the public sphere for many South Africans); and local government needs to commit a larger budget and commitment to implementing PAIA.

Outstanding questions that need to be addressed urgently:

  1. Who should be responsible for the implementation of PAIA in Municipalities?
  2. Where do we draw the line in terms of the relationship between politicians and officials in local government in relation to the implementation of PAIA?
  3. How do we relate PAIA to service delivery and the Batho Pele Principles?

FOIP is keen for a dialogue with local government to be kept open by the Human Rights Commission. Recommendations have been forwarded to the Commission and FOIP hopes that outstanding issues will be constructively addressed.

For further details please contact Charlotte Young or Fritz Schoon.