03 January 2012

Extension of PAIA manual exemption

On 30 December 2011, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development extended the exemption from the requirement that private bodies produce manuals under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

Section 51 of PAIA requires that private bodies compile manuals containing their contact details and information about the records they hold in order to assist people wishing to obtain access to information under PAIA.

However, PAIA permits the Minister to exempt bodies from producing a manual. A previous exemption afforded to the majority of private bodies was due to expire on 31 December 2011.

The silence from the Ministry and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development regarding whether the exemption would be extended caused panic and confusion within the private sector, as private entities scurried to ensure they would not be in breach of their legal obligations.

At the eleventh hour the Minister extended the exemption until 31 December 2015, by government notice number 34914. The exemption applies to all private bodies unless they are:
• a company which is not a private company under the Companies Act; or
• a company with more than 50 employees, operating in a specified sector and with an annual turnover greater than the amount specified in the notice.

Non-government organisations are therefore exempt from preparing a PAIA manual.

If you are unsure whether your organisation is required to prepare a PAIA manual, contact the South African Human Rights Commission.

It is important to note that the exemption applies only to the obligation to create a manual. Private bodies are not exempt from compliance with the rest of PAIA and must provide information to requesters in accordance with that Act.