New PAIA Regulations place extra duties on information officers
On 27 August 2021, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, under section 92 of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (“PAIA”) published the Regulations Relating to the Promotion of Access to Information, 2021 (“PAIA regulations”).
The PAIA regulations, among other things, places a duty on the Information Regulator to publish a guide containing such information, in an easily comprehensible form and manner, as may reasonably be required by a person who wishes to exercise any right contemplated in PAIA (“guide”).
Information officers are obliged to have a copy of the guide, in at least two of the official languages, at their registered head offices, for public inspection during normal office hours. In addition an information officer must make available a copy of the guide, at no charge, upon the written request of any person on a prescribed form.
The information officer must assist a person who requests access to records under PAIA (“requester”) with any such request. If a request for access to a record is made orally as a result of illiteracy or a disability, the information officer needs to complete a new prescribed form on behalf of the requester and provide a copy to the requester.
The request fee and other fees payable by every requester have increased.
A new penalty was created under regulation 16, whereby information officers who wilfully or in a grossly negligent manner charges a fee other than the fee prescribed in terms of the regulations, is guilty of an offence. They would be liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.
Private and public bodies should amend their existing PAIA manuals to reflect the changes brought about by the PAIA regulations.
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