The PAIA manual: Have you done yours?

A1BIf your business is in the private sector and has not drawn up its PAIA manual yet, now is the time to start doing so as PAIA manuals for private bodies must be submitted to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) by 31 December 2015. Do you know who will be the Information Officer (it could be you!) and what information should be included in a PAIA manual? If not, read on to be enlightened.

Which person in an organisation is responsible for the PAIA manual?

The head of a private body is responsible for compiling and submitting the body’s PAIA manual to the SAHRC. In the case of a private company the CEO is the head of the company and normally the Information Officer responsible for the PAIA manual. An Information Officer can also be the person who performs the function equivalent to that of a CEO of a juristic person. The CEO or the person who performs the function equivalent to that of a CEO can also authorise any other person as the Information Officer.

What information should be included in a PAIA manual?

The information required to be included in a PAIA manual includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • The name and contact details of the head of the private body:
    • Telephone number
    • Fax number
    • E-mail address
    • Postal address
    • Street address
  • A list of other legislation applicable to the organisation e.g. the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998, the Income Tax Act 58 of 1962, etc;
  • Lists of records generated by the business in terms of other legislation applicable to the organisation, categorised per Act, for example, list the documents required to be kept by the organisation in terms of the Companies Act 61 of 1973 under a heading titled “Companies Act Records”. Some examples of documents to be listed in terms of the Companies Act are share registers, minutes of meetings of the Board of Directors, and the Memorandum and Articles of Association;
  • Which of the generated records is available automatically without being requested;
  • Which of the generated records is only available upon request;
  • Procedures to be followed and fees payable by a person requesting information; and
  • The procedures available to a person whose request for information has been refused.

The above information is merely a guideline and should not be seen as an exhaustive list.

It is important to keep in mind that different businesses will generate different types of records according to each business’ unique trading environment and information systems. There is no generic list of records applicable to all businesses. Care should thus be taken to include all of the relevant records in the PAIA manual.

How to submit a PAIA manual

No fees are payable when submitting a PAIA manual to the SAHRC.

After completion of the PAIA manual, the head of the organisation must initial each page of the manual and sign in full on the last page.

An original signed hard copy of the PAIA manual must be posted to the SAHRC’s PAIA unit. Signed PAIA manuals may be submitted via email, but an original signed hard copy must still be posted to the PAIA unit.

A note on requests for access to information in terms of the PAIA Act

Anyone and everyone cannot just request information from an organisation in terms of PAIA. A requestor must provide, amongst others, details like their identity, a postal address/fax number in South Africa, and the right which the requestor wants to exercise/protect with an explanation of how the requested information will assist in exercising/protecting that right. A private body has the right to refuse a request for information.

The drawing up of a PAIA manual can be of benefit to a business in more ways than one. While collecting the information to be included in the manual, shortcomings in certain systems or omitted reports which are required by law, for example, can be discovered. If not for the PAIA manual, the business would not have had the opportunity to discover and correct the shortcomings or omissions.

Reference List:

Documents published by the SAHRC on www.sahrc.org.za and accessed on 23 August 2015:

  • Example of a manual for a private body
  • Guidance notes: PAIA manuals
  • Generic version of Section 51 manual for private bodies

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. (E&OE).

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