Access to information is crucial for upholding constitutional values such as transparency, openness, participation, and accountability. Without this access, the government’s monopoly on information can hinder the realisation of these values. Therefore, it is not only fundamental for a well-functioning participatory democracy but also boosts public confidence in government and enhances its legitimacy. The right to access information has additional benefits, including deterring fraud, corruption, uncertainty, and other improper governmental conduct.
During the drafting of the South African Constitution in the 1990s, after the end of Apartheid, various organizations and individuals advocated for the inclusion of the right to access information in the Bill of Rights. The aim was to prevent atrocities like Apartheid from recurring by compelling the state and private corporations to act accountably and transparently through information disclosure. This inclusion was viewed as a necessary step in fostering a culture of justification for fairer relations between people and those in power.
Access to information is crucial for upholding constitutional values such as transparency, openness, participation, and accountability.
In an early case addressing whether an accused person is entitled to access all information in the police docket, Jones J highlighted its significance: “The purpose… is to exclude the perpetuation of the old system of administration, a system in which it was possible for the government to escape accountability by refusing to disclose information even if it had a bearing upon the exercise or protection of the rights of the individual. This is the mischief it is designed to prevent […]. Demonstrable fairness and openness promote public confidence in the administration of public affairs generally. This confidence is one of the characteristics of the democratically governed society for which the Constitution strives.”
The Information Regulator is the custodian of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).
Among its various responsibilities includes the requirement to “monitor and enforce compliance” by public and private bodies with the provision of PAIA.
To find out more about the regulator’s role in handling PAIA applications read their PAIA manual
To access the Information Regulator’s guide titled “How to use the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA)” click here.
To locate the forms needed to submit a PAIA application click here.
To view the Act and the various amendments click here.