Information Regulator conducts PAIA compliance assessments on political parties

The Information Regulator (Regulator) will embark on a robust assessment of political parties’ compliance with the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2, 2000 (PAIA). The assessment will be of all political parties represented in Parliament.

This is part of the Regulator’s programme of action presented through its Annual Performance Plan 2023/2024 to the Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee. These assessments will be conducted from 19 May to 7 June 2023. The first assessment will be conducted on the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) on 19 May 2023.

The Constitutional Court’s judgement in the My Vote Counts NPC v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Another [2018] ZACC 17 case, brought about the amendment of PAIA on 1 April 2021. This PAIA amendment created an obligation on all political parties and independent candidates to record, preserve, and make available information on their private funding. It also includes political parties in the definition of a “private body” This makes South Africa one of the few, if not the only country, which includes political parties in the access to information regime.

Any person can request access to information held by a political party if they require this information to exercise any of their rights, particularly their right to vote. If access to information is denied or such information is not disclosed, a complaint may be lodged with the Regulator.

Explaining the decision for the Regulator to conduct these PAIA assessments, Chairperson of the organisation, Adv. Pansy Tlakula said, “we decided to include political parties in our assessments to strengthen transparency within political parties and considering that the 2024 National and Provincial elections are upon us”.

The areas of compliance which will be assessed include, but are not limited to, the designation or delegation of Deputy Information Officer/s (DIOs), the registration of the Information Officer (IO) and DIOs with the Regulator, the development and availability of PAIA manuals, and creation and keeping of information relating to donations made to political parties as prescribed in section 52A (1)(a) of PAIA and the PAIA Regulation 6(1).

The Regulator will also conduct onsite inspections at the offices of the political parties.

During this financial year, the Regulator will assess other public and private bodies such as universities, national and provincial government departments, and JSE-listed companies.

In the last quarter of the previous financial year, the Regulator conducted PAIA assessments on short-term insurance companies, banks, municipalities, and regulatory bodies.

Compliance with PAIA has, since its inception, been extremely low, and there has always been a reluctance from bodies to give information, which undermines the constitutional right of access to information. The aim of conducting the assessments is to ensure that institutions comply with PAIA meaningfully.

Source: Government of South Africa