The Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), Act 2 of 2000 (hereafter also called the Act) came into effect on 9 March 2001, underlining the importance of access to information for an open, democratic, transparent society. The Act gives legislative form to section 32 of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution and should be interpreted as legislation giving effect to a constitutional right. This right states:
Access to information
32 (1) Everyone has the right of access to:
- (a) any information held by the state; and
- (b) any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise of any rights.
(2) National legislation must be enacted to give effect to this right, and may provide for reasonable measures to alleviate the administrative and financial burden on the state.
The objectives of PAIA are thus:
- to give effect to the constitutional right of access to any information as stated above;
- to set out justifiable limitations on the right of access to information aimed at protecting people's privacy, confidential commercial information and ensuring effective, efficient and good governance;
- to balance the right of access to information with all the other rights in the constitution;
- to promote a culture of human rights and social justice;
- to establish mechanisms and procedures to enable persons to obtain access to records as swiftly, inexpensively and effortlessly as is reasonably possible;
- to promote transparency, accountability and effective governance;
- to empower and educate everyone to:
- understand their rights in terms of the Act;
- understand the functions and operation of public bodies; and
- effectively scrutinise and participate in decision-making by public bodies that affects their rights.
This act overrides any other Acts or Regulations restricting access to records, except in the following cases (Section 5, 6, 12):
- Act 107 of 1998, National Environmental Management Act, 1998, [Section 31(1) and 31(2)];
- All records of the Cabinet and its committees, judicial functions of a court, special tribunal, or judicial officer or an individual member of Parliament or Provincial Legislature.
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