The Promotion of Access to Information Act

The Promotion of Access to Information Act (“PAIA”) was enacted to give effect to the constitutional right of access to information. PAIA came into operation on 9 March 2001.

Every company, business and organisation, irrespective of their nature, size or the industry they operate in, has information that is confidential and must be protected.

Information consists of but is not limited to the following:

  • Debtors listing
  • Suppliers listing
  • Business trade secrets and strategies
  • Employee records

The Promotion of Access to Information Act (“PAIA”), No 2 of 2000 states that “Everyone has a right of access to any information held by the state and any information held by another person that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights, and to provide for matters connected therewith.”

All people of South Africa have the ability to request information from public and private bodies. One of the fundamental objectives of PAIA is to promote transparency, accountability and effective governance of all public and private bodies. This is in line with King IV which promotes the transparency of companies, encourages good corporate governance and for companies to be seen as a responsible corporate citizen.

Public bodies

All public bodies must submit a section 32 report to the Commissioner.

Per section 32 (Reports to Human Rights Commission) of the act, the information officer of each public body must annually submit to the South African Human Rights Commission (“SAHRC) a statics report stating in relation to the public body, the number of claims received, granted, partially granted, etc.

Every public body must compile an information manual in at least 3 national languages containing the nature and logistics of the company, a clear guided set of instructions to facilitate a request of information from the respective public body and such other information as may be prescribed.

Private bodies

In terms of Government Gazette Notice 39504, certain private bodies are exempt from compiling and submitting information manuals to the SAHRC in terms of section 51 (Manual) of the act until 31 December 2020.

If the private body has less than 50 employees and has an annual turnover below specific amounts (see table below), the private body is exempt for compiling an information manual until 31 December 2020.

Specific amounts


Annual turnover (R)


2 000 000

Mining and Quarrying

7 000 000


10 000 000

Electricity, Gas, Water

10 000 000


5 000 000

Retail, Motor Trade and Repair Services

15 000 000

Wholesale Trade, Commercial Agents and Allied Services

25 000 000

Catering, Accommodation and other Trade

5 000 000

Transport, Storage and Communications

10 000 000

Financial and Business Services

10 000 000

Community, Special and Personal Services

5 000 000


If the private body is not exempt, they must compile an information manual in terms of section 51 of the act.

Denial of information

A public or private body may deny the request of information due to but not limited to the following reasons:

  • Protection of privacy of a third party
  • The information was provided in confidence
  • To safeguard the safety of individuals           
  • A threat to national security

Despite the various reasons listed above and in the PAIA act all of the above reasons become void if the information requested is in the interest of the public. To determine whether the information is in the public’s interest, we must ask the following questions:

  • Does the information demonstrate a serious breach of a law?, or
  • Do the records in question contain information relating to an imminent and serious public safety or environmental risk?, or
  • Does the public interest in disclosing the information clearly outweigh the potential harm?

If the answer to the above questions is “yes”, then public interest will take precedence over any reason and the information must be disclosed on the grounds of public interest.

It is evident that this act is made to benefit the interest of the common man, being the majority of the people in South Africa.

Natalie Chetty

Trainee Accountant, Durban

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