By the Newsletter team

Non-government bodies, which include sectional titles schemes, home owners’ associations, managing agencies and so on, need to submit a PAIA Manual by 31 December 2011. Although this was announced years ago, it seems that many schemes have left it to the last minute. If you happen to find yourself panicking to get your manual ready, then here is a quick guide to get you started. For the purposes of this article, we will use a sectional title scheme as the example.

Paddocks ClubSection 32 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996 stipulates that everyone has the 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. The Promotion of Access to Information Act, No. 2 of 2000 (PAIA) is the national legislation that enables our constitutional right of access to information. The PAIA came into operation in March 2001. Section 14 of the PAIA for public bodies and section 51 of the PAIA for private bodies came into effect in February 2002. One of the main objectives of the PAIA is to promote transparency, accountability and effective governance of all private and public bodies.

Non-government bodies need to create both a manual describing the type of records they hold and procedures for others to access that information.

Contents of the Manual:
1. Scheme contact details
2. Reference to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) – the guide that the SAHRC has produced to the Act and how to access it
3. Procedure for requesting information for the organisation
4. Description of what information is automatically available to the public

You have an obligation to make the manual available. This includes the obligation that the Manual must be submitted to:
2. Any controlling body (e.g. for layered schemes)
3. Any scheme website
4. Its main office during office hours (or the managing agent’s premises if no office exists)

Anyone has the right to request the information from the scheme, but the Act does set limits on the types of information that can be accessed. For example, information does not need to be given if it infringes a person’s right to privacy. It would be advisable that the managing agent or scheme executives (trustees) develop a procedure to handle the requests. People can only request the information when the record is required for the exercise or protection of rights; this will require some degree of discretion from the person handling the requests.

To wrap up, what you need to do is prepare your sectional title scheme’s PAIA Manual, publish it before 31 December 2011, send a copy to the SAHRC, and have it available to be printed and handed over in physical form. You should also prepare procedures for dealing with requests and make sure the people dealing with those requests know how to handle them.

For further details and explanations, please visit the SAHRC website.

Article reference: Paddocks Press: Volume 6, Issue 12, Page 3

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This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution license

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