Do not Underestimate PAIA

A recent High Court judgment warns that ignoring the prescriptions of the Promotion of Access to Information Act can have serious implications for those who take it lightly.

Walkers Incorporated of Cape Town recently published the following article in their regular newsletter:

PAIA must not be a dead letter

NUMSA v City Power Johannesburg. A judgment of the High Court, Johannesburg, on 23 April 2015, dealt with a refused request for access to information regarding a tender awarded by City Power Johannesburg (a public utility).

The Court listed ten reasons why it was unimpressed with the actions by City Power Johannesburg, including:

  • the information officer’s failure to respond to the initial request
  • failure to comply with the PAIA procedure (which is published on its own website)
  • delay in making a decision
  • failing to notify parties of their right to appeal the decision when it was made
  • taking steps not permitted by PAIA in soliciting further responses and
  • filing affidavits and heads of argument outside of the procedure set out in the Court rules.

Perforce, the application had to be postponed for PAIA to be implemented properly.

However, as to payment of the wasted legal costs incurred due to the postponement, the Judge stated that he was very reluctant simply to order that the wasted costs be paid by City Power Johannesburg (effectively by taxpayers).

”This teaches no one anything about responsibility or compliance with statutory duties.” Accordingly, the question of costs was postponed for both parties to provide affidavits and argument as to whether the relevant officials of City Power Johannesburg should bear personal financial responsibility for wasted costs.

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