New report shows how PAIA continues to be undermined

The Access to Information Network’s (ATI Network) latest Shadow Report on the state of access to information in South Africa again shows poor levels of compliance with the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (PAIA).  The 2017 report highlights the dismal compliance levels regarding requests for information to government, state-owned entities (SoEs) and private companies alike, despite PAIA having been in operation for 16 years.

Today marks the UNESCO International Day for Universal Access to Information, and civil society around the world recognises the importance of transparency and a culture of openness and accountability in participatory democracy. However, the ATI Network’s Shadow Report does not provide any reason to celebrate.

The statistics which form the backbone of the report are drawn from PAIA requests for information submitted by members of the ATI Network over the period 1 August 2016 to 31 July 2017, and are supplemented by specific experiences related by network members when using PAIA. Over this period, 408 PAIA requests were submitted to both public institutions and private entities.

The key findings of the report are as follows:

Outcomes of the requests to government departments and SOEs:

  • 5% of requests were ignored entirely (“deemed refusals”);
  • Access was granted, in full or in part, to 33.15% of requests;
  • The number of inter-departmental transfers increased relative to the 2015/16 reporting period, with 11.8% of requests transferred in full or in part;
  • Lack of compliance with prescribed statutory timeframes was alarming, with 65% of requests not responded to within the statutory time period of 30 days;
  • The most common ground for refusal was that the requested records do not exist, and this was hardly ever confirmed by way of affidavit, as is required by PAIA; and
  • The ATI Network lodged 164 internal appeals. While five of those appeals were still pending at the date of reporting, 79.25% of the appeals were simply ignored.

Outcome of requests to private companies:

  • 40% of requests were ignored by private companies, or deemed refused; and
  • Access was granted, in full or in part, to 31.8 % of requests.

The ATI Network has drawn up a list of recommendations to improve access to information in South Africa.  These include putting in place stricter sanctions for statutory non-compliance, especially with respect to non-compliance with the statutory timeframes, and radically expanding the proactive disclosure of records in terms of section 15 of PAIA.  The network also recommends deformalising the process by which PAIA requests are submitted, in other words amending section 18(1) of PAIA to allow for requests to be submitted on any form that corresponds substantially with the requirements of section 18(2).

Other amendments to PAIA include an emergency access to information provision for time-sensitive requests.  The report also urges provision of adequate resources to the Information Regulator and National Archive.


The ATI Network currently consists of the following members:

  • amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism
  • Centre for Applied Legal Studies
  • Centre for Environmental Rights
  • Corruption Watch
  • Equal Education Law Centre
  • Khulumani Support Group
  • Open Democracy Advice Centre
  • Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism
  • Public Service Accountability Monitor
  • Right2Know
  • South African History Archive
  • Wits Justice Project


A copy of the report is available here.


For further information contact:

Imraan Abdullah
Freedom of Information Programme Researcher
011 718 2563


Demichelle Petherbridge
Attorney at the Equal Education Law Centre
Tel: (021) 461 1421


Christine Reddell
Attorney at the Centre for Environmental Rights
021 447 1647