Around about 31 December 2015 many a small business owner found themselves on the receiving end of a barrage of mails from consultants and service providers warning them about the Promotion of Access to Information Act and the requirement to lodge a Section 51 Manual. But you needn’t worry yourself too much over their scare-mongering.
Yes, section 51(1) of the Promotion of Access to Information Act provides an obligation on businesses to compile their Information Manuals and lodge them with the Human Rights Commission. But certain businesses were given an extension on the deadline. And when that deadline came about, they were given another extension. And then another…
The last deadline was extended to 31 December 2015. Which is, of course, the date that many a consultant pencilled into their diaries, complete with a reminder to themselves to shoot off emails to their entire database warning business owners of the severe consequences of missing the deadline. Followed, of course, by an offer to do it for them, for a small fee.
But before you take up their offer, you may want to consider two things:
- The deadline has, you guessed it, been extended yet again. This time the Department of Justice has saved itself the hassle of repeated publications in the Government Gazette by granting a more generous extension – to 31 December 2020. So if your business falls in the exempted list of businesses, you needn’t worry about the manual until 31 December 2020. Or until your business grows to the level where you’re no longer exempt. Which brings us to the second point.
- Who is exempt from submitting an Access to Information Act Manual? The businesses who are (for now) exempt from compiling and lodging their manuals are: any private business who employs less than 50 (fifty) employees and has an annual turnover less than the amount reflected in the table below:
|Mining and Quarrying||R22,5million|
|Electricity, Gas and Water||R30million|
|Retail & Motor Trade & Repair Services||R45million|
|Wholesale Trade, Commercial Agents & Allied Services||R75million|
|Catering, Accommodation & other trade||R15million|
|Transport, Storage & Communications||R30million|
|Finance & Business Services||R30million|
|Community, Special & Personal Services||R15million|
Do you employ more than 50 employees? If your answer is “yes”, then you need to compile your Information Manual, regardless of your turnover.
Does the turnover of your business exceed the amount specified in the table above? If your answer is “yes”, then you need to compile your PAIA Information Manual, regardless of the size of your workforce.
But if you employ less than 50 employees and your turnover is less than the amount in the table above, you have the option of:
- Waiting until 31 December 2020 (for the next barrage of emails followed by, dare we say it…another extension perhaps?)
- Or completing an Information Manual on a voluntary basis.
Please note that this information is supplied for general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is advisable for you to contact a legal practitioner for guidance in respect of your unique requirements.