Publication: Business Day Date: 2004-10-28 Reporter: Ernest Mabuza Reporter:

Inquiry Into Silent Public Servants



Business Day

Date 2004-10-28


Ernest Mabuza

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The Open Democracy Advice Centre has called on the public protector to conduct an inquiry into the failure of public servants to respond to public requests for information.

The centre recently made a study of five countries and came to the conclusion that there were serious problems in the implementation of the Promotion of Access to Information Act in SA. The act sets out both the rules for public requests for information held by government and the basis on which these can be refused.

A coalition of non-governmental organisations, the Access to Information Implementation Committee also called on government to establish an independent body for a cheaper dispute resolution mechanism.

The study found that South African government officials largely ignored requests for information. A total of 63% of requests were treated in this way.

"We believe that the very high levels of silence in response to requests for information made under the Promotion of Access to Information Act constitute evidence of maladministration," the centre's chief operating officer, Alison Tilley, said.

Access to Information Implementation Committee spokesman Sello Hatang, who is director of the South African History Archive, said the establishment of an independent body would help ensure that access to information was quicker.

Hatang said the results of the study showed that government officials treated the act with contempt. People who were refused information could appeal to the minister responsible. If that failed, the person concerned could go to court.

With acknowledgements to Ernest Mabuza and the Business Day.