Services

Posted in Legal

Nature of Services

ODAC's expertise (both internationally, regionally and locally) is available for hire through consultancies. If you would like to esquire about utilising ODAC's services, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Our specific services include:

  • research consultancies
  • policy advice
  • strategic litigation advice
  • legal training
  • policy training

These services fall within the thematic areas of access to information (and the Promotion of Access to Information Act); whistle-blowing (and the Protected Disclosures Act); open government and open data, and other transparency-related issues including issues that relate to privacy.

Some examples of previous legal services we have provided are detailed below.

PAIA Law Clinic

Freedom of Information (FOI) Clinic in conjunction with the University of the Western Cape   

 Clinical legal education:

Venue: University of the Western Cape

Lecture Lesson Plans:

Access to Information Lecture Lesson Plan 1

Access to Information Lecture Lesson Plan 2

 Two lectures were given in relation to the promotion of access to information action.

BACKGROUND INFO on FOI Clinics

Freedom of Information (FOI) Clinic South Africa
Ten years after the enactment of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) in South Africa, it is an unfortunate reality that the level of usage and awareness of this Act is dismal. In comparison to similar open democracy legislation, the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA), where heavy jurisprudence is in abundance, litigation in the area of access to information is scant. The use of PAIA in the courts is however bound to increase.  This is particularly likely since, in an important recent development, the courts in which PAIA may be used have been significantly expanded.  A sigh of relief went up from access to information advocates across South Africa when, on 9 October 2009, rules of procedure were promulgated that set down the standards by which PAIA requests could be enforced in the Magistrates’ Courts.  

These rules fulfilled the last of the conditions necessary to enable enforcement of PAIA in the courts far more accessible to the majority of the national population than the High Courts.   The rules came into operation on 16 November 2009.  
While the operation of these rules is laudable, a vital question needs to be posed. To what extent can PAIA be used to fulfill its mandate of assisting the people of South Africa to realize their socio-economic rights? Writing not in respect of access to information generally but rather in respect of its utility in the achievement of socio-economic justice, Mukelani Dimba has discussed the role of PAIA litigation.   Drawing on the argument of Saras Jagwanth that access to information primarily plays an instrumental role in the achievement of socio-economic rights; Dimba sees access to information as a necessary aid for either social mobilisation or for litigation in order to enforce socio-economic rights.  

Aside from litigation however, there is the need to first educate and promote awareness of the Act among the citizenry and such platform needs to be extended from civil society alone to include universities and the legal profession. There is no better place to target the legal profession other than through aspiring lawyers who can assist people in realizing that they can enforce their rights through the use of PAIA without any or minimal assistance. It is high time we collectively responded to the question posed to freedom of information stakeholders that given the continued state reliance upon and rolling out of the judicial enforcement model, how can stakeholders interested to effectively implement the right of access to information most effectively complement and supplement enforcement through the courts? One of the answers to this question would be to widen the pool of information champions who can assist people in making information requests and educate people on how to use this Act independently.

In a bid to expand the pool of champions of freedom of information in South Africa and increase the level of education and awareness of the legislation, the Open Democracy Advice Centre wishes to set up a Freedom of Information Clinic in an existing Law Clinic in a University.
 



Journalist Exchange Programme 2010

 

Graeme ( Pretoria News), Mukelani (ODAC), Tobela (ODAC), Roel (Netherlands) and Roger (Netherlands)

 

Journalist Exchange Programme (JEP) 2010

ODAC journalist exchange programme identifies individuals internationally who are practitioners and specialists in the field of access to information.

Purpose: 

  1. 1. To assist journalists and access to information practitioners in South Africa, in using PAIA and other measures to access information,to empower the lives of every citizen.
  2. 2. For journalists between two countries (South Africa and Netherlands) to share their experiences on Freedom of Information laws and how to embrace principles of good governance (both public and private bodies).
  3. 3. Give lectures to Journalism and Media Writing students on using access to information Acts in investigative journalism. 

ODAC 2010 exchange  programme involved two Journalists from the Netherlands

  1. 1. Roel Geeraedts (CV)
  2. 2. Roger Vleugels (CV)

Duration of Programme - 1 week

University of Pretoria with Prof Pippa Green in the centre

The journalist visited (amongst others) the following institutions during their one week programme:

  1. Pretoria News
  2. Netherlands Ambassador
  3. University of Johannesburg
  4. University of Witwatersrand
  5. University of Pretoria
  6. SAfm
  7. 702 Talk radio

 

Presentation at the University of Johannesburg to future journalists

In the END

The Roger and Roel agreed that the study trip  opened their eyes to a common standard that is emerging in the field of access to information. Communities and ordinary citizens can utilise access to information principles to achieve socio-economic rights.

ODAC Leading the campaign for the right to know


 

Community Intervention

The Open Democracy Advice Centre expanded its right to know program by reaching out to communities. This initiative is meant to be reaching thousands of citizens who will be informed about PAIA, thus resulting in strengthened transparency and accountability.

In most instances community interventions are run in conjunction with the Community Development Workers (CDWs).The Community Development workers on occasion organise workshops where PAIA support Coordinator (Fieldworker) attends scheduled meetings that teach the community about PAIA. The PAIA support Coordinator continues to assist communities in making request for access to information on behalf of groups and community organizations where interventions are made.

The table below lists the access to information requests that ODAC has made as part of our community interventions to various public departments on behalf of a number of clients and are at different stages of litigation:

Government Departments Details of  requested
City of Cape Town Documents that details how occupants of ERF 7781 were allocated the land.
SASSA Process and procedure of accessing services within the Tsolwane municipality
  Records/file notes relating to the case of Ms. Coetzee
Oudtshoorn municipality Documents detailing process to build low cost houses for those who qualify.Housing waiting list.Document with details of the number of houses to be built.
Lukhanji Municipality Records that detail the process followed after approval of a title deed.A record that detail who was allocated the house number 1476.Plans by the municipality to allocate Mrs. Twane her house.
Emalahleni Local Municipality Plans by the municipality to install electricity to houses that were omitted in the Mtyatya village.
Garriep Local Municipality Documents relating to the planned schedule for providing water in Tembisa community. Documents relating to the schedule of planned/unplanned power interruption for the Tembisa community.Copies of all contingency plans relating to planned/unplanned power interruptions.
   
Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Human Settlement Copies of policies and procedures in the allocation of RDP houses.A copy of the policy requiring the payment of R100 by beneficiaries on occupation.Copies of all plans to renovate vandalised RDP houses.
Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Health Copies of all strategic and other plans to accommodate more patients at the hospital.Copies of all strategic /or other plans to employ a doctor on a daily basis at the hospital.Copies of all strategic and/ or other plans to make more ambulances available.
Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism Copies of the most recent plans and related documents by the Department of Economic Development relating to job creation and entrepreneurial opportunities for youth within the Standerton area.
Eastern Cape Department of Justice and Constitutional Development A copy of the strategic plan by the Department to increase the staff capacity of prosecutors in the James Town district Court.
Eastern Cape Department of Education Copies of all strategic plans relating to the poor performance of grade8, 9, 10, 11 &12 learners at Phambili Mzontsundu High school.Copies of all contingency plans relating to teacher absenteeism for the period 2010 at Phambili Mzontsundu High School.
Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture A copy of the Department’s strategic plan.Copies of all documents listing artist registered with the Department for 2010.Copies of all plans, procedures and policies relating to the Department’s assistance and/or support of local artists.
  Statistics of unemployed youth in the Lekwa municipality.
Lekwa Municipality Report by the administrators with specific reference to the investigation that was conducted.IDP for the Lekwa municipality.
Department of Social Development Processes and procedures followed when distributing food parcels.Database of organisations funded by the Department.Processes and procedures for funding NPO’s

Procedures for assisting small community projects.

   
South African Social Security Agency Process and procedure followed to accesses foster care grant.Process and procedure followed to suspend one’s social grant.Process and procedure followed to deal with appeals within the district.

Parliamentary Work

OVERVIEW

ODAC has undertaken a number of interventions in terms of our parliamentary work in South Africa this year. As the custodian of Information laws in South Africa, we devote our resources to engaging with parliament as a resource center in their work in either amending Statutory Acts or passing Bills into law. In the past year, ODAC engaged with Parliament on the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), The Protection of Personal Information Bill and the Protection of Information Bill.

A. PROMOTION OF ACCESS INFORMATION ACT (PAIA)

November 2009, ODAC organized a successful study trip for members of parliament in the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development to the UK Information Commission regarding the Protection of Personal Information Bill.

The trip was a learning experience on how the Information Regulator to be established in terms of the Bill can exercise the dual mandate of protecting personal data and exercising enforcement powers over the Promotion of Access to Information Act. 
Flowing from this successful study trip, the Chairperson of the Ad hoc Committee on the Protection of Personal Information Bill, Mr. John Jeffrey, met the management of ODAC on a number of occasions to discuss our proposal that Parliament should extend the powers of the Information Regulator in terms of the Bill to cover PAIA matters.

The result of this meeting culminated in a request by the Ad hoc Committee that we should make a submission on the re-allocation of the institutional mandate of the South African Human Rights Commission with regards to PAIA.

ODAC’s position in this submission is that PAIA can only be effective if an independent information commission has enforcement powers to adjudicate on disputes relating to the release or non-release of information. This position is based on the current judicial enforcement model of PAIA that makes the disputes on access to information expensive and time consuming.

B. PROTECTION OF INFORMATION BILL

ODAC was the first to appear before the Ad hoc Committee on the Protection of Information Bill to elaborate on our submission on the proposed changes we advocated before the Bill is passed into law. ODAC’s position in the Submission is based on 3 main factors:

  1. We want a re-definition of certain phrases in the Bill, most significantly, “national interest” and “commercial information”
  2. We favour the inclusion of a public interest override in the classification of information
  3. We want an independent oversight body to deal with the Bill.

 

 

C. PROTECTION OF PERSONAL INFORMATION BILL (PPI)

Aside from the submission made to Parliament on PAIA amendment and the Protection of Personal Information Bill, ODAC has also worked extensively and closely with Parliament on the Protection of Information Bill.

ODAC has also made subsequent submissions to Parliament on the Protection of Information Bill regarding the tagging of the Bill in its presentation to Parliament as a S75 Bill in terms of the Constitution rather than a S 76 Bill.

 

ODAC remains steadfast in our commitment to achieve a truly open and transparent South Africa.