As this edition goes to press, the Democratic Alliance is invoking the Promotion of Access to Information Act to have the full crime statistics released. There are many organisations (public and private) who feel they are complying with this Act, by completing the mandatory Manual for Compliance and publishing it on their website. This is only the beginning, and the test will come when there is a request for information. Can your organisation answer the questions below?
* Would your organisation be able to access information within 30 days when it is requested? Most companies will not be able to find the information requested, and decide on its sensitivity within the time frame. Reasons of 'we cannot find it' are not acceptable to the Human Rights Commission, and the consequence will be prosecution. In addition, often we do not know how up-to-date, relevant and complete the information is.
* Does everyone in your organisation understand the Act, the processes in place? Or could they be bullied into giving out information they do not need to? There is a specific form (developed by the Government) which needs to be completed. This form needs to make its way to the designated information officer, who will process the request. Many people in the organisation are not aware of this and may not follow the right procedures. It is possible they could be intimidated into giving access to information which would have been disallowed by the information officer, simply because the communication of the right way was not clear.
* Are you protecting the rights of third parties? Permission from third parties is mandatory, should the information requested affect or concern them. Violation of the third party's rights could end up at the Constitutional Court. We need to be careful that by upholding one individual's rights we are not compromising another's.
* Does the information officer in a private company know that they are personally liable should the mismanagement of requests result in prosecution? The information officer should have their role renegotiated to take into consideration that they may need to go to court and, should the rights violation be of an extreme nature, be jailed for up to two years. This added responsibility cannot be taken lightly, only to be realised when requests of a volatile and sensitive nature crop up.
* Have you realised the business benefit which can come from complying properly with the Act? True compliance can be a time consuming exercise. A number of businesses have realised the value of seeing this as part of the information management area. It also gives the opportunity to clean up the information which is out-dated, inaccurate and no longer relevant.
Before the electronic age, in order to access information without permission, the stealing of paper documents was necessary. However, with e-mail and portable electronic storage media like CDs and disks, information can be taken away without a trace. In addition, people can be intimidated and confused when pressed with compliance with the Promotion of Access to Information Act, and provide access to sensitive information.
Technews, the publisher of eSecure, has run a number of workshops regarding compliance with this Act. The deadline for compliance has been extended to 31 August 2003, and in response, Technews has arranged three workshops in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, to assist organisations in complying before the deadline. These workshops will cover the legal aspects of compliance, the business needs and benefits, as well as how to deal with compliance from a practical perspective.
To book your place at any of the above workshops, contact Kirsty Webb at Technews on tel: 011 886 3640 or e-mail email@example.com
Durban: 24 July, Hilton Hotel, Durban.
Johannesburg: 30 July, Hilton Hotel, Sandton.
Cape Town: 7 August, Protea Hotel, Victoria Junction.
Cost: R3500.00 (excl VAT) per delegate.