Phola Participates in POPIA Act Workshop Organized by DSD

On 24 November2021, Phola was among nonprofit organizations invited by Department of Social Development-Gauteng Province to a one-day workshop at The Lakes Hotel and Conference Centre in Benoni. Among items on the workshop agenda were POPIA ACT implications on Performance Information, management, Ethics, Fraud and Corruption.

The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) is South Africa’s equivalent of the EU GDPR. It sets conditions for responsible parties called controllers in other jurisdictions to lawfully process personal information of data subjects both natural and juristic persons

The right of access to information-constitutionally enshrined in section 32 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa,1996 (Constitution) is both a fundamental right and a crucial enabler of the full range of other rights. Importantly, it gives meaning to the constitutional values of accountability, responsiveness, and openness, and enables the public to seek transparency from both the public and private sectors.

To give effect to this right, the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000 was passed. While it was seen at the time as being a progressive piece of legislation, PAIA has also at times frustrated the exercise of the right of access to information. Furthermore, in more than 20 years since enactment, it is apparent that PAIA is no longer fit for purpose to respond to the exigencies of the digital era.

The Amendment Bill five key principles:

Primacy-: Access to information, as a constitutional imperative, is treated with appropriate primacy over other laws that otherwise restrict or inhibit the public’s right to be informed. The proposed amendments seek to ensure that the scope and ambit of PAIA is appropriately clarified to assist requesters in obtaining the information to which they are entitled without unnecessary hurdles.

Maximum disclosure: The right of access to information should is by the principle of maximum disclosure, with the right only limited by narrowly defined exemptions that meet the test for a reasonable and justifiable limitation in an open and democratic society.

Initiative-taking disclosure: Information in the public interest is to be proactively disclosed, even in the absence of a specific request, in recognition of the role that such information plays in the full realization of fundamental rights.

International commitments: South Africa must abide by its international commitments on access to information, including in respect of open government and open data standards through the Open Government Partnership. These commitments evince a move towards more openness on an initiative-taking basis.

Online protections: In the current digital era, the exercise of the right of access to information must be observed, protected, and promoted, both on- and offline. It is therefore crucial that all persons in South Africa have meaningful access to the internet and online information, and that disclosures are available through different platforms that render such information readily accessible to the public. This places a duty on public and private bodies to ensure that, in fulfilling their obligations, with due regard to the medium and format in which information is available.

Steps to become POPI Compliant

Step 1: Create Awareness. Ensure your employees are aware of the POPI Act and the regulations set out which they need to adhere to.

Step 2. Data collection assessment

Step 3. Company Policies Review

Step 4. Gap Audit

Step 5. Implementation and Training

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