- Within a week, the Promotion to Access of Information Amendment Bill (PAIA) will be considered and likely adopted in Parliament
- Despite the Political Party Funding Act being signed in January already it means nothing yet, as the president has not set a date for it to become operational
- If the PAIA is adopted in Parliament, signed by the president and put into operation, there’s still no denying parties receiving money from potentially corrupt individuals or foreign entities, which is mandated in the PPFA
By: Sheilan Clarke, Freelance Writer
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Next week, the Promotion to Access of Information Amendment Bill (PAIA) will be considered and possibly adopted in the National Council of Provinces in Parliament.
Although many civil society organisations and the public have welcomed the prospect of finally having laws regulating the flow of money in our political arena, the current delays in the implementation of these party funding laws are proving worrisome for the public.
How the Party Funding and Access to Information bills work hand-in-hand
Even though the Political Party Funding Act (PPFA), which was signed into law by the President in January, and the PAIA amendments are different, the amendments made to PAIA makes it so that the two work hand-in-hand.
The problem with this is even though the president signed the PPFA, he left out a crucial step in the law-making process — promulgating the date for when this law becomes operational.
Without this date, and no matter if the PAIA is adopted in Parliament, for South Africans to fully make use of the amendments to the PAIA, the PPFA needs to be operational.
As it stands, the amendments to the Promotion of Access to Information Act is a case of all teeth and no bite.
If the PAIA is adopted in Parliament, signed by the president and put into operation, there’s still no denying parties receiving money from potentially corrupt individuals or even foreign entities, which is mandated in the PPFA.
On the other hand, without the PAIA amendments, citizens have no direct access to party funding information as the amendments instruct political parties to disclose their funding information in the public domain.
It is thus clear to see how these two laws rely heavily on one another.
Why are amendments being made to the Promotion to Access of Information Amendment Bill?
The amendments to the PAIA come from a court order confirmed by the Constitutional Court in June 2018 that deemed the PAIA unconstitutional as it does not allow for the disclosure of private political funding information.
Parliament was given 18 months to amend the PAIA, which brings the deadline to 20 December.
Why are civil society organisations concerned?
The concern by civil society organisations like My Vote Counts is that these amendments may just be a formality since they got to work on PAIA a year into that 18-month period.
This is why civil society says the president needs to urgently announce the operation date for the PPFA for full transparency to take effect as well as to have this information well before the 2021 Local Government Elections.
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IEC gets the party funding ball rolling
The IEC, which has been tasked with managing political party funding as prescribed in the PPFA, has already slowly begun putting things in place like announcing George Mahlangu in August as Chief Executive of party funding at the IEC.
The PPFA serves as a regulatory piece of legislation since it establishes a management body run by the IEC, sets out rules on how parties should disclose their donations and donors to the IEC, prohibits certain donations such as foreign donations and creates offences and penalties.
PAIA — which is a law that enables South Africans to exercise the right to access to information — will be amended to ensure political parties make their donors and donations publicly available through social media.
The Department of Justice and Correctional Services is set to comment on the written submissions on the PAIA amendments on Wednesday, 27 November followed by the NCOP Select Committee of Security and Justice considering and possibly adopting the amendments.
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