Access to info act no help: R2K

19 February 2013 - 02:14 By DENISE WILLIAMS

The Right2Know campaign has lashed out at the government for failing to comply with the Promotion of Access to Information Act .

Right2Know spokesman Murray Hunter said yesterday that two out of three requests for information through the act were refused by government departments last year.

"If compliance with the Promotion of Access to Information Act is a litmus test for the state of government and corporate accountability, the signs are worrying," he said.

According to a 2012 survey by the South African History Archive, which facilitates and tracks Promotion of Access to Information Act requests, of the 159 submitted, 102 were either outright refused or simply received no response with the 30-day deadline.

The requests are not only for information held by government departments but corporate/private bodies as well.

"While the 'big ticket' secrets get much attention, many South Africans are denied much more basic information that they need in their daily lives and struggles," said Hunter.

This ranged from information pertaining to housing lists to water pollution, municipal budgets and corruption.

Director of the Institute for Accountability Southern Africa advocate Paul Hoffman said: "The alarm bells are ringing."

He added that the government appeared to be preparing " for the more secret and less open form of administration".

The government also recently refused to provide detailed information on the R206-million upgrade to President Jacob Zuma's private Nkandla residence, citing security concerns as the homestead was a national key point.

Hunter said the National Key Point Act was an apartheid-era national security law and that the number of national key points had grown by more than 54% in the past five years.

Hunter said the campaign had filed an application to force the South African Police Service to make the list of national key points public.

"[The police] initially refused this application, but we have appealed, and a response is due at the end of February," he said.

Police spokesman Zweli Mnisi referred all queries to Brigadier Phuti Setati, who was unavailable for comment.

Government spokesman Phumla Williams was also not available for comment.