Deadline looms for submission of Information manuals

 Estate agencies, and this includes one person firms, must comply with the August 31 deadline for submission of Access to Information manuals to the SA Human Rights Commission.

Bill Rawson, national president of the Institute of Estate Agents, says in a July 6 press release, that he does not expect the deadline to be extended again after its earlier two year extension, which now ends on August 31.

The IEA has prepared a model manual which firms can buy and adapt to suit their circumstances.

In terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2001, everyone is entitled to have access to the records of private organisations to obtain information needed to exercise or protect his or her rights. An organisation has a certain amount of discretion to refuse access, though this could be overruled by a court if the applicant chose to take the matter to a higher level. The organisation must therefore have a written procedure to deal with such requests, and prove it by submitting a copy of the procedure manual to the SAHRC.

"As we understand it," says Rawson, "the purpose of this legislation is to break down the sort of bureaucratic barriers that were a feature of the past, and to underscore our constitutionally guaranteed rights. That is a good thing. However, it's unfortunate that it places yet another administrative burden on business.

"Even if a firm is willing to grant unrestricted access to its records, it must still comply with the requirements. It must compile a manual, which identifies it, explains what records it holds, and sets out a procedure for requesting access to its records. This includes a 4-page application form and a schedule of fees, both as laid down by the government.

"The manual must be submitted to the SA Human Rights Commission, and a copy must be kept at the firm's office and be made available on request. A firm which has a website can also publish its manual on the site.

Fortunately, it is no longer necessary to publish it in the Government Gazette too, as was originally the case."

The IEA has compiled a basic manual, which can be customised to suit an individual firm's needs. The document has been checked by an attorney, and contains all the relevant information, including the application form and schedule of fees.

The cost for the manual is R100 for IEA members, and R200 for non-members.
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