South Africa: The Rusty Padlock Award, Which You Really Don’t Want

Global Integrity
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Our friends at ODAC in South Africa have coined a delightful new “award” for institutional stubbornness and opacity. Bophirima District Municipality has today won the Rusty Padlock Award for being the most unresponsive, secretive, chronically non-compliant public institution in South Africa.

ODAC also runs a rather less cynical Golden Key Award, which celebrates open and effective South African institutions.

Via email:

ISSUED BY: ODAC
ATTENTION: NEWS EDITORS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

09 October 2008

Bophirima District Municipality has today won the Rusty Padlock Award, for the most unresponsive, secretive, chronically non-compliant public institution with regards to the Promotion of Access to Information Act. Amongst several contenders for the award were public institutions which all scored 0% in terms of their responses to the survey conducted by ODAC.

Over the last three years, the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) has worked with a number of partners to develop an access to information index aimed at showing compliance and usage of the Promotion of Access to Information Act. This index has yielded a number of examples of very good practice, with the highest scoring institution getting 85%. Unfortunately, it has also shown up absolutely appalling practice, with scores of zero. The Promotion of Access to Information Act is one of the few laws based directly on a constitutional right. Its implementation is central to open and transparent government. There is open acknowledgement by civil society, lawyers and government that this law is not working in the way it was meant to. A number of studies have linked the recent service delivery protests to poor communication, lack of information and transparency on service delivery.

Parliament’s Ad Hoc Committee on Review of State Institutions Supporting Democracy noted that lack of effective implementation of the law places its benefits well beyond the reach of ordinary South Africans. The Committee then proposed a solution in the form of an information commission.

This solution has received wide support, but in the meantime, the Act continues to be more honoured in breach. 85% of requests that went to district municipalities received a deemed refusal which occurs when a formal request for information in terms of the Act is simply ignored by a public institution. 60% of provincial government departments also failed to respond to formal requests for information.
ODAC has decided to recognise this determined refusal to implement the law with an award called the Rusty Padlock Award for the most unresponsive, secretive, chronically non-compliant public institution with regards to the Act. In the race to the bottom, there are a number of institutions which were all competing for bottom place. These institutions are Ehlanzeni District Municipality (Mpumalanga), Motheo District Municipality (Free State), Umgungundlovu District Municipality (KwaZulu Natal), Cacadu District Municipality (Eastern Cape), Frances Baard District Municipality (Northern Cape), Capricorn District Municipality (Limpopo), Bophirima District Municipality (North West) and the Premiers’ Offices in Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West and the Western Cape Province.

We congratulate Bophirima District Municipality, and hope not to see them again next year.

Contact: Mukelani DimbaTel. no.: (021) 461 3096 or Cell.: 082 699 6586

— Jonathan Werve

Global Integrity
Global Integrity

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