We have all had to apply for something at some point in our lives, whether it’s an identity document, a work permit, a social grant or a home owner’s subsidy. Whichever it is, all applications go through administrators and there is a decision in favour or against your application. That decision is an administrative act. The government has put in measures to help you tell your side of the story before the decision is taken…and it lets you find out the reasons why the decision went against you.
If at any point during an application process you can see that there is potential for bias or impartiality, you have every right to point it out and say why you think it can work against you. You always have the right to challenge decisions that were not taken properly and ask for written reasons.
That’s what the PAJA is all about. It makes sure you know why the administration has done what it has. It also makes sure that decisions are taken properly and procedures are fair.
In a country like ours where nepotism is rife, officials take bribes and business tenders are awarded erroneously, it can be easy to get caught up in unfair and biased procedures where you are a victim. Providing reasons for a decision ensures that the decision making process is transparent and objective but that is seldom done
So if you ever get a sneaky suspicion that correct procedures were not followed, know that Section 33 of the Constitution protects you because it guarantees that administrative action must be reasonable, lawful and procedurally fair. It also makes sure that people have the right to ask for written reasons when administrative action has a negative impact on them.
Listen to Masesi Masteba and Emmah Mphahlele on Lebowakgomo FM being interviewed by Habakuk Sefala. They explain an act that aims to promote procedural fairness – Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, no. 3 of 2000
PAJA does the following:
- Compels administrators to follow fair procedures when making decisions
- It gives people the right to ask for reasons.
- It gives citizens the right to have administrative action reviewed by the courts.
- Administrators must allow people to state their case before taking decisions that may affect their rights.
- Administrators must tell people that they can ask for written reasons for the decision.
- Ensures that administrators must explain internal appeals or mention that a person can ask a court to review the decision.
Administrative action is the work of:
- all government departments (at national, provincial and local level);
- the police and army;
- parastatals (e.g. Telkom, ESKOM and the SABC).
How do I make a request for reasons (as to why the decision was against me)?
Your request for reasons must:
- Be in writing
- Say what decision you are asking reasons for
- Say why you think the decision is wrong
- Include your name, postal address, e-mail address, fax and telephone numbers
- Be sent by post, e -mail, fax or hand –delivered
You have 90 days (3 months) to ask for reasons for the decision, from the date you have become, or should have become, aware of the decision. When you have asked for reasons, the administrator has 90 days (3 months) to give you the written reasons you have asked for