Category Archives: Administrative Justice

What is the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA)?

The PAJA is the law passed to “give effect” to the right to just administrative action in the Bill of Rights. This says everyone has the right:

●  To fair, lawful and reasonable administrative action; and
●  To reasons for administrative action that affects them negatively.

What is administrative action?

Any decision the administration takes that affects people’s rights is an administrative action. The administration is made up of:

  • All government departments;
  • The police and army; and
  • Parastatals, like ESKOM, Telkom and the SABC.

Why do I need the PAJA?

The PAJA gives you a chance to tell your side of the story before any decision is taken. Once a decision is taken, it lets you find out why the decision went against you. In this way, the PAJA makes sure you know why the administration has done what it has. It also makes sure that decisions are taken properly. Lastly, it makes sure you can challenge decisions that were not taken properly.

What should I expect when I apply for something?

You can now expect to be:

  • Told what decision is being planned before it is taken;
  • Allowed to tell your side of the story before a decision is made;
  • Told what the decision is and of your right to internal appeal or review;
  • Told that you have the right to request reasons;
  • Given proper written reasons for the decision; and
  • Able to challenge the decision in court.

When can I request reasons?

You can request reasons for any decision that negatively affects your rights. Sometimes, these reasons will be given without you having to request them. If not, you must request them within 90 days of finding out the decision.

What if I am still not satisfied?

Some departments give you an internal appeal. For example, the Department of Home Affairs has an Appeal Board. If someone applies for asylum seeker status and is refused, they can appeal to this Board.

You must use any internal appeal before taking any other action. The department must tell you how to do this and how long you have to make the appeal.

If there is no internal appeal procedure, or if you have used it and are still not satisfied, you can ask a court to review the decision. This must be done:

  • Within 6 months of any internal appeal having been decided.
  •  (Where there is no internal appeal) within 6 months of finding out the decision

Reference:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Government administrators making wrong decisions

A1_bOccasionally, government administrations make decisions that people don’t understand or agree with. In cases such as these there are procedures to follow that ensures administrative justice. The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act allows you to have a say in matters that affect your rights.

The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act of 2000 (PAJA) gives people the right to fair, lawful and reasonable administrative action. Furthermore, it gives the right for individuals to be provided with reasons for any administrative actions that affect them negatively.

Administrative action?

If a person applies for an ID, for example, home affairs has to decide on whether or not the person should get one. They could perhaps decide that an ID should not be granted. This process is an example of an administrative action.

Government departments, the police, the army and parastatals such as ESKOM all make up the administration. PAJA applies when a decision made by the administration has a negative effect on someone’s rights. Maybe someone has been denied a work permit, for example, and the administrator did not give specific or good reasons why. PAJA gives them right to know what the reasons were and why they were made.

What does PAJA do?

PAJA requires that administrative decisions follow fair procedures and it allows you to have a say before a decision is made with possible negative implications to your rights. Those who make administrative decisions also have to clearly explain their decisions and tell you about any internal appeals within their department. You are also allowed to ask a court to review their decision when it’s made. An important benefit of PAJA is that you can request the reasons for their decisions.

Know your rights

Administrators are not allowed to simply make decisions without consulting you in several ways first. First, they have to tell you what decisions they are planning to make and how they will affect you. They also have to give you enough time to respond to their plan.

When a decision has been taken and it has negatively affected your rights, administrators must give you a clear statement of what they decided and a notice of your right to review the decision. They also have to give you notice that you can request written reasons for their decision, which you should pursue if you believe an administrators decision was unreasonable or unlawful.

These are some reasons that would make an administrative decision unlawful:

  • There was no good reason for the decision.
  • The decision-maker was not authorised to do so by legislation.
  • The person who took the action applied the law incorrectly.

What can you do?

If a decision has been made that you believe contravenes your rights, you can request that the particular department provide reasons for the decision, if reasons have not already been given. The request should be in submitted in writing and within 90 days of the decision having been made. If you don’t agree with the decision or reasons, you can go through an internal appeal. This step must be taken before you can take further action. Government administrations will usually have their own internal appeals process, which they should notify you about. If you’re still not happy you can complain directly to the department involved or go to a court to take the matter further. Going to court is expensive so it’s advisable to settle the matter through internal appeals, if possible.

Reference:

Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, 2000 (Act 3 of 2000) Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. Accessed: http://www.justice.gov.za/paja. 09/05/2016.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)