Occasionally, 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.
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.
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)