DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING
ADMINISTRATIVE JUSTICE BILL, 1999
This Bill can in fact be described as a procedural extension of section 33 of the Constitution, which provides that everyone has the right to lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair administrative action, and everyone has the right to reasons where administrative action has adversely affected anyone’s rights. The Bill extends the provisions of section 33 by defining the term ‘administrative action’ and the right as provided for in the Constitution is broadened to also include ‘interests’ and to a certain extent ‘legitimate expectations’ which are affected by administrative action. Basic principles to govern fair procedures to be followed in relation to administrative action, as well as procedures to be followed when administrative action will affect the public are prescribed, and the Bill makes provision for the review of administrative action by the courts and sets out the grounds for review which include unauthorised, unreasonable or biased actions.
The Department is of the view that the impact of the Bill will not be too onerous on its day to day activities, as the Department has always been sensitive to constitutional requirements and has consistently endeavoured to ensure that housing legislation, national policies and frameworks meet the requirements of administrative justice. Nevertheless, because the level of executive decision-taking has largely been shifted to the spheres of Provincial and Local Government, it is at these spheres that the provisions of the Bill are likely to have the greatest impact. National administrative guidelines, relating to the implementation of National Housing Policy and Programmes will be reviewed to ensure compliance with the imperatives of the Bill.
As far as the direct impact on this Department is concerned, we are of the opinion that the current structure of the Department will be able to deal with the demands of the Bill.
The principles of Batho Pele, as laid down in the White Paper on Transforming Public Service Delivery, has to a large extent geared departments toward a process of service delivery which already provides standards and practices that are consistent with the intent of the Bill. Batho Pele principles include consultation, access to information, openness and transparency.
The Department is a strong advocate of openness and transparency in relation to matters such as legislation and policy formulation. Consultation and a process of obtaining public comment is followed whenever the need arises and the Department ensures that decisions are taken after due consultation, whenever possible. An example would be the Department’s Housing Subsidy Scheme, where provision is made for social compacts with affected communities in the execution of housing subsidy projects and for reasons to be given whenever an application for a subsidy or approval of a housing project is declined.
Legislation, such as the Rental Housing Bill, 1999, also recognises the rights and interests of citizens by making provision for the establishment of Information Office’s at local authority level to advise tenants and landlords of their rights and duties in relation to dwellings within such local authority’s area of jurisdiction. Rental Housing Tribunals will be sensitised to the need to act with circumspection within the spirit and intent of the Administrative Justice Bill.
The Department has also embarked on various other information initiatives to ensure that all citizens of the Republic are kept abreast of developments in the housing process.
The principles of administrative justice as provided for in this Bill have in terms of the common law been part of our legal system for many years. In recognition of the country’s status as a Constitutional State the formalisation of these rights in legislation is welcomed as a means of ensuring that all citizens of the Republic are aware of their rights in terms of the law and are enabled to exercise and protect their rights and interests and to promote their legitimate expectations.