The Protection of Personal Information Bill‚ designed to ensure that personal information is protected by providing a regulatory framework within which information may be processed‚ has been referred back to parliament for a second reading and further debate after a decision in favour of it by a portfolio committee.

Once the bill is promulgated‚ it is expected to have a significant impact on the manner in which private and public bodies process personal‚ or identifying‚ information as it aims to protect the free-flow of information and advance the right of access to information‚ while giving effect to the right to privacy contained in the constitution.

But since being tabled in parliament in 2009‚ it has been referred to the portfolio committee on justice and constitutional development (committee) which has considered‚ deliberated and debated on a number of working drafts.

“It appears that these deliberations have drawn to an end‚ with the committee's vote on the current working draft of the bill on September 5. The vote indicated a unanimous decision in favour of the bill‚” said Simone Gill‚ director in the technology media and telecommunications (TMT) practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr on Monday. The parliamentary debate is expected to be held on September 11.

Although it is not possible to anticipate when the bill will ultimately be finalised and promulgated‚ the favourable vote and adoption of the bill by the committee certainly indicates that the process for promulgation is in motion and may soon be drawing to a close‚ according to Gill.

Members of parliament will be required to cast their votes on the bill. If there is a majority vote in favour of it‚ the National Assembly will then pass the bill and refer it to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for its consideration. If satisfied‚ the NCOP will ratify it and it will then be prepared for signature and assent by the president; alternatively the NCOP may refer the bill back to parliament.

“Given that promulgation seems likely to occur in the near future‚ organisations are advised to assess the specific application of the various requirements prescribed by the bill to their businesses and consider the steps to be taken for compliance‚” said Tayyibah Suliman‚ senior associate in the TMT practice. - I-Net Bridge