Security, or state secrecy, legislation such as the Protection of State Information Bill could see businesses placed at a disadvantage should they come into competition with a state-owned enterprise, says Mail & Guardian editor Nic Dawes.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Pan African Conference on Information Access on Sunday, Dawes said: “Information is the lifeblood of markets and nowadays all businesses are information businesses. Broadly speaking the business environment is badly damaged by law that restricts the flow of information.
More narrowly the potential that exists to classify information on government tenders and the activities of para-statals on security grounds could very well see the information asymmetry between the government and the private sector increase.”
Dawes said one could easily imagine an electricity tender, or a roads tender or a water tender being captured under the heading of state security and if that is the case it would become very difficult for companies to get their rights to equal treatment vindicated.
“I think potentially it would give state-owned enterprises but also politically well-connected business players an advantage. Anything that decreases the possibility of scrutiny increases the possibility of unfair treatment and corruption,” Dawes said.