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n Mousaion - Official publications depositories : work in progress
Information is the lifeblood of democratic governance. Without an unobstructed flow of quality information, the people cannot participate meaningfully in the democratic process. In particular, the electorate needs ready access to official publications of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government at national, provincial and local levels, as well as to publications of
The Legal Deposit Act, 1997 (Act 54 of 1997) for the first time makes provision for the establishment of official publications depositories (OPDs) in South Africa. At least one OPD is to be established in each province. OPDs will be entitled to receive, free of charge, a copy of every publication published by national, provincial and local governments, parastatal organisations and any other institutions listed as public entities. In terms of regulations that were published in June 2001, OPDs are required to organise these materials for use and make them accessible to members of the public. They must also serve as centres for promoting public awareness of, and access to, official publications generally and to unpublished information held by government, including access to government databases to which the public is entitled to gain access under any law.
A considerable amount of preparatory work had to be done and various practical hurdles had to be overcome before regulations for the establishment of OPDs could be published. This article outlines the provisions in the Legal Deposit Act that apply to OPDs, describes the work currently in progress for the establishment of OPDs and the development of OPDs in the context of other current initiatives to make government information more widely accessible to the general public.
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