The impact of emotional ‘affect’ on municipal budget transparency in South Africa: a randomised control trial using PAIA requests

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University of Cape Town

This paper aims to assess the effectiveness and transparency outcomes of an access to information mechanism in South Africa enshrined in the Protection of Access to in Information (PAIA) Act of 2000. A randomized control trial is conducted to assess whether emotional influences known as ‘affect’ in PAIA requests can improve the transparency outcomes of the request process. The hypothesis that aggressive requests can achieve more transparent outcomes is supported by the data, with response times to requests being 3.6 days shorter on average in the treatment group relative to the control group. However, aggression in requests has a weak effect in terms improving other transparency outcomes. The robustness of the outcomes is limited by low response rates overall leading to limited measurable statistical significance. The social implication suggested by the results is that the PAIA request mechanism is often ineffective in achieving increased transparency, and is subject to manipulation.