Security for a property is an important aspect just as the process of putting up that investment.
Every homeowner or investor yearns to get it right, knowing that life and millions, if not billions, are involved.
Uniformed private guards are the most preferred to offer security to many homes, with the belief that their presence is a sure sign of safety and security.
However, in the rush to get one, many times homeowners are not keen on getting the right people, with a number of them bringing criminals to their homes unknowingly.
This has led to instances where such individuals have either suffered burglary, theft and at worst loss of lives as the choices they made come back to haunt them.
Cases abound where uniformed guards, trusted with offering security, have turned out to be sources of suffering for their employers.
For example, in March last year, a Kenyan guard reportedly stole Sh130 million in cash that was in transit in Deira, Dubai, after he distracted his colleague before running away with the cash. In August 9, 2012, a private guard was charged with stealing over Sh 13.9 million from his employer and also for giving false information to a police officer in order to avoid arrest.
Kenya National Private Security Workers Union records show that there are around 500,000 private security officers in Kenya attached to about 2,000 security firms. How and what then, should an individual seeking to find a professional security guard do to ensure that they engage the right private security and not fraudsters?
Anthony Musau, a risk and vetting manager at the Private Security Training Academy (PSTA), says that burglaries and theft happen because individuals disregard professionalism while looking for guards to offer them security and safety.
He states that most people do not carry out due diligence, deliberately or by forgetting, in their search for a security guard.
This, he says, is because they are in a rush to get just anyone — referred to as fixed-site guards — to safeguard their properties, or want the unprofessional ones whom they can pay little in salaries.
“We have had individuals call from the comfort of their homes asking [that we send] a security guard. They don’t even bother to conduct the simplest of due diligence, yet this is an individual they will be trusting with their properties,” he says.
ASK FOR PROPER CERTIFICATES
Mr Musau explains that an individual should insist on getting a properly trained and well vetted private security guard.
“A fully vetted guard will have a skeleton file, one which has key documents that can be used to track and trace the individual in case of any misdemeanour or crime.
The documents contained in the skeleton file are certificate of good conduct to verify that one does not have a criminal record at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), a letter from a chief of where he or she comes from, and a map showing the physical location of the person to help in tracking and tracing the person in case he or she goes missing.
Another important document is the national identification card to ascertain the nationality of the person being engaged. All these are attached to the vetting form which every security firm should have,” Mr Musau offers.
He further says that the documents have to undergo verification with relevant authorities, including the DCI and other security organs, visiting the their places physically to confirm what they have written on the vetting forms, confirming with the Registrar of Persons and village elders to give more information pertaining to that person.
A trained guard, he, says, will certainly have a skeleton file where a copy will remain with the company that trained him or her at the firm’s human resources office and a duplicate file with the same documents and information for the client to cross-check before engaging the guard. The file is important for purposes of future reference and records.
“You should insist on seeing and keeping the duplicate file because this is a person you do not know. You only know the company,” advices Mr Musau.
YOUR SECURITY VERSUS THE COST
The risk and vetting manager explains that it is high time individuals stopped looking at the cost rather than the professionalism of the security guard, warning that a professional guard can only be found at a security firm.
“If I can give you a security guard for Sh12,000, how much will I pay him? Sh5,000? Is that amount a motivation enough for the guard to diligently watch over your property? Our investigations have revealed that some of the guards who collude with criminals are the lowest-paid ones,” he observes.
Mr Musau says that a person should recruit a security guard from a professional company, one that has been vetted by the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSRA) and is widely recognised for its professionalism and reputation.
He advises that an individual who wants to engage a guard should carry out a background check on the firm that he intends to get the guard from.
Further, he recommends that one should not only have the name of the company but also the physical address and more details about the firm.
The information, he explains, can be obtained from the Internet to know the physical location and the faces behind the company like the owners and directors by even checking with the Registrar of Companies.
Mr Clinton Obong’o, a background checks officer with the Private Security Training Academy (PSTA), adds that one should check whether the company is registered with the Attorney-General and is allowed to offer private security services.
He explains that besides knowing the reputation and the faces behind the company, one should also make sure that the firm is a member of a professional association in the industry and adheres to the regulations governing the sector.
“The company should have physical offices and a training school, so be wary of those briefcase companies that simply buy uniforms and then tell guards that they will train on the job,” says Mr Obong’o.
Mr Obong’o also advises that even after getting the guard, one should carry out an aptitude test, which can be done through surveillance or observation, to gauge the suitability of the person.
“Get somebody with a high IQ, one who can make quick decisions without any assistance, an individual capable of handling a challenging situation at any particular time, one who needs minimum supervision and has a clean record,” he says.
On his part, Byron Adera, a security consultant, explains that psychological disposition is more important than physical attributes.
He points out that security is about proportionality, advising that if people know their worth, they would be keen to get somebody closer to that worth. “I have seen people who understand the value of good security but at the end of the day, they opt for that next-door neighbour or a son of so and so, which is not professional at all,” he says.
Mr Adera also advises that people carry out a risk assessment regarding the person they want to engage and what they want guarded, adding that “you better go for someone who will charge you an arm and a leg rather than any Tom, Dick and Harry who will only lead to losses and misery”.
“You can smell a professional or a quack from a mile away. If you see any form of, or hint of irresponsibility during the time you are carrying out your due diligence then it means engaging such a person can lead to destruction, loss of lives or property,” he states.
He summarises the steps thus: do due diligence to get the right company, carry out risk assessment, pay for your worth then do operational security.
He also warns that one should be able to determine how much information the guard should know about the family or the property he is guarding.