Private security guards have become an integral component of the security system. Operating a security firm has also become a profitable business, which has expanded and attracted many players. However, the private security system has not been subjected to quality checks to determine the standards of their operations.
For the better part of this year, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has been pushing for transformation of private security firms ostensibly to create order. The reason is quite straightforward. As firms charged with taking care of people and property, the way they operate has to be streamlined.
This week, the government launched a training curriculum for private security guards. This is because the firms have been employing guards whose competence cannot be vouched for. Some are not knowledgeable in English or Kiswahili. Individuals seeking jobs have been enlisted as security guards and without proper training, which is fraught with perils.
Lack of training renders them unable to competently carry out their duties. They cannot pre-empt and properly tackle security crises. Often they are poor in customer relations and, as the first point of contact with clients, give firms a bad image. Neither are they knowledgeable in basic law and safety requirements, which are crucial for their work.
Now, Dr Matiang’i has directed an audit of security firms to determine, among others, if they have been filing tax returns, remitting statutory fees and adhering to quality standards. That is paramount. But the audit should go far. Besides checking whether or not they pay taxes and statutory fees, the firms should be assessed in terms of services they offer, professional standards and innovation.
Importantly, an audit is pivotal in ensuring that only qualified and competent firms are authorised to operate. We are not advocating for stifling of the business, but for the companies to be thoroughly vetted.
Conversely, the firms should put in place proper labour practices — pay guards well and provide them with safety gadgets. Many security firms underpay guards yet they charge clients exorbitantly. In turn, many guards are left vulnerable, easily pliable and corruptible, hence undermining security.
Private security guards require proper training and vetting to weed out quacks. And this is critical as it comes against the backdrop of plans to equip security guards with guns, a practice common in neighbouring countries but which requires a fairly good level of education and training.