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New regulations will help private security firms do better job

Thursday July 18 2019

private security guards

Private security guards are the first line of security; they access control for most facilities in Kenya. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MARTIN K NKAARI
By MARTIN K NKAARI
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In less than six months, all individual and corporate private security service providers must have registered with the Private Security Regulatory Authority. From January 5, 2020, all users of private security services are required to only hire or engage such registered and licensed private security officers and firms.

RIGOROUS REFORMS

The guard at your home and his company, the locksmith at your shopping centre or the company that gives you car tracking services, among others, are required to be registered by January; otherwise, both user and service provider will be committing an offence.

These requirements are contained in the Private Security (General) Regulations 2019, which were gazetted on July 5 by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i. This was the last set of guidelines required to operationalise the Private Security Regulation Act 2016 and the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSRA) under it.

The private security industry is mainly characterised by the guarding subsector. It has been on a growth path ever since the near-collapse of public policing in the 1980s and ‘90s and on to the second growth spurt that was brought about by terrorism, Al-Shabaab in particular. But in this growth, standards and professionalism have not kept up as would be desired.

The competitive advantage has mainly been on pricing, leading to bottom-down prices and a fragmentation that has left almost everyone holding onto little with even less value. In this, it is the guards who have suffered the most — long hours, poor pay and little or no equipment and facilities, among a plethora of other challenges.

The standard of the guard and the entire industry has, therefore, suffered, leading to little pride, recognition or respect for it. It is now a rigorous reforms drive and compliance period.

The new regulations, however, turn the pricing competitive edge on its head and place a premium on value addition. From now on, if firms are to be licensed, they will be required to pay guards in their employ at least the minimum wage.

ARMED ESCORT

In the cities of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, this amounts to Sh27,993 for a night guard and Sh25,641 for a day guard. In municipalities like Nakuru, Nyeri and Kakamega, this comes to Sh25,905 and Sh23,208, respectively, and Sh16,119 and Sh13,575 in all other areas, mostly small urban and rural areas.

If you employ a guard directly, you will also be required to pay this wage. This is for a 12-hour shift.

The use of firearms for provision of private security services has been a hot topic in the country since the 14 Riverside terrorist attack. The new regulations in no way amend the parent Act and, indeed, do not grant power to arm private guards. The use of firearms by guards, therefore, remains unlawful until Parliament amends the Act.

The rules that may be creating the impression that guards will now be armed is a category of licence known as “Armed Escort Services”. It has been clarified that this is a category for the service providers who use armed police officers for some of their services, such as cash in transit. The words “armoured cars” may also be leading to this confusion, yet armoured cars have been a standard in cash and valuables in transit services.

There are also guidelines for cooperation between private security and the national security organs. While both private security firms and the government work to provide public safety and security, there has been little in the form of structured co-operation.

POWER TO ARREST

The rules now provide a framework for this in instances as simple as requesting crucial information from a private security service provider to instances of national disaster or calamity, where private security officers may be called in to assist in disaster management.

Three special powers have also been granted to registered private security officers and guidelines for their exercise given. These include the power to arrest, the power to search and the power to temporarily withhold identification documents. Care has been taken, however, to ensure that they are exercised in a way that does not infringe on individual rights.

Lastly, emphasis has been placed on training to raise service standards and spur professionalism and career paths. All personnel in the industry will be required to undergo training before they can be registered with the PSRA. Mandatory annual training is also required for one to renew a licence.

These and other provisions provide an opportunity for the Fazul Mahamed-led authority and industry to beat a path for the industry to be a credible player in ensuring public safety and security. It should not be wasted.

Mr Nkaari is the country director, Elite Security Academy. [email protected]

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