• Private security has been plagued by malpractices with reports of security guards being underpaid and overworked and female guards exposed to sexual harassment.
• Insecurity is identified in the BBI Report as one of the most serious challenges facing Kenyans, ranging from violent crimes, unsolved murders, terrorism, cyber-crimes and theft.
We call them ‘soldier’ or ‘askari’ but they are the face of the private security industry which plays a vital role in providing basic security services in our homes, offices, factories and other social places.
Globally, the private security sector is valued in some quarters at US$ 160 billion (Sh16 trillion) and employs over 25 million people.
In Kenya, there are 2,000 plus private security firms employing an estimated 300,000 people, making the industry one of the biggest employers in the country.
Although the private security industry has experienced phenomenal growth in Kenya since the 1980s, the majority of the players are briefcase operators providing mainly manned guard services.
This transformation coincided with escalating security challenges and high crime rates stretching out an under-funded public police force mired in corruption and mistrusted by the public.
Although a highly competitive business, private security has been plagued by malpractices with reports of security guards being underpaid and overworked and female guards exposed to sexual harassment.
Rogue private security guards have been known to collude with thugs to commit burglaries, robberies, kidnappings, murders and other serious crimes thereby soiling the industry reputation.
However, the private security industry continues to play a vital role in securing lives and property and creating a conducive environment for business, investment and economic growth.
Another important contribution is the introduction of the latest crime surveillance technology and equipment to counter criminals who are adopting increasingly sophisticated tactics.
The rapid growth of the private security sector coupled with myriad issues facing it has given rise to the clamour for tighter regulation.
This culminated in the enactment of the Private Security Regulation Act of 2016. The Act also provides a framework governing their operations and closer cooperation with the national security organs.
Private security personnel are bound by the national principles and values set in Article 10 of the Constitution including respect for human rights and rule of law thus providing an important check against abuses.
Further, the Act defines ‘security service’ as protecting or safeguarding a person or property.
It also establishes the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSRA) to ensure effective regulation and control of the private security services industry in Kenya.
PSRA is also mandated to register and licence all persons involved in providing such services as well as promote the overall development of the industry.
In addition, the industry is governed by the Private Security General Regulations that came into effect in July 2019.
According to the regulations, the deadline for registration of private security firms was January 2020.
To be registered, such firms must show proof of compliance with labour laws and standards. These will prevent the violation of guards’ labour rights.
Directors, management and staff of private security firms must undergo training with the Authority tasked with developing a standardized curriculum.
So, why include the private security industry in the BBI? It is important to understand the context within which BBI seeks to address security issues.
Insecurity is identified in the BBI Report as one of the most serious challenges facing Kenyans, ranging from violent crimes, unsolved murders, terrorism, cyber-crimes and theft.
Many Kenyans called for a new approach to the provision of security in the country.
Also, there is growing concern that terrorism remains a major threat to national security.
Hence the need for greater synergy between national security organs and private security providers.
The latter play a frontline crime prevention role while ensuring the security and safety of persons and property. This positions them as a vital element in community policing.
Specifically, BBI proposes three main interventions to strengthen the role of the private security industry.
First, it roots for the implementation of regulated protective security standards for all sectors including those in the private sector.
Setting standards will help in weeding out rogue operators while promoting a culture of self-regulation in the industry.
It will also align industry practice with emerging trends in the global and domestic security space.
Second, BBI recommends standardized training for private security guards.
Already PRSA has developed a curriculum for the training of private guards and it is mandatory for the owners and employees of private security firms to undergo such training.
So this particular aspect of BBI is already being implemented.
Third, BBI calls for better coordination between private security firms and public security agencies.
Such synergy is crucial for the success of community policing since the industry is a critical non-State actor in the process given its frontline role in crime prevention.
Fourth, BBI calls for a review of legislation governing operations of security firms in Kenya.
The legislative framework already exists, perhaps, what we need is to strengthen the regulatory oversight to ensure greater accountability and transparency from private security providers and continuously benchmark standards to global best practice.
This requires continuous upgrading of skills to keep up with evolving security threats.
From the foregoing, it is clear BBI entrenches ongoing reforms in the private security sector in our constitutional, legislative, policy and administrative structures.
Besides, BBI positively impacts the ordinary private guard who for many years has suffered low pay and poor working conditions by improving their overall welfare and job security.
Mr Murumba is the Managing Director, Impulso Kenya Limited ([email protected] )