South Africa’s R50 billion private security industry needs to get its house in order to play its part effectively in the fight against crime.
This is an extraordinary view issued by an insider, a security firm named Guarding SA. The statement issued this week comes with an element of unmasked whistle blowing. Issued by a PR firm the statement is obviously also designed to give the client some editorial mileage but it is worth a mention.
The statement said the number of crimes committed against South African business is constantly climbing – and a substantial portion of this problem can be attributed to poor standards in the security guarding segment of South Africa’s R50 billion private security industry.
Bernardo Luis, operations director at Guarding SA, has warned that both security companies and the companies that employ them need to get their houses in order if there is to be any chance of stemming business crime.
Luis said the industry has problems which it needs to address. These range from guards falling asleep on the job to those working in cahoots with organized syndicates and turning a blind eye to goods that are brazenly transported out of companies’ warehouses. These contributed to the 7,5 percent increase in business crime recorded during the year ended April 2012.
“It is extremely worrying if you look at how much crime is committed because people put too much trust in guards. Guarding is an extremely high risk environment. Guards are constantly being bought. Threats come from both within and outside organizations. A guard will be constantly approached and enticed by syndicates, dishonest employees operating within a company and even opportunists who want to get into a business.”
He said an influx of fly-by-night companies into the guarding sector, which turns over R18 billion and is the largest part of the industry (PSRIA), was severely compromising the delivery of guarding services. In order to undercut rates charged by reputable companies, these companies did not employ suitable security guards and often paid below the minimum wage stipulated for the industry, increasing the chance of employees being tempted to commit crime.
As a result, he said, it was time to get back to basics. He pointed out that all companies as well as individual employees needed to be registered with the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSRIA) as stipulated by the Private Security Regulation
Act (2001) and subsequent amendments. The PSRIA website provides an online and extremely easy way to check credentials. It is a legal requirement for companies who employ outsourced security guards to ensure that they are registered with PSIRA, even if companies employ their own in house guards, both the company and the guards need to be registered with the organization.
Luis advised that companies hiring guarding companies should also obtain references from other clients as well as investigate their operational and managerial systems. For starters, he said, companies should deal with guarding companies that both pre-screen and constantly monitor their staff.
The statement also quoted Polygraph expert from Justicia Investigations’, Frans van Biljon, to make further entrench its point. Van Biljon said cited saying just last week a security company had approached the firm for assistance with a theft problem. “Polygraphs were used and it was established that a security guard that was holding a position of trust had been recently released from prison for armed robbery! This security officer was operating with a valid PSRIA certificate which is believed to be someone else’s. Had pre employment polygraph tests been done, this problem would have been avoided.
The statement noted that the size and the ease with which new entrants could be trained and absorbed into the sector often results in extremely fleeting employee loyalty with guards simply moving from company to company should they be dismissed for misdemeanours. “That’s why, for us, the crux is the screening process and maintaining that. Every single person who applies for a job at Guarding SA is polygraphed prior to being employed and also polygraphed periodically.
Van Biljon added that from Guarding SA’s own experience, it was very worrying that, on average, 98 percent of applicants for guarding jobs failed the initial polygraph. “We have even found that many applicants have been dismissed from previous jobs for gross dishonesty or are even wanted by the police. They still have their registrations because few companies are prepared to report incidents.”
The statement added that despite the fact that investigations frequently uncovered major criminal operations in which security guards were often an integral part, companies that employed them either dismissed their guards without reporting them or simply moved a guard to a less risky site. “That employee should be investigated and charged. However, many companies in the guarding industry are afraid that they will risk their credibility by doing that,” he said, adding that many also failed to take action as they feared repercussions from terminating guards’ services.
Luis said that while there was a lot to be done within the guarding sector, security companies and their clients could begin to pull up their socks and participate in the “cleansing process”.