Opinion

Resolve private security rules impasse

Resolve private security rules impasse
  • It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Other industry players, users of private security and support services for the industry have already begun adapting to the new regulatory regime.
  • It is, therefore, critical that concerned stakeholders resume engagement to rescue what had promised to be a flawless regulatory reform process.
  • Long-standing businesses are at stake with millions of Kenyans likely to be affected by fallout.

After a promising start to private security reforms in early 2019, where both the government and industry were stepping out to the same tune, a sudden impasse and freezing of relations between the two has arisen, throwing into confusion a much-needed process towards effective regulation.

NARROW SELF-INTERESTS

This impasse emanates from the industry-driven nullification of the Private Security General Regulations 2019 by Parliament in late November. Industry leadership came together and launched a strong lobby against the Regulations. The nullification was made worse by insinuations in the media that the primary force behind it was narrow self-interest rather than the merits of the rules.

Industry now remains in tense abeyance with the next steps by the government being keenly watched as it seeks to get the private security sector reforms back on track.

On December 6, last year, the government regrouped itself to make a statement, led by the Interior Cabinet Secretary, Dr Fred Matiang’i, in a panel that also had his Principal Secretary, Dr Karanja Kibicho, Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai and his deputy Noor Gabow, and Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSRA) CEO Fazul Mahamed, as well as other Interior ministry heavyweights.

The message was simple: The full force of the country’s security apparatus is going to be brought to bear in the enforcement of the reforms.

The CS made it clear that the Private Security Regulation Act would be enforced in its entirety, using powers granted to the Cabinet Secretary and PSRA under the Act. Immediately, a security vetting for all the companies and directors was launched with the requirement that all the firms submit themselves to PSRA for scrutiny.

CLEARED COMPANIES

A list of the cleared companies is set to be published after the March 31 deadline. Only these companies will be allowed to take the next step of registration and licensing. Companies that do not subject themselves to this process, either through negligence or ignorance, face imminent closure of their businesses.

The second monumental directive on that day was that the regulations would be published as Industry Service Standards, under powers given to PSRA under the Act.

This means that execution of the Act will take place under individual and company service standards that are binding on all private security players.

A look at the genesis of these troubles is apt. It seems that the industry leadership did not conduct a thorough risk analysis when they sought the nullification of the regulations.

The voices that were against lobbying for nullification were of the opinion that the government would not relent in pursuing the changes and that reforms with well-known and prescribed rules are a better alternative to those driven by solitary measures by the CS or PSRA.

ABDICATE ROLES

This concern has, seemingly, come to pass. The government has gone into ‘government mode’, seeking to enforce its agenda by force with little, if any, input from the industry.

The industry, on its part, has gone into a paralysis of sorts with its associations having gone quiet on the way forward. The leaders who were quite vocal and led many towards nullification seem to have gone underground, leaving the industry without direction or the benefit of its membership to these organisations.

A critical voice going silent amidst such confusion has meant everybody is now working for themselves as the associations abdicate their leadership roles.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Other industry players, users of private security and support services for the industry have already begun adapting to the new regulatory regime. Guards who have been looking forward to the new regime continue to hope that their plight will change.

GREATER RISK

Training companies are developing products in line with the regulatory regime and aggressively marketing themselves. Users of private security services are beginning to ask for service providers that are compliant with the law. In addition, banks and insurance companies are coming up with products for the industry that will support the transition and new requirements.

It is, therefore, critical that concerned stakeholders resume engagement to rescue what had promised to be a flawless regulatory reform process.

Long-standing businesses are at stake with millions of Kenyans likely to be affected by fallout. Indeed, Kenya’s security is at greater risk when a critical player in its management finds itself hostage to intense narrow interests.

Mr Ndege is director of communications, TL Message & Media. ​