COMMENT | Samson Tinka | During a security briefing at police headquarters in late March, Commissioner Fred Enanga informed the public that nine private security companies had been suspended and two banned from operations. Of course, reasons have been advanced as to why law enforcement should take this action.
The merits and demerits of this decision is a debate for another day, the focus today will be on the formation, operationalization, regulation of private security entities in Uganda.
Uganda has over 250 registered security companies across the country. Commonly known as “securiko”, these companies help government security agencies provide security for private and parastatal businesses.
Services offered range from home, office, facility monitoring to intruder alarms, CCTV installation and monitoring. Also on the list are Cash in Transit – commonly referred to as CIT, Private Bodyguard Investigations (Close Protection), Car Tracking – Fleet Management, Vault Facilities, Escort and Emergency Response. ’emergency.
Private security organizations (PSOs) provide basic and high level security services that would have been the preserve of the police and other security services. Security guards and officers provide information and intelligence to the police
The first security company to be incorporated in Uganda was security 2000 formed in 1988, followed by Amor Group in 1993, then Saracen, Protectorate Spc and the rest.
These services offered are essential to the economy and to the prevention and management of crime. The same security companies provide over 50,000 jobs to young Ugandans with a multiplier effect of almost 200,000 lives dependent on these men and women in uniform.
Very few sectors that offer such jobs. The private security sector only provides security for the corporate sector. The business sector, from hotels to industries, including factories, banks and tourism, relies on private security companies. Recently, the government has assigned a few police officers to some high-level facilities to support private security organizations (PSOs), but the security work is largely done by PSOs.
The Regulations 2013 NO.11 describe how PSOs are regulated. The PSOs are run by the police under the Private Security Organization and Gun Control Department headed by Acting Commissioner Charles Ssembambilidde.
The PSO department offices are understaffed, with less than 10 officers on duty, and are tucked away in a very old building at Nagaru Police Headquarters. There are virtually no regular engagements with PSOs, and had there been a routine inspection, some of these companies would not have been suspended.
The police regulations actually state that in order to ensure that private security organizations carry out their duties effectively and efficiently, the Inspector General of Police shall establish standards of performance and ensure that ‘there is— (a) appropriate and regular training of all personnel in a private security organization.
This is where the big gap is felt. Very few private security companies have training facilities. Those who have training facilities, they are substandard.
Ideally, this is the area I blame Ugandan police leadership for. This is one area where I believe they still use baby gloves. But it is also an area in which they can easily support PSOs, especially in training.
They can offer training grounds like Kabalye, Oririmi, Kibuli and others to PSOs without training facilities or offer free or rented police grounds for this purpose.
Currently, some PSOs train their guards for a week, two weeks, a month while others train for about two months. It literally means that we have different products in the service market. Imagine someone holding a loaded gun after completing a two-week training course. It’s dangerous.
Security agencies should also stop poaching PSOs when recruiting
Each time the police, prisons and UPDF recruit, the PSOs lose almost 30% of their personnel to these institutions. The PSOs spend a lot of money on the recruitment, training, welfare and clothing of security agents. And then soon after, the other government security agencies mentioned above come poaching.
PSOs have an important role in the development of a country, and ensuring that they thrive independently is crucial for the economy.
Oil and gas sector
Only Saracen provides guards to major oil and gas players, Total, CNOOC and others. Nearly 5,000 guards will be deployed in the oil exploration area by Saracen alone. The total number of refinery, exploration and pipeline guards is estimated at nearly 19,000. These guards will be critical or important in access control management, incident management, accommodation and movement logistics, risk and threat management, CIT, escort, among others. Oil and gas is the current thing; the whole country absorbs its development there. Security being a major player in this sector, should be assisted in skills, training, capacity building among others.
Cash in transit for commercial banks and other private businesses is largely provided by private security agencies. Cash flow is essential to the economy. Kihihi, Moroto, Yumbe, Kalangala, Kisoro banks need physical money. Churches in Kampala use bullion vans, manufacturing companies like Mukwano, roofers, etc. use CIT services. Etc. These ICT services move the economy. As a country, we are still a long way from a cashless economy.
International NGOs, agencies, telecom operators like MTN and other multinational institutions also benefit from the security services offered by PSOs.
As in 2019, before covid19 came to blight the economy, PSOs were pouring over 760 billion shillings into Uganda’s coffers.
To further benefit from this sector in terms of increased security, employment and revenue for the government, PSOs should be placed under full leadership headed by a director at the rank of IPMA. Currently its sub-director of operations. With the Ugandan police bureaucracy, issues impacting PSOs take a long time to reach the IGP.
It would be even better if there was an authority created just for PSOs.
Generally, in my opinion, PSOs are cash cows for the government when they are well managed. As things stand, they are not only neglected but thrown into an endless abyss. They must be supported globally. The benefits are visible. As I wrote a while ago external recruiting agencies are no better either although there has been some form of government that has woken up to streamline the line even though the speed is like a snail. Sometimes we wonder where the government’s priorities are?
Dear my dear police authority and the Ugandan government as a whole, look at PSOs differently from legislation, management and operations. These companies have the capacity to overtake gold, coffee, fish and tea in terms of employment and income in Uganda.
Samson Tinka is a safety and security consultant | Director Matts Secure Solutions Ltd | [email protected]