Private security companies must be duly registered and meet all industrial terms of service.
The move by the Private Security Regulatory Authority to bar almost 2,000 such firms from operating for not being registered is laudable although the agency ought to do more. Most of these outfits are merely briefcase tax evaders with no physical address.
Their slogan seems to be “bora kazi” (so long as one does the work). They have no hiring standards for guards; do no background checks on them; and have no minimum education requirements for recruitment.
Yet their clientele includes the government, non-governmental organisations and politicians.
True, they create employment for Kenyans. Yes, jobs are hard to get, but that is not a licence to take advantage of someone’s vulnerability for selfish benefit by grossly underpaying them. If Kenyans knew how much these proscribed companies pay their guards, they’d be shocked.
There are companies that pay guards a paltry Sh5, 000 per month for a 12-hour daily vigil. Their salaries are nowhere near the Sh16,000 official minimum pay. That is modern-day slavery.
Don’t be surprised that their clients might be paying four times that; say, Sh50,000 monthly, for security services per guard.
The working conditions for guards are horrible. Some don’t have days off at least weekly as the law stipulates. One works from January to December without going on annual leave.
Should a guard fall ill, the firms have no standby replacement or emergency staff. Guards cannot attend funerals, weddings, religious events or even school opening or closing for their children.
The children of such workers go to very poor schools with unending fee arrears since their parents have no money to spare. These are future street urchins. The families are also bound to break up as spouses, separated for a long time, may be tempted into extramarital affairs.
The authority must do more to streamline the private security sector. That includes enforcing licences, minimum wage, days off, annual leave, sick offs maternity and paternity leave and settling industrial disputes.
In fact, the biggest employer in the country at present is the security industry, with over a million workers. If all these workers are poorly paid so that they cannot afford good housing, they live in squalor, with houses that don’t have sanitation, security and other basic infrastructure.
If this is allowed to continue, Kenya will fail as a nation because the majority of its population will be poor. Yet they are the face of Kenya. Poverty will be rampant, illiteracy high, and businesses poor as the people cannot afford goods and services.
So when the authority tries to bring order in the security sector, its trying to improve the economy and must be supported. All security firms must obey the law.
Robert Musamali, Nairobi