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Who Is Gaining?

by msecadm4921

Romeo Richards, of Manchester-based Richards International Group writes: who gains from private security sector regulation?

After signing the service level agreement with our client, she posed a very interesting question that got me thinking. "Tell me honestly, Romeo, what are the benefits to my organisation of your SIA accreditation?" I mumbled something about an integrated management system to get me out of the situation. But as I drove back to my office, the question kept circulating around until I realised, reluctantly, that I really did not know the real answer to this question. This realisation brought me to another rather intriguing question: Who has been the real beneficiaries of the Private Security Industry Act 2001. The PSIA 2001 established the objectives of the Security Industry Authority. The SIA’s broad remit is to manage the licensing regulations agreed under the Act and "raise standards of professionalism and skills within the private security industry and to promote and spread best practice". At its annual stakeholder conference in May, speaker after speaker lauded the work of the SIA and the changes it has made to the security industry in the UK. <br><br>Standard<br><br>No one can deny the fact that the SIA has indeed transformed the security industry for the better. It has succeeded in minimising impunity and the rampant disregard for the law as demonstrated by a small minority of security companies prior to its establishment. It’s true to say that the undesirable criminal elements and their dubious activities have been weeded from the industry. However, can we honestly say the SIA has raised the standard of professionalism and spread best practice within the security industry? I would beg to differ on this point. The market leaders within the industry had already established best practice within their organisations long before the SIA. Skills and training regimes have not improved under the tenure of the SIA, nor has customer service standards. Furthermore, security officers like myself, continue to work for minimum wages. Consequently, if the security as an industry has not benefited from the establishment of the SIA, if security officers and customers have not benefited, then, who has? Answer: the men and women in dark suits in Newcastle and London, the badge producers, the unscrupulous consultants and the auditing bodies. <br><br>A free market?<br><br>To further illustrate this point: in July 2007, our organisation decided to apply for the Approved Contractors Scheme. We recently, completed our first year’s surveillance visit and were invoiced by the auditing body for over &#163;2000. Outraged at this, we contacted the SIA to confirm the costs of accreditation. We were subsequently informed that the SIA charged &#163;17 per licensed officer. We then contacted other auditing bodies and discovered that they all charged similar amounts. We asked the SIA why the auditing bodies were allowed to charge such exorbitant fees in an industry with such low profit margins. Their response that &quot;it’s a free market&quot; was indicative of their apparent disdain for independent security companies. They also contend that the process of gaining accreditation is voluntary; however, companies without accreditation cannot bid for public sector contracts. On face value it appears that any company can be accredited as long as they have the funds to pay for it. The idea behind the scheme was that companies had to achieve some level of professionalism to be considered for accreditation. In reality this is not the case, it is a paper exercise. All a company needs to do is call one of those unscrupulous consultants to arrange papers in their offices, pay the auditing bodies their fees and the company is accredited. From the beginning the SIA outsourced most of its services to private companies making it very difficult for security companies and their operatives to contact the relevant department. When its telephone service was initially outsourced to a new provider security companies and operatives were waiting up to one hour to get through to the relevant department. Now the SIA has outsourced its auditing responsibilities to private organisations that have no interest in raising standards within the security industry, only to line their own pockets. Finally we have the unscrupulous consultants roaming the industry unchecked, undermining and making a mockery of everything the SIA is supposed to represent. <br><br>What’s the essence?<br><br>This poses another question: what is the essence of the ACS? Is it to raise standards and professionalism within the security industry, or fund a lifestyle for auditing bodies and consultants? The SIA’s own research concluded that security buyers apart from extra cost have experienced no benefit from the ACS. And as security officers we still have to work 48 to 60 hours a week to earn decent wages. Therefore, the ACS has made no difference to us. There are talks within the SIA circle of making the ACS mandatory. If this happens, what will happen to companies that cannot afford the astronomical fees to the auditing bodies, will they be forced out of business? Even the harshest critic will admit that the SIA has performed extremely well considering the time it has been in existence and the task it has undertaken. However, the question that the SIA needs to ponder is this: in whose interest is it working? I believe it should be the security buying public, the security officers, security companies and the general public. All we have at present is an increase in cost for the security buying clients, Additional costs to security officers and thousands of pound of extra costs to security companies. <br>If the SIA is to achieve its stated aims of raising standards and professionalism within the security industry, it needs to redefine its mission statement and overall objectives. These objectives need to consider the views of, security officers like myself who still get paid minimum wages but still work in high-risk venues and the security companies and buyers who have so far being short-changed by the process. In the final analysis the PSIA 2001 wasn’t meant to benefit the men in dark suits, badge producers, the unscrupulous consultants or the auditing bodies, but the general public and bona fide security companies and their officers. <br><br>Romeo also wrote in our July print issue ‘We deserve respect, for Kaleem’s sake’.

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