By Steven Candia
They are a common sight and you could have seen him on a daily basis in their different uniforms, some armed, some not, going about their duties at various sentry points, mainly on private installations and buildings-providing security. They are private security guards.
In a country where the police and other security agencies cannot police every installation and building, especially in the private sector, the intervention by Private Security Organisations (PSOs) comes as welcome relief.
There are a myriad of PSOs-about 119 in the country all providing security and reinforcing the role of state agencies by plugging the gaps especially where the state institutions can not be.
However, the quality of service that these PSOs provide has come under scrutiny with a security expert warning that the poorly trained, equipped and motivated guards, casting a grim picture of the industry in the country pose a weak link in the fight against terror.
Paul Simon, a man with over 25 years experience in security and a deputy chairman of Hercules Support Limited, a private security firm says most of the PSOs and their personnel are not fit for purpose, owing to the quality of personnel employed, training offered and equipment used, with many providing "sham security" which could easily be exploited by terrorists.
He argues that whereas PSOs contribute to high security visibility, an important tool in fighting crime, terrorism inclusive, their inadequacies in many areas discounts their contribution to the industry.
Drawing from vast experience in some of the most troubled and insecure corners of the world, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Israel among many others, Simon says many of the firms including their owners have no appreciation even of the concept of security.
"A lot of firms here are not fit for purpose," Simon says, arguing that many of the PSOs employ people from the villages with no knowledge or background in security, who are subjected to inadequate training, paid peanuts and are ill equipped.
Unlike standard globe practice which requires such a guard to have fired a minimum of 50 bullets in a year as part of their training, the guards in Uganda, he claims hardly shoot a bullet in a year as part of their training.
"Ninety percent of security guards here have not even shoot a bullet in a year because a bullet costs a dollar and the firms find it an expensive venture," he argues. "The guards need to go to the shooting range to be proficient in gun handling and usage. They also have to produce a medical certificate as proof of physical and mental fitness," he says.
The same sentiment were shared by police boss Gen. Kale Kayihura recently at a meeting with owners of PSO, accusing some firms of recruiting peasants from the villages in the interest of profit while at the same time compromising security.
"Some of you recruit peasants with no knowledge in security," Kayihura said and recounted a disturbing encounter he had with a private security guard in Mbarara who disclosed how he had been trained for a month in an office. "Imagine a guard being trained for guard duties in an office!" Kayihura exclaimed.
Simon says it is not strange to see private security guards armed with defective and fake firearms with inadequate ammunition, some held together with rubber straps and pieces of wire, posing a danger even to the guards themselves.
With a sector which Simon says not adequately regulated, some firms are reported to pay as little as sh 90,000 per guard per month and others only paying their guards when their clients pay up.
"That is not supposed to be the case. PSOs should be required to despite security bonds with the central bank to guarantee that they will pay their personnel irrespective of whether the clients pay or not," he argues adding that the minimum monthly pay per guard in the country should be sh 200,000.
Given the above scenario, he says, it is not strange to find guards going dosing at their point of deployment, going about their job without enthusiasm and at times asking for little tips from motorists while searching vehicles at entry point instead of concentrating on their work.
"Some of them even seat on their guns or far from their guns. If is these lapses that a terrorist can take advantage of and cause mayhem," he warns. Ends…