There is need to reform the Private Security Industry

Employees of a private security firm during Labour Day celebrations at Nyayo National stadium, [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The principal role of security service providers gazette by the government is to prevent, control, detect and investigate crime. 

It is charged with protection of life and property.

Private security officers’ posture as the first basic line of grip and render reciprocal roles to state security officers including information and intelligence gathering. 

They are the real hustlers and fit well within the government's bottom- up transformational agenda (BETA).

The cadre has a potential guard force of over 800,000 personnel but remains disparage, with unending negative perception and vilification from the public.

Most of the private security officers are youths, aged between 18- 35 years, indicating that the sector is a direct source of livelihood to a sizable population and their dependents.

The ascension of the private security regulation bill into law(Act) in 2016,was meant to provide regulations and a framework for cooperation between the private security services industry and the state agencies that deal with security in accordance with the values and principles set out in the Constitution of Kenya 2010; regulate foreign ownership and control of businesses operating as security service providers as well as regulate private security services registered in Kenya but rendering services outside the republic.

The Act anchored the industry under the Ministry of Interior and National Coordination and was meant to govern private security officers, guards, firms, investigators and establish a private security regulatory authority (PSRA) whose mandate is to ensure effective administration, supervision, regulation, and control of the private security services as well as formulate and enforce standards for the conduct.

We have over 2,500 registered private security firms and service providers in Kenya and PSRA issued compliance certificates to about 300 companies.  This move saw an outcry both from service providers, stakeholders and the personnel querying the vetting criteria used and foreseeable massive job redundancies. Whether vetted or not, a majority of private security providers operate below standards and are in gross violation of the employment and labor relations provisions.

They pay their employees far below the government minimum wage requirements, with no remittances of PAYE, NSSF and NHIF which are statutory mandatory obligations and a right for an employee; they subject their employees to unconducive working conditions, whilst minting millions of cash from clients and making profits at the expense of the dedicated workers and evading tax.

Instances of unfair, non-competitive tendering processes and corruption are bedeviling the industry, hitting hard on a few of the private service providers and firms operating above basic labor relations guidelines. Reputable private security firms are in contemplation of either winding- up, merging or relocating elsewhere.

In November 2019, the parliamentary committee on delegated legislation annulled the proposed private security (General) guidelines, 2019 drawn by the ministry of interior and meant to operationalise the private security regulation Act, 2016. Parliament adopted the report recommending the annulment of the guidelines.

The taskforce on police and prisons reforms ought to consider or otherwise advise the government to deductively address the growing plight of private security officers. 

Policing cannot thrive without involving and working with the people and in particular private security officers and nyumba kumi. We should abandon regime policing and embrace a democratic policing model that engages the community with accountability measures in place.

Private security officers’ terms of service and welfare regarding remuneration, overtime, allowance, training, career progression and empowerment should be scrutinized.

Mental health issues remain a challenge and on rise within the sector. Reform drivers should professionally and diligently execute their mandate devoid of corruption. They must foster virtues and programs that bring down social psychological depression trends.

The stakeholders in the sector should focus on exploring avenues of strengthening and enforcing the private security regulation Act and the associated laws.

There is a strong need to fully operationalise the PSRA and professionalize the industry through establishment of a private security academy that will foster modern training and equipping, ranking and accreditation as well as a progressive career growth. There is a need to empower guards through establishment of a giant sector Sacco.

Central stakeholders such as Kenya Security Industry Association(KSIA), Private Security Industry Association(PSIA), Mombasa Security Industry Association(MSIA) together with the Union should positively re-engage and hasten reforms in the sector.

This will make the industry more competitive, attractive in the job market locally, overseas, and objectively address sectoral gap challenges. Reforming the private security industry will boost the fight against insecurity, terrorism, violent extremism, radicalization, and banditry.


Isaac GM Andabwa (OGW) is the General Secretary of the Kenya National Private security Workers’ Union and an Executive Board Member of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU).