Disciplining private security companies

PSCs and their clients have an obligation to carry out due diligence to prevent any violation of human rights and law


Muhammad Musaddiq Abbasi March 16, 2015
The writer is a retired brigadier and a former director general of the National Accountability Bureau

Private security companies (PSC) in Pakistan play a significant second line role in protecting semi-state and non-state clients engaged in commercial business operations, construction efforts, diplomacy and related facets. In an unstable security environment, the efficacy and effectiveness of this force can be counted for to accrue desired dividends if their professional outlook is infused with various important value-added disciplines. Many companies involved in peripheral activities of security-related disciplines can contribute substantially but this requires a greater degree of awareness and education of clients and the public at large is needed, with ownership taken by the government of Pakistan.

The services which PSCs provide can have potentially positive and negative consequences for their clients, the locals of the area, the general security environment, the enjoinment of human rights and the rule of law. There is a need to set a mandatory standard for the management system of PSC operations, which should be in accordance with international legal obligations and codes of conduct. Under the purview and ambit of the National Action Plan, the ministry of interior must accord this area serious consideration to augment the available security strength of the police and the civil armed forces by enforcing the Pakistan Security Companies Standard, once notified by the Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority, for which efforts initiated by one of the security companies, on a voluntary basis, are at hand.

The ministry of science and technology, being the regulatory authority, and the ministry of interior as a beneficiary, must support and pursue this endeavour. This action by the government can have catapulting effects in raising the quality of PSCs, thus augmenting safety, especially in the urban areas of Pakistan. The standards set and proposed by the American National Standards Institute and ASIS International in consonance with ISO-31000 and ISO-31004 and other related standards on human rights could act as referral benchmarks for the preparation of a Pakistan Security Companies Standard.

PSCs should raise their security operations management systems (SOMS) into a viable and effective second-line anti-terrorist force. Given that they are now recognised as important elements in supporting peace and stability efforts in Pakistan, where the capacity of societal institutions have become overwhelmed by human and natural disruptive events, SOMS face quite a degree of risk. The challenge that PSCs need to overcome is to cost-effectively manage risk while meeting security challenges and operational objectives within the overall work plan that must protect the security, safety and human rights of internal and external stakeholders. PSCs need to conduct their business and provide services that protect human rights and laws.

Therefore, PSCs and their clients have an obligation to carry out due diligence to prevent any violation of human rights and the law of the land. There is a dire need to establish a reporting channel which covers security incidents, reasons of occurrence, and corrective and preventive actions to avoid reoccurrences, thus forming a national-level picture about the trends threatening security and suitable remedial actions to improve the overall security outlook. Protecting both tangible and intangible assets is a critical task for the viability and profitability of any type of set-up whether they are profitable or non-profitable. Safeguarding national assets requires a combination of strategic thinking, problem-solving, process management and the ability to implement programmes and initiatives to correspond with the context of organisations and their risks.

Core to the success of this venture, and the meeting of these requirements is embedding the values subscribed in succeeding paragraphs by PSCs. Integrating these values needs a cultural change on part of the top management. There is need for good leadership, time, resources, and continuous attention through allocation of resources both monetary and physical. Human rights protection based on the Montreux Document and the Internal Code of Conduct is an internationally shared responsibility of the state and all segments of society (public, private and NGOs). International human rights law that all states are entrusted to abide by applies to PSCs as well. Out of the many obligations some of these include: 1) conduct of effective screening; 2) training of personnel; 3) conducting comprehensive internal and external security risk assessment with security, safety and human rights risks of clients as well as of the PSC; 4) the assurance of occupational health and safety and welfare of persons working in the PSC or on behalf of it are the inescapable ingredients of SOMS for quality services of PSCs.

The security audit should be aimed at determining how effectively existing security measures, policies and procedures are being practiced by non-governmental, governmental or private sector clients. It is a systematic method to identify the weak ends with doable proposals to plug the voids and breachable areas. A security auditor, duly qualified, follows the standard documents as a checklist to determine the threat under given scenarios and builds a response based on utilising all available means and resources. The identification of risks, analyses and evaluation within the organisation are all included in the assessment.

Clients demanding assistance from PSCs must ask for a security survey and audit at the outset to draw the overall security canvas ranging from physical and electronic security to a reasonable response to mitigate threat. Some PSCs in Pakistan do have this expertise and they exercise due diligence before undertaking security assignments. This comforts both the agent and the principal in assignment satisfaction and meeting requisite parameters of the security protocol. Selection, background screening and vetting of all personnel employed by PSCs or working on their behalf ensures that all personnel are fit and suited for the tasks they will conduct. The screening dictated by standard documents vide ISO-31000 and others include: 1) consistency with legal and contractual requirements; 2) identifying the minimum age and personal history verification; 3) education and employment history review; 4) military and security services records check; 5) NADRA verification; 6) review of criminal record with police; 7) evaluation of substance abuse; 8) physical and mental evaluation for fitness with assigned activities; 9) evaluation for suitability to carry weapons as part of duty; 10) verification of conduct and overall lineage through interaction with notables and elders of the area the individual comes from.

The security personnel employed should be cleared through ground verification processes during a probationary period and the client must have access to this record prior to signing the contract with the PSC. Many organisations and set-ups in the private sector have lately started background verification of their employees including vetting of education certificates and keeping track of employment history. Background screening involves the disclosure of highly sensitive information; therefore, PSCs must develop procedures to appropriately and strictly secure the confidentiality of information both internally and externally. Records should be maintained consistently with relevant statutes of limitations.

After the standard is notified by the PSQCA and is declared mandatory by the ministry of interior through the ministry of science and technology, an intrusive audit for quality assurance of PSCs should be conducted for achieving objectives, which conforms to its planned arrangements and to identify opportunities for improvement. All PSCs making endeavours in accordance with this standard must be encouraged and assisted to improve and those falling short of the minimum threshold should be ruthlessly eliminated and purged from the category of PSCs.

Published in The Express Tribune, March  17th,  2015.

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COMMENTS (1)

Humor.as.Armor | 6 years ago | Reply Rambling article. Could have simply emphasised the need for standards and monitoring of security agencies .Looks like someone is put looking for a consultant job!
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