Private firms cash in on state security

Date: 12 Jun 2007
Police stations among property guarded for R270m in 2006 The state paid private security firms a whopping R270-million to guard its property, including police stations, army bases and a host of other government buildings, the Democratic Alliance has said. DA MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard said yesterday that, given that spending had increased by R118-million or 78,5% more than it was in 2005, this was proof that the high level of crime had permeated all levels of society. "This has underlined the reality of the crime situation. This is absolute proof that even though we've had the minister of safety and security saying that if you are going to whinge, just leave the country … this is absolute proof that while they may be saying one thing, they are doing another." The information was based on a series of replies to questions in parliament. Only the departments of environmental affairs, housing, public service and foreign affairs spent no money on private security firms. Kohler-Barnard said it was not clear why some departments were spending such massive amounts on security. "If there is a need, then indeed it has to be met … Does it free up police to do their work, or are we finding that we are paying private security firms to guard people who are in the offices and not out in the streets?" In principle, however, the DA had no problem with outsourcing non-core functions in departments such as safety and security and justice "so that police can focus their attention on priorities elsewhere". Kohler-Barnard said 18 departments had increased their spending, some dramatically, and all above the inflation rate. The criminal justice cluster (justice and constitutional development, safety and security, and correctional services) was responsible for R224-million of the expenditure and 80% of the increased spending at R94,5-million. In her reply, Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla said the R137-million spent on private security last year related to "security-related functions at service delivery points for the protection of members of the public and state assets". In particular, the department used cash-in-transit services because the state did not provide this and the police were not always able to provide guarding services. Minister of Safety and Security Charles Nqakula said the R72,4-million they spent on private security was for access control purposes and guarding of property. "After an internal investigation was conducted with regard to the outsourcing of security services, it was found that it is more cost-effective for this type of service to be rendered by the private sector," Nqakula said. This freed police officers to perform their core functions, which was to prevent and combat crime, Nqakula said. Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said four contracts totalling R12-million were awarded last year for guard duties, cash-in-transit facilities and armed response. She said the department did not have the capacity to provide security guards at all of its offices in the country. Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana said they employed private firms because most of the provincial offices and labour centres did not have proper security equipment. By Angela Quintal The Star 12/06/07 e1