Security breach

Ridwaan Mathews, of Sniper Security, has spoken out against criminal elements in the private security industry.

The owner of a Rondebosch East-based security company has lifted the lid on what he claims are “criminal and corrupt elements” within the private security industry.

Ridwaan Mathews believes the public are vulnerable to theft and other crimes because security firms are not vetting employees properly.

Mr Mathews, the owner of Sniper Security, has embarked on a rigorous programme to expose these elements and even uses video footage of interviews with prospective job candidates and employees at his own business to highlight what he describes as a “critical situation”.

So determined is he to bring the issue to prominence that he has also been working with UCT’s Criminology Department to provide data and proof of his findings.

“Criminal elements are rife, and they are being allowed to pass through the system because proper vetting is not taking place. Reference checks are not being done, even when staff members go rogue,” he said.

Mr Mathews invited the Tatler to Sniper Security’s offices to view some of the video footage and gain some insights into how unscrupulous elements infiltrate the industry.

In one clip, Sniper management questions a former employee for disregarding the company policy by going into a home after the alarm had been triggered and the client had failed to lock his home door. The former employee eventually confirmed that he had done this before at his previous employer, which is a prominent leading security company in South Africa.

Following the recorded interview, Sniper Security decided to check the man’s background beyond the references already provided during his initial interview and reference checking.

“As it turned out, the man had previously been in prison for murder, but we had absolutely no indication that this was the case. In fact we have audio and written reference communication that we received from this prominent security company giving us the green light to employ the member.

“The problem is security companies are not prepared to share such information with competitors, even though this would clearly be for the good of the community,” Mr Mathews said.

“It is clear some companies believe that this would damage their reputation, but they are not putting themselves in the client’s position. Surely it is for the good of the industry if all the criminal elements are identified and removed?

“Security companies make good money from people’s heartache, so there is an obligation to ensure the quality of your staff members and to adhere to the laws of good corporate governance and compliance.”

Another disturbing trend to emerge is the issuing of fake Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) certifications.

Mr Mathews loaded a video clip in which a prospective job candidate is informed that his letter of certification did not match that of other employees.

Alternating between silence and one-word answers, the candidate eventually reveals that he purchased the fake qualification for R100 from a contact in Gugulethu.

“The staff turnover at private security companies is usually high, and often the companies are desperate for staff. But that is no excuse for hiring criminals,” Mr Mathews said.

He warned that if one was a “smart gangster”, the private security industry as it was at the moment could easily be exploited.

“This situation is a pressure cooker waiting to boil over.”

Mr Mathews said he had reported various concerns to the security and police authorities about the challenges within the security industry but “absolutely nothing has been done to address the gross negligence within the sector”.

Mr Mathews is sharing his corruption research through UCTs Criminology Department with foreign companies in America, Britain and Norway, yet he said the authorities in South Africa had “failed to use this information to their advantage”.

“Priceless research information like this could definitely have a massive impact on crime management in South Africa and internationally.”

The Tatler this week asked ADT Security its views on possible criminal corruption within the industry.

ADT general manager (coastal) Adrian Good believed the regulations stipulated by PSIRA were appropriate, “provided they are adhered to by all parties concerned”.

“ADT follows strict employment criteria when vetting prospective employees. Our vetting procedures are among the most comprehensive and intensive in the industry.

“I advise your readers to always question their chosen security providers on the extent they do vetting of prospective employees,” Mr Good said.

“Prior to employment at ADT, we require prospective employees to give us permission for comprehensive criminal background checks to be carried out. Proper verification of all submitted documents also takes place; this includes confirming the validity of driver’s licenses and identity documents as well as confirming the applicant’s registration with PSIRA. Shortlisted applicants undergo drug tests that are conducted by the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA).”

He said the comprehensive background checks helped to ensure that the information received from applicants was authentic.

“We have other ongoing systems in place too to monitor all our personnel after they have been appointed, but these are company confidential.”

Questions sent to PSIRA spokesperson Siziwe Zuma had not been responded to at the time of going to press.