Durban - The eThekwini municipality spends almost R354 million a year for the services of private security companies while the city’s own safety and security department often sits idle.
Members of the city’s safety and security unit have complained that they sit at home during weekends and that some worked a reduced number of hours during the week while private security companies raked in millions.
A source from the department, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, told The Mercury they were not put on stand-by, whereas private security guards worked longer hours and often submitted overtime claims.
“We have demanded that the city tells us how much these private security companies are being paid because they work more hours than permanent safety and security employees and surely this is costing the council millions”.
Municipal spokesman Thabo Mofokeng said nine security companies had contracts and in terms of the current security tender the services provided by private security companies included:
- Guarding services of up to 12 and 24-hours at more than 1 000 council sites;
- Armed motorised escorts to artisans and employees providing essential services;
- Monitoring and armed response to about 600 alarms on council premises.
In July, former city manager Michael Sutcliffe claimed he had come under pressure to abuse supply chain processes “specifically with regard to the security tender, security for councillors, taxi issues, transport restructuring and the community contracts for Durban Solid Waste”.
Opposition parties have also voiced their concerns about the use of private security companies, saying most of the security contracts were awarded to a select few – those with political connections.
“The contracts awarded to the private security companies are a matter of concern which we have to interrogate,” said DA caucus leader Tex Collins.
Minority Front councillor Patrick Pillay said the city had internal safety and security staff, as well as metro police, who performed the same tasks that the private security companies were providing.
“The R354m for private security companies should be used towards permanently employing more metro police officers.
“Employing private security companies undermines the staff primarily employed to perform such tasks.”
According to Mofokeng, the security management had a staff of fewer than 184, including management, clerks and operational security guards and officers.
He said the city’s security department provided limited operational security services.
“The department has been downscaled over the years and only recently has there been some growth in the number of staff employed.
“With the low staff levels of the department, we cannot hope to ever cover even a fraction of the deployments required by the user departments requiring protection in the many forms.”
There were more than 1 000 sites that needed guarding in one form or another and more than 200 three-man team escort vehicles sent out daily.
“This translates to just over 3 000 security officers deployed. The cost comparison and analysis of costs between in-house security and contracted services has been done many times”.
Asked if this was the most cost-effective method to guard city premises and employees, Mofokeng said: “We are gathering information and will respond accordingly.”
On Sunday, he said he was still compiling a report on use of private security companies. - The Mercury