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/ NSI CEO Comments on BBC’s ‘Cash for Qualifications’ Investigation

25 March 2015

Reports by the BBC of ‘Cash for Qualifications’ in the Security Industry, potentially putting lives at risk, brings to the fore the nature of regulation, and how security purchasers can assess objectively the competence and professionalism of potential suppliers.

Watch Inside Out London (23 March 7.30pm) via BBC’s iPlayer 

The BBC researcher explained, “The regulatory system needs to be sharper and more vigorous. It looks very easy to produce bogus qualification.”

Keith Vaz, MP, later vowed to raise the issue with the Home Secretary at the next Home Affairs Select Committee.  He said: “I’m horrified. We’re talking about a major scandal in Britain’s security industry…The Home Office needs to act extremely urgently.”

Insiders will tell you that this exposee is really only the tip of the iceberg, that underlying impression in the industry is of a wide variation in standards of service and risk to the public, with a competitive market driving down price and standards. Business is won on price, not value.

Against this the regulatory back-drop seems – to the outsider – not exactly joined up. On the one hand, the Security Industry Authority (SIA) Approved Contractor Scheme, on the other, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), who oversee conformity to British Standards.

Companies with ACS approval receive an annual independent assessment which results in a company’s approval rating, which includes a measure of staff competency.

The Dept for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) appointee UKAS, is the sole national accreditation body to oversee British Standards. BIS recommends the use of UKAS accredited conformity assessment services wherever possible – including within the Security Industry. British Standards compliance-focussed certification audits are comprehensive. Companies who hold relevant “Product Certification”, are required to be fully compliant. Progressive companies also embrace a Quality Management System eg BS EN ISO 9001 in addition to “Product Standards”.

NSI – applies its own due diligence assessment on businesses seeking certification. NSI wraps up due diligence, QMS and ‘Product Certification’ into NSI-GOLD, the Gold Standard. For businesses seeking ultimate assurance from their security provider this accreditation is hard to beat.

It is understandable that end users might be confused and not understand what all the regulations mean in practise, and how they are meant to evaluate providers of security guarding services.

Add then into the mix ‘Cash for Qualifications’. Security companies deploying SIA licensed individuals, can operate freely without any other approval, and so are not subject to the scrutiny of any independent assessment or audit. Here the security risk is greatest for end users. So, what should they do?

The least diligent continue to run the risks implied by latest exposee, ‘Scandals’ such as ‘Cash for Qualifications’ are likely to recur, and Mr Vaz is equally likely to again be ‘horrified’, and more seriously the risks to property and life remain.

The most diligent end users will insist on NSI-Gold Certification (or equivalent) of their suppliers, knowing that such approval requires compliance to earn and retain approval, knowing you can never eliminate risk, but you can go a long way to minimise it.

Richard Jenkins
Chief Executive, NSI

Inside Out London (23 March 7.30pm) via BBC iPlayer