Tue, Jan 09, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Security companies need greateroversight

By Yang Yung-nane 楊永年

Last Tuesday, the driver of a Group 4 Securicor-Taiwan (衛豐保全公司) armored car transporting money to banks in Taipei made off with NT$56 million (US$1.7 million) in a heist that set a new record for Taiwan.

What is known about the murky circumstances surrounding the heist leads only to further questions, and, according to media reports, the suspect has already escaped to Hong Kong.

The incident has shaken society because it has led to a gnawing feeling that security companies are incapable of protecting the nation's hard-earned wealth.

The mechanisms set up to control security companies are riddled with problems, including poor internal control systems and the spotty external supervision and controls provided by police.

When it comes to the internal control systems, the general public wants to know whether security companies have made any efforts to improve their employees' commitment to their work and the company, and if they have tried to avoid creating a situation where security personnel feel dissatisfied with or resent the company. If employees feel resentment about their poor salaries, hours, time off and health care, they will be more likely to steal. However, many doubt that for-profit security companies are really willing to spend money on these issues.

A more serious internal control issue is that security companies have not set up strict systems for supervision and control of vehicle routes, in particular with respect to cash transport. This is the reason why Group 4 Securicor-Taiwan lost contact with its armored car, which went unmonitored for four hours. Altogether, six hours passed from the moment the armored car set out until the theft was reported to police.

Although the armored car was equipped with GPS, the company did not know that it had strayed from its intended route, which points directly at a lack of external controls.

When it comes to external supervision and control systems, the internal operations of security companies should be regulated by the government to prevent companies from neglecting security in order to generate more profits. The concerned agencies should therefore perform inspections on a regular or random basis.

In the event of staff shortages at the concerned government agencies, there should at the very least be regulations in place to guard against, or provide disciplinary measures to deal with, irregular behavior among security companies such as that exhibited by Group 4 Securicor-Taiwan.

Several factors have led to the government's lax restrictions and disciplinary measures for security companies. Relevant government departments have failed to establish stricter regulations as a result of pressure applied by the security companies. Concerned officials also lack incentives to better regulate the companies. For example, I was told by a friend that every time a meeting was called to discuss ways to regulate security companies, the companies went through various channels to express their concern and stop policies from being implemented.

It is obvious that there is a great amount of room for improvement in the government's regulation of security companies. It will be interesting to see whether last Tuesday's heist will provide sufficient impetus for the government to make such improvements. The government should not wait for another major heist before it takes people's livelihoods and assets more seriously.

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