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     The Private Security Industry Bill 2007 passed

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There will also be regulations governing the conduct of security officers and security agencies. The net result is that better training and conduct will raise the standards and will give the security officers a greater sense of pride and professionalism.

Should a private investigator or security officer be charged with or convicted of a prescribed offence which makes his continued employment as a private investigator or security officer undesirable, his licence can be suspended with immediate effect. This power is provided in Clause 24(5) of the Bill.

With the introduction of the licensing schemes for security officers and private investigators, more than 500 private investigators and 30,000 security officers will need to apply for a licence. 

We are aware that some security officers and private investigators are unable to attain a licence, despite their best efforts. If they work in places where the security threat is lower, we will consider exempting them from the licensing requirement under the Act. This will ease the level of displacement from the industry when the Act comes into force.

Clause 5(2) of the Bill currently provides that certain persons are not to be regarded as private investigators, such as in-house investigators employed by insurance companies, and those working as investigators in other business sectors, for example, those who obtain or give information on the financial standing of another person, or public accountants, which pose little threat to national security, and are of no concern to the Police. The Act also allows Minister to further exempt other categories of private investigators from licensing under the Act, should their work be of little security concern.

Approval for private investigators to take on certain security assignments

However, for those private investigators who need to be licensed, Police will tighten up the regulatory regime to ensure that they do not conduct private investigation activities which may be prejudicial to the public interest or our national security.

 Clause 11 of the Bill therefore states that a private investigator has to seek the licensing officer’s approval before accepting any assignment from a foreign government or its proxy agency. 

Similarly, a private investigator has to seek the licensing officer’s approval before he carries out any surveillance, or activities which involve the gathering of information on, certain persons or places of security concern. The licensing officer may subsequently revoke this approval if it is not in the public interest or if it poses a threat to national security. 

Sir, key government leaders and sensitive places are known to be targets of terrorists. Having such provisions in our laws will mark out clearly to the industry the boundaries they have to work within. At the same time, such a law serves to alert the licensing authority to any activities of security concern, giving the licensing authority advance information, as well as the opportunity to investigate further if necessary. 

Record-keeping of identities of private investigator’s clients

Other measures to strengthen the regulatory framework over the private investigation industry include Clause 10, which requires a private investigation agency to obtain and verify the identity and address of the person engaging its services, before it can accept any assignment from such a person.

To complement this requirement, Clause 12 of the Bill specifies the various records, including the identity of the clients, which a private investigation agency or employer of a private investigator has to keep and submit to the licensing authority. 

 Expansion of regulatory scope to include other activities in the private security industry

The Bill will also cover security service providers, other than private investigators and security officers. As defined in Clause 18, those providing security surveillance services, and those installing security equipment like audio devices used for overhearing and recording a conversation in any premises, will be regulated under the new Act. This will allow controls to be imposed on other security service providers, to ensure that they meet certain standards of professionalism. 

For example, Clause 20 allows the licensing officer to levy a charge on a prescribed security service provider, being a Central Alarm Monitoring Station or CAMS provider, if it indiscriminately alerts the police whenever an alarm is activated at premises it is monitoring, without first taking reasonable measures to verify whether it is a false alarm. 

The Schedule of the Bill contains a list of security equipment that will fall under the ambit of the new Act.

 Increase in fine quantum

Sir, the current Act was enacted in 1973, more than 30 years ago. The highest penalty provided for in the Act is a $10,000 fine or a 2-year imprisonment term, or both. In the current context, where revenues of industry players are considerably higher, such penalties are no longer adequate, particularly the fines. If the fines are not increased, the Act will pose no deterrence and this will have adverse consequences for our security. Hence, to keep pace with changes in the business environment and to ensure that there is sufficient deterrence in today’s context, the Bill will provide for a five-fold increase in the maximum quantum of fines.  

 Past Initiatives to Upgrade Industry

Mr Speaker, Sir, let me put into context the current amendments in terms of what we are doing to upgrade the private security industry. At the end of 2004, Police set up the Security Industry Regulatory Department, or SIRD, to look into the regulation of the private security industry. A set of skills standard under the National Skills Recognition System, or NSRS, was introduced in 2005 for all private security officers employed by the security agencies. 

At the beginning of last year, a buyer awareness exhibition and seminar was held to allow major buyers in the business community to be more discerning in their engagement of security service providers. Last month, I launched the Security Workforce Skills Qualifications or Security WSQ.

In line with the effort to upgrade the quality of the security services, a pilot exercise was also conducted last year, to grade all licensed security agencies according to prescribed professional standards. Part of the objective of the exercise was also to provide an objective and authoritative assessment of existing security agencies and motivate them to raise their service standards and improve their operational processes. Police has recently completed the formal grading exercise for this year, after refining the criteria following last year’s pilot exercise, and will be publishing the results on the internet very soon.

Sir, much work has been done over the last few years to develop the private security industry into the effective partner of our security forces. Today’s amendment to the law is part of this greater transformation of the industry which MHA is helping to facilitate. In the current security environment, this Act will be a key component in our efforts to enhance the capabilities of the private security industry, so that the Government and private sector partnership can work together to keep Singapore safe and secure. 

Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move.

Source: News 27 Aug 2007