A security firm hired to guard the Legislative Assembly was granted a private security service licence on Thursday, the same day it was publicised that it was unlicensed under a new law.
National Security Services has taken over from The Security Centre, which provided guards to the LA for the past 14 years.
The government hired National Security Services, a firm run by the sister of Pearlina McGaw-Lumsden, who unsuccessfully ran as a United Democratic Party candidate in May’s election, to guard members of the new government when parliament is in session.
On Thursday, when a news article revealed that the firm did not have a licence under the Private Security Services Law, which came into effect in September last year, the firm was notified by police that it had been granted the licence. The company initially applied for the licence in December.
The Security Centre is also a recent recipient of a Private Security Services licence.
A list of licensed security firms released by police, dated 31 May, lists neither National nor The Security Centre, but police confirmed last week that the Security Centre has since secured a licence.
Mrs. McGaw-Lumsden, who ran for office in George Town, resigned as a director of National during her election campaign. If she had remained a director, she would have had to declare her directorship as an interest in government contracts because the company supplied security services at government schools.
She insisted the hiring of National had nothing to do with her affiliations with the new government.
‘This is not a consolation prize. It is not because of my contact with the UDP.
‘My sister is a very ambitious entrepreneur and she has her own contacts. She would have taken the steps necessary to get that contract with the LA,’ Mrs. McGaw-Lumsden said.
Serjeant-at-Arms Shane Bothwell, who is responsible for security issues within the LA, said the change in security staff was due to budgetary reasons as National offered a better deal than the Security Centre.
He said neither company tendered for the security work as there was no contract involved, and they were hired on a week-by-week basis and only worked when parliament was in session.
‘We use them job by job, as needed. They don’t work more than three days a week,’ he said.
He played down the change in security companies, saying: ‘It’s not so much a change; we’re just trying different ones and seeing who works best… I haven’t decided anything yet. I’m still waiting to find out what the funding is going to be.’
But Stuart Bostock, president and CEO of The Security Centre said he was upset by the change.
‘We never had a contract there, but I’d hardly call it an ‘ad hoc’ arrangement. We’ve been providing services there for 13 or 14 years,’ he said.
Mr. Bostock added: ‘Obviously somebody made a decision to utilise another firm. We haven’t been advised that they’re not using us anymore, but we are no longer being called to provide guarding… we are quite upset about it.’
In September last year, the new law regulating private security companies came into effect. The law requires security companies, technicians and guards to be licensed with the Security Licensing Department, which falls under the remit of the police.
Failure to secure a licence can result in a fine of CI$5,000.
In the long run, Mr. Bothwell hopes that the Legislative Assembly will have its own full-time security staff rather than outsourcing the job to external security companies.
‘I am hoping [legislators] will approve funding for four officers,’ he said.
He cited a case in December last year when about 30 Hondurans, stranded in Cayman after Atlantic Air cancelled flights, descended on the Legislative Assembly demanding action as an example of when additional security might have been needed.
‘There were a lot of them. They could have stopped the House if they’d wanted,’ he said.
The Honduran group gathered in the Legislative Assembly’s lobby and were met by the then Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts and former tourism minister Charles Clifford who both left a parliamentary session to address their concerns.
Mr. Bothwell said that the LA was still using the Security Centre for its security systems.
‘Obviously somebody made a decision to utilise another firm. We haven’t been advised that they’re not using us anymore, but we are no longer being called to provide guarding… we are quite upset about it.’
Stuart Bostock, president and CEO of The Security Centre