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Group disputes security grading exercise results

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Security Association Singapore says exercise used 'arbitrary cut-off points', MHA says criteria known to all security agencies

A group representing security agencies has criticised changes made to the grading system, saying they lead to a false impression that industry standards have stagnated.

In a statement yesterday, Security Association Singapore (SAS) executive director Ikhsan Suri said the annual Security Agencies Grading Exercise (Sage) of more than 200 security agencies uses a bell curve with "arbitrary cut-off points" and is not useful for buyers in determining the actual capabilities of each security agency.

The SAS statement came a day after the police released this year's Sage results, which showed 63 agencies were awarded the A grade, compared with 62 last year.

But Mr Ikhsan said the cut-off point for the A grade had gone up from 95 per cent last year to 96 per cent this year due to a bell curve used in the exercise.

As a result, he said, only 63 agencies were given the A grade this year even though 82 had obtained aggregate scores of 95 per cent or higher.

"Therefore, the number of agencies obtaining the A, B and C grade remained largely the same from last year to this year not because of stagnating standards, but because of shifting goalposts," said Mr Ikhsan, adding that agencies were not informed in advance of the new cut-off points.

In response to media queries, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the Sage, which is mandatory for security agencies to undergo, is a holistic assessment of their capabilities.

STANDARDS

It added the exercise is also aimed at raising the industry's standards by setting out the expectations of security agencies.

"Indeed, since it was introduced in 2009, the Sage has helped to raise the professionalism and standards of the industry," said the ministry, adding that most of the agencies have maintained or improved their grades, while the few that perform poorly in consecutive years can have their licence revoked.

A total of 235 agencies took part in the grading exercise this year, which was conducted from June to December, including larger security firms Certis and Aetos.

Agencies are assessed across five categories - processes, people, systems and technology, employment practices and counter-terrorism - which carry different weights in the aggregate scores.

MHA said the assessment criteria used in the exercise are "transparent and known to all security agencies", and that changes over the years are made in close consultation with the industry with advance notice given.

"At the end of each Sage, the results and analysis are shared with all security agencies, with the aim of helping them improve," it added.

Mr Ikhsan said SAS has represented its views to the relevant authorities and is working with MHA, the police and other stakeholders to relook the grading methodology.

MHA said it has started working with the security associations and other government partners to review the grading system to support the needs of the industry.

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