Forty of their colleagues from the security company Executive Security Services (ESS) have been retained to carry out duties as support staff for army personnel who began official duties at the PM’s residence, Diplomatic Centre and Office of the Prime Minister on Saturday.
Those officers who were spared from being dismissed reportedly passed a polygraph test which was ordered by Executive Director of the Prime Minister’s Household, and Diplomatic Centre, retired Brigadier Carl Alfonso and National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister Gary Griffith.
Newsday understands that with the dismissal of the 50 officers the country will now be spared paying $8 million per year in salaries to those officers.
According to sources, ESS was set up in 2007 under former Special Branch Retired Asst Commissioner of Police Mervyn Guiseppi.
Also in 2007 then Prime Minister Patrick Manning removed all army and police personnel from the official residence and opted for the services of the ESS officers which consisted of a large number of foreign nationals from Ghana and Nigeria.
The most junior officer at ESS is paid a monthly salary of $10,000 per month while senior officers receive as much as $25,000 per month.
The company was also given a building at 9 Mary Street, St Clair in which administrative staff were housed. However, following the May 24 general election National Security adviser to the prime minister Griffith advised the new Prime Minister not to live at the official residence because of certain security breaches he had discovered with respect to officers of the ESS. Recently polygraph tests were ordered for the 90 officers assigned to the elite security unit and some officers who refused the polygraph test were instantly dismissed.
Yesterday, executive director of Household, Diplomatic Centre and Security at the Prime Minister’s Residence retired Brigadier Carl Alfonso told Newsday that it was an insult to have persons guard the Prime Minister who were not qualified to do so and welcomes the return of the army to carry out the main security functions both at the Prime Minister’s residence, Diplomatic Centre and Office of the Prime Minister.
He confirmed that staff at ESS have been drastically reduced and pointed out that the name of the security company ESS will soon be changed to Office of the Prime Minister Security Services. Officers in that unit wear light blue shirts and dark blue trousers. Alfonso said that the uniform will also be altered and he has suggested that the colour be changed to tan. The name change of the security company is expected to take place in the next two weeks.
Also contacted yesterday Griffith acknowledged that the change had in fact taken place, and said that he believes that the defence force is quite pleased with being returned to its rightful place which is to be the primary element to guard the Prime Minister, in similar manner to what they do for His Excellency the President.
“I think the action by the previous government to dismiss the army and replace them with private security guards to protect a prime minister was a slap in the face to every law enforcement officer and every member of the defence force. I have nothing against the private security officers in ESS. In fact many are quite professional and well trained, but you cannot and should not compare that to a trained soldier or police officer.”
He added that even the special branch became a virtual secondary security element inside the compound as the previous administration gave the ESS virtual command of the compound, which he described as utter madness. “The Prime Minister’s primary security detail must always be the police and army, whether inside or outside of the residence. The welcome return of the military shows the utmost confidence that Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar has in the defence force, as they have returned to what they are directed to do as enshrined in their role and function since inception,” Griffith said.
He pointed out that the ESS will not be totally removed however, as they would provide a secondary support element for the army at post one and two, dealing with administration and searching duties, with the military showing primary presence at the gates, along with the required security team on a 24-hour basis.
He also revealed that official functions would also now have the military being at the doors of the Diplomatic Centre rather than the ESS. Sources have also stated that this major transformation of security would also drastically reduce the cost for maintenance of services at the residence, as the ESS strength would be reduced from an initial size of 90 to less than 40.
Newsday understands that more officers of the ESS are to be dismissed within the next two weeks.