Government clampdown on qualifications fraudsters ‘long overdue’

imagesCATEEJ35The clampdown on fake academic qualifications by government was long overdue and would go a long way towards cleaning up South Africa’s thriving fraudulent qualifications racket‚ Kirsten Halcrow‚ CEO of EMPS‚ the oldest background screening company in South Africa‚ said on Monday.

She said the problem of fake qualifications was so pervasive that government had little choice but to intervene – 7‚62% of all qualifications verified by her company so far this year turned out to be “problematic”.

“Hardly a day goes by without yet another high-ranking government official being exposed for having fake qualifications. Until now‚ the state has largely turned a blind eye‚ in many cases allowing qualifications fraudsters to continue in their positions.”

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa told Parliament on Wednesday that people who misrepresented their academic qualifications to get jobs in the public and private sector should be named‚ shamed and jailed.

In reply to a question from the United Democratic Movement’s Lennox Gaehler on the propensity of South Africans to fake their qualifications‚ Ramaphosa said the government intended to crack down on fakers and frauds‚ and was considering harsh measures.

Ramaphosa said Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande was currently working on a proposal‚ which was expected to be tabled before cabinet for approval‚ to address the scourge.

“Now‚ he (Nzimande) has also approached the National Qualifications Authority to begin the process of preparing a list of those people who fraudulently claim that they’ve got qualifications so that they are on a list and they can be named and shamed and this time round…they will then be subject to being charged‚ arrested‚ and jailed‚” he said.

Ramaphosa said recent instances of prominent South Africans having lied about their qualifications had dented the country’s image abroad.

“Such incidents do great damage to the credibility of our country’s education and training system‚” he said.

Halcrow said a qualifications fraudster list for the private sector already existed at the Southern Africa Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS).

“All the major background screening companies list fraudsters with the SAFPS‚ where members have access to check whether a job applicant had been listed.”

The SAFPS fraud database currently houses more than 92‚000 records‚ of which approximately 5‚300 records relate to fraud perpetrated by job seekers‚ as well as employees

Halcrow said despite many exposes that had been done in the media‚ degree mills continue to ply their trade. “For less than R1‚000 it is possible to order virtually any degree from first degrees to Ph.D. qualifications from dozens of fake degree vendors around the world.”

Halcrow said 7‚62% of all qualifications verified by her company so far this year turned out to be “problematic” – this compared with a 6‚8% average for last year.

She said the fact that former Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa engineer Daniel Mtimkulu had been charged with fraud and uttering relating to his alleged fake qualifications‚ and the jailing of former police spokesman Vincent Mdunge for a period of five years for claiming he had a matric certificate had opened the flood gates for more employers to take legal action against qualifications fraudsters.

“It is imperative that employers check the qualifications of all candidates and not just those slated for senior or sensitive positions‚” Halcrow said.

She also reiterated the dangers that employees with false qualifications could pose to a company. “Apart from being unable to do the job they were hired for‚ they could also do severe damage to the reputation of a company.”

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