If the fish really does rot from the head, or so the Chinese proverb says, the SABC’s workforce must be rotten to the core. Last year, two SABC top dogs – chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the organisation’s chairwomen Ellen Tshabalala – were shamed when accusations emerged claiming they had lied about their qualifications. This led me to wonder how often this is happening in Johannesburg, how prevalent fraud is across the C-suite and what can be done to limit it?
How prevalent is fraud across corporate C-suites in Johannesburg?
Jenny Reid, Director of background screening company IFacts, gives me her view on C-suite fraud at work:
“This challenge is prevalent across the whole length of South Africa. If it is more prevalent in Johannesburg, it’s simply because of a higher population of people. Fraud at work has become something of a culture in our labour market as people often lie about their qualifications and experience or they pad their CVs with false information. There’s also been an increase in degree fraud because of how easy it is to obtain fraudulent degrees and diplomas through so-called ‘degree mills’ online.
“There’s been a flood of these cases, as well as the fake qualification scandals, involving high profile individuals over the past year. No one seems to realise that an individual who has lied about their qualifications can face a charge of fraud. This type of lie is perjury – a criminal offense.
There’s even a black market, which supplies fake qualification documents to the public
Jenny explains just how easy it is to get a ‘degree’:
About a month ago, I almost obtained a professional engineering qualification. All I needed to do was pay 300 dollars to receive my certificate, which was signed by Dr Al Abaji and allegedly bestowed by the Gulf Engineering Association.
Tall trees will always catch the wind
Three high profile fraud cases that have definitely caused a media frenzy are those belonging to Pallo Jordon, Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Ellen Tshabalala.
“These cases are not just restricted to our parastatals and government departments. Many private companies have grappled with this issue,” comments Jenny. “I’ve also recently heard of a number of schools who have hired unqualified teachers unwittingly. This just illustrates how qualifications fraud has affected the full spectrum of the job market.”
What is the main motivation driving this type of fraud?
Jenny believes its down to two reasons:
- People are desperate for employment in South Africa’s unforgiving economic climate, and
- People believe that their limited qualifications pose a barrier to earning higher salaries.
Public vs private qualifications fraud
The SA media appears to focus more on government and parastatal cases of qualifications fraud.
Does this mean qualifications fraud is more prevalent in the public sector?
“I believe private companies are very wary of the reputational damage that qualification fraud can inflict if this knowledge is disclosed to the media and public,” explains Jenny. “Look at this case as an example, one well-known company employed a Legal Advisor for seven years. It was only then discovered that he didn’t have a legal qualification. This was never revealed in the press.”
Despite sounding very similar to the plot of popular series, Suits, this raises a number of questions such as:
– Are we, as South Africans, too eager to point the fingers of accusation at our government and politicians?
– Should our legislation be amended so that private companies are legally required to be more transparent about this type of information?
(What do you think? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.)
How can we limit qualifications fraud in Johannesburg?
Jenny shared her three-step action plan to limit the risk of qualifications fraud in the private and public sector:
– Make tertiary education compulsory
“People must realise that tertiary education needs to become key player so that South Africa can remain one of Africa’s leading economies. Tertiary education is a non-negotiable requirement in the global job market,” states Jenny.
– Conduct thorough background checks
“Too many employers take the information applicants provide on CVs at face value. This is a huge mistake because CVs often include false information about qualifications, work experience and even work and study permits. It’s the employer’s responsibility to verify that new employees actually have the qualifications they claim they do in their CVs,” affirms Jenny.
– Implement a pre-employment screening process
Organisations need to protect themselves from people who commit qualifications fraud. Adapt a comprehensive pre-employment screening process from the outset. This will validate the employee’s qualifications and give you an idea of the individual’s ethics and integrity. It also helps to determine if he or she is a good fit for the work environment. It’s worthwhile to conduct this process on current employees – just as a precaution – as it may help a business to root out toxic employees.
What does a pre-employment screening process entail?
The pre-employment screening process includes:
- Qualifications verification,
- Criminal record checks, and
- Integrity testing.
“When implemented properly, this is an efficient, simple, and painless process, which could prevent organisations from losing hundreds of thousands of Rands in the long run. Executing these three steps would ensure that the right employees are employed from the start of the recruitment cycle and that they’re truly qualified to perform the task. In addition, implementing these steps means that an organisation’s senior management can rest easy in the knowledge that they’ve dodged any future reputational damage that could have occurred as a result of qualification fraud.
Author name: Frew Murdoch