Qualification fraud and the falsification of professional and educational credentials has reached epidemic proportions in South Africa.
This scourge stretches from the upper reaches of government all the way down. In recent years, massive parastatals and government agencies have been rocked by scandals that have helped reveal the full extent of the crisis at hand, with high-profile employees and executives from Prasa, the SABC, and government ministers all being caught in the web of deceit and lies.
Most recently Net1 CEO Serge Belamant was found to have used a falsified honorary PhD from Burkes University, a so-called “degree mill”. This has been a somewhat common trend across all the major scandals to hit South Africa in recent years – individuals simply claiming to have a degree or qualification without any verification. Whether this is due to corruption or incompetence remains to be seen, but issues such as these are easily avoidable and doing so would go a long way to improving the public image of South African government officials and agencies.
In a worrying statistic, the Democratic Alliance (DA) revealed that a figure as high as 640 public officials could be employed on the basis of false qualifications. Despite such an unbelievably high number of potential fraud existing in the current system, only the high-profile cases that receive significant public attention result in any kind of action (or, in the case of Mohau Pheko, South Africa’s ambassador to Japan, a quick apology and slap on the wrist).
A simple Google search for “fake degrees South Africa” reveals a front page result offering fraudulent qualifications for as little as $235, or approximately R3600. This could potentially buy you a fake degree from a prestigious South African university, with the list of options boasting the University of Cape Town, University of Pretoria, UNISA, Wits, and many more. With these fake qualifications so readily available measures need to be taken by employers, whether they hail from the government or private sector, to ensure the integrity of South African business and international standing.
The most effective method of prevention is to screen potential candidates for any position, whether they’re applying for an executive role or an internship. Background checks can help organisations to verify the educational qualifications and employment history of applicants that will help identify false information and fraudulent qualifications. If this was done in the case of the countless government officials who have been caught out, we would find ourselves in a better position as a country with leaders that are equipped to do their jobs properly.
In a society that can tend to be easily offended, employers might be hesitant to dig around in the personal histories of candidates. Screening and background checks have, however, become a necessity in the employment process that ensure companies are hiring the best candidates that add value and contribute to the growth and success of the organisation. If the government continues to hire individuals based on personal favour or corruption instead of integrity and professional experience, then South Africa will be facing hard times.