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Fake Qualifications: The snake in the grass

Fraud in the workplace is so prevalent across the South African labour market that it has become something of a culture, where (more often than not) people lie about their qualifications, their work experience or pad their CVs with falsified information.


According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Economic Crime Survey 2014, South Africa is leading the world when it comes to the level of fraud, bribery and corruption occurring in the boardroom. This includes economic crime, asset misappropriation, procurement fraud, human resources fraud, money laundering, tax fraud, and financial statement fraud.


There has also been an increase in degree fraud because of the ease with which fraudulent degrees and diplomas can be acquired through online degree mills. This is just one example of the kinds of underground industries that exist, and are dedicated to supplying fake qualification documents. One simply pays a fee to a bogus ‘Doctor’ and in no time at all, your professional qualification arrives in the post.


The fraud problem is not isolated to one particular industry and it certainly doesn’t just happen to our parastatals and government departments. It affects every job market as people are either desperate for employment in an unforgiving economy or eager to get their hands on a higher salary that would otherwise elude them, based on limited qualifications.


Consider the cases of Ellen Tshabalala, Pallo Jordan and Nico Bezuidenhout who all seem to live by the adage of “fake it ‘til you make it”. In July 2014, Ellen Tshabalala was found to have been lying about her qualifications when she applied for the vacancy of SABC Chairperson. Tshabalala claimed to have graduated from the University of South Africa (Unisa) with a BCom degree and a postgraduate diploma in labour relations. Later it was found that she did not hold either qualification and in fact, Tshabalala had been unable to redo the postgraduate diploma because she only scored 13% for one of her modules.


South Africa was rocked when one of the nation’s leading intellectuals, Dr Pallo Jordan was found to have fabricated the existence of his doctorate which he supposedly obtained from the London School of Economics (LSE). Soon after the scandal, Jordan apologised and resigned from Parliament as well as from the ANC’s national executive committee.


Similarly, businessman Nico Bezuidenhout reached the prestigious positions of CEO of Mango and CEO of South African Airways– all without obtaining a degree. Bezuidenhout and the SAA claimed that an editing error was to blame for any misrepresentation of his qualifications, which misled the public into believing that he held a BCom degree in transport economics and industrial psychology, as well as an MBA.


If an individual has lied about their qualifications, they are liable for a charge of fraud, because this is a criminal offense. The problem is that higher education is now considered key to employability; in fact it is almost a non-negotiable requirement in the global job market. If South Africa has any hope of remaining one of Africa’s leading economies, those in positions of power and influence will require a tertiary education to keep this ship afloat.


The fault also sits with employers who take the information supplied by applicants at face value. Information provided on CVs must be verified as these documents often contain false information about qualifications, experience and even work permits. The onus is on the employer at an organisation to ensure that a new employee has the qualification he or she lays claim to.


So how does one do this? The simplest solution is for companies to introduce a comprehensive Pre-Employment Screening processwhich will not only validate the employee’s qualifications, but also give a fairly accurate idea of their levels of ethics and integrity. Not only this, but the screening will highlight whether or not the new employee fits the company culture.


A pre-employment screening process is a quick, simple, and painless tool, which could save the organisation financially in the long run. An outsourced screening company which specialises in conducting these checks and verifications on a daily basis can assist the company’s HR department to ensure complete accuracy. This way, the right employees are employed from the start, they have the qualifications to perform and the organisation won’t suffer the reputational damage associated with qualifications fraud.


Some may argue that experience is still worth more than a qualification. This may be true in some instances but an employer has every right to set the requirements of the position, to see the physical qualifications that an applicant claims to have, and to verify the authenticity of these credentials. Power in the wrong hands could mean the end of your company’s reputation and bottom line.


To help with the preparation of your employee screening procedures download the iFacts e-book HERE

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