Is qualification fraud on the rise?

Issue 3 2022 Security Services & Risk Management

Recently there have been interesting news articles relating to qualification fraud. Surprisingly, these are from organisations where you would believe that the verification of qualifications was the norm. For example:

• In KZN, a 29-year-old man is soon to appear in court for forging his matric certificate to enter university. It was alleged that the individual forged his matric certificate and altered the pass marks to gain admission to the university. Some could say that this is desperation, whilst others could say it merely shows someone with criminal intent.

• A top police officer, who fooled the South African Police Service management into believing she was highly qualified has disappeared with a state-owned vehicle. She has apparently been absent without leave since the SAPS’ human resource division requested the original copies of her qualifications. It is alleged that during her interview process, the officer claimed that she was a DJ, that she possessed a doctorate and had been a university professor before being appointed as head of the SA Police Service’s technology management services. The officer said she had been the first person in the world to graduate with a degree in data analytics, as well as having been the first to obtain a PhD in information systems science.

While we are seeing more qualification fraud being discussed, CareerJunction has said that the way it hires candidates has gone through many changes over time and one of them is the emphasis placed on soft skills. Soft skills refer to the experience that candidates have gained through years of working in their industry or through learned behaviour, as opposed to skills learned through study. The emphasis has shifted from focusing only on a candidate’s degree and years of service to whether they would be a good culture fit and what kind of attitude they would bring to the company, CareerJunction said.

Sonya Skipp of iFacts said that she was amazed at how individuals continue to submit fraudulent qualifications when claiming to hold a tertiary qualification that they do not have. This can come with a jail term of up to five years in South Africa – even if you don’t lie on a CV to get a job. In theory, just bragging that you have a doctorate or other qualification on the likes of LinkedIn, or in a Twitter bio can be enough to get you in trouble.

The National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act came into force in 2019 after a long and difficult journey through Parliament, for the first time creating offences specific to bogus education institutions – and people who claim to have qualifications they do not have. The law broadly holds it a criminal offence if anyone “falsely or fraudulently claims to be holding a qualification or part-qualification registered on the NQF or awarded by an education institution, skills development provider, QC or obtained from a lawfully recognised foreign institution.”

Skipp says that companies should not throw qualifications and years of experience to the side, but they should consider updating their employee screening process to include assessments that allow the company to consider soft skills which will assist the employer to find the candidate that is right for the organisation in terms of qualification and culture fit. A range of soft skills assessments includes integrity assessments, behavioural and cultural assessments. She adds that a social media risk assessment can also provide insight into the behaviour of a candidate.


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