01 September 2014
The issue is continuing to grow and has become a concern especially due to the nature of the positions held by those who have been exposed.
Ina van der Merwe, founder and CEO of Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE), a background screening and vetting company, believes that fraudulent qualifications are fast becoming a prevalent issue across government, state-owned and private organisations.
"With the current job market and job scarcity, out of desperation, people will do anything to get a job including being dishonest about their qualifications.
The trend of purchasing qualifications is also increasing. This really is a metaphoric deal with the devil and with unemployment being a great cause for concern in South Africa, fraud continues to increase."
MIE currently processes a multitude of qualifications, which are classified according to the level and source of the qualification. Screening and vetting companies are able to derive statistics directly from the entity that holds the data used to verify the qualification.
Currently, the category with the lower risk percentage is the National Qualifications Register (NQR), a database containing over 3.5 million graduate records operated by MIE.
The category that holds the highest risk on the other hand is the secondary qualification. pre-1992, which is verified by the National Department of Education. Over 36% of all national department qualifications in this category in 2013 returned a result that carried risk.
Research conducted by MIE showed that there are almost 700 "degree mills" with the list continuing to grow. In addition to this, the research revealed that international and African qualifications carry a risk rate of 50%.
These include websites that offer fraudulent certificates posing as legitimate tertiary institutions not accredited and not providing education.
"Even though the buying and selling of fraudulent qualifications is a criminal offence, the demand for fake certifications is still on the rise for both secondary and tertiary qualifications.
"Although we have seen a slight decrease in fraudulent qualifications in 2013, with an average of 26% of all qualifications verified by MIE carrying risk, the percentage still remains high. The fact that unemployment is reaching an all-time high since 2008 only means that this kind of fraud can turn back to an upward spiral."
"The notion of due diligence is too often overlooked. It is the responsibility of all employers, from the smallest businesses to the highest reaches of government, to thoroughly vet all their employees before the damage escalates exponentially."
"People think background screening is time and cost intensive, but it`s minimal and it takes only a few days to receive results. Falsifying qualifications sets the wrong example for the youth and the expense of replacing staff is eliminated."