THE REAL COST OF BACKGROUND SCREENING CHECKS IGNORED

In South Africa, the importance of verifying the information provided by potential employees recently made headline news once again – this time for a degrees-for-cash scandal. An investigation at the University of Zululand brought to light that more than 4,000 people may have bought fake degrees from the institution over the last 20 years.

In South Africa, the importance of verifying the information provided by potential employees recently made headline news once again – this time for a degrees-for-cash scandal. An investigation at the University of Zululand brought to light that more than 4,000 people may have bought fake degrees from the institution over the last 20 years. This was following threats on social media from current and former students to reveal the names of those who reportedly purchased fake qualifications on the University’s two campuses. As the country’s workforce at large waits to see the outcome of this saga, officials have called for the investigation of all postgraduate degrees in Business Management, Education, Law and Public Administration for this period.
Based on this, and countless cases of qualification fraud in our country, it’s becoming increasingly pressing for business leaders and employers to ask themselves if they would knowingly put their business at financial and reputational risk. While the demand for background screening services continues to increase year upon year, the writing is clearly on the wall for those companies who are still sitting on the fence or doubting whether there lies true value in vetting existing and potential employees.
This is according to Ina van der Merwe, Director and CEO of background screening market leader, Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE).
While the company’s 2015 Background Screening Index noted an 11% increase in the demand for background verification services in South Africa and Africa over the last five years, van der Merwe highlights that it is what organisations do with the information given to them that will make all the difference.
She says, “Depending on client-specific requests and requirements, our background checks include qualification verification, criminal record checks and credit checks – or various combinations of multiple screenings. This is all to verify whether candidates really are who they say they are – be it a qualified accountant or someone free of a criminal record.”
Once the required information of a background check has been sent back to the organisation, it is crucial for businesses to carefully consider, review and discuss the findings thereof. If ignored, the consequences can be devastating – for the employer’s organisation, as well as the industry it serves,” van der Merwe explains.
“Following the University of Zululand scandal, South Africa’s workforce is potentially sitting with 4,000 fraudsters in positions for which they are not appropriately qualified. The lesson here is that companies should not only vet the façade many candidates put forward on their resumes, but they should also take responsible steps thereafter to ensure they do not face any future liability, and that the interests of those they serve are looked after,” urges van der Merwe.
Of course, if any of the candidates who purchased fraudulent qualifications were to apply for a position, and their potential employer called for qualification checks to be performed, the sum total of their actions would instantly catch up with them.
“I think it is fair to say that South Africa’s workforce at large should be on high alert for candidates with purchased qualifications,” she adds. “The reality is that the truth always has a way of triumphing – especially if employers remain vigilant and consistent with the checks they perform.”
Across the ages, there have also been various cases of bogus doctors practicing on sickly patients, and unqualified individuals handling the finances of large organisations, which can and inevitably do end in massive losses – of life and of business standing.
Van der Merwe concludes that, with this in mind, it is vital for business leaders to partner with reputable vetting organisations. “Ultimately this could mean the difference between keeping your business on top of its game, or losing it to liability costs and reputational ruin.”
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