Plan to name and shame academic qualification fraudsters

2017-01-06 14:44

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Johannesburg - Public registers of individuals claiming false qualifications, as well as institutions offering these, should will be established, the SA Qualifications Authority proposed on Friday.

"Media exposure of high ranking officials claiming to hold qualifications that they were not awarded, or for which they did not enrol, has created greater public awareness around misrepresented qualifications," said CEO Joe Samuels in a draft national policy on the matter published in the Government Gazette.

"Universities are faced with prospective students who submit, as proof of fulfilment of admission requirements, qualifications that they have not rightfully earned," he said, in explaining the need for such a policy.

"In addition, degree mills continue to operate unabated. As soon as one is shut down, another mushrooms in its place."

Furthermore, said Samuels, job competency and even public wellbeing were at stake because of these situations.

"People are appointed to positions based on their false qualifications, which raises questions around their competence to hold these positions.

"In more senior positions, the safety of ordinary citizens and employees, the long-term viability and profitability of organisations and public service delivery rest in these fraudsters' hands," he added.

Over the last few years, South Africa has had a spate of public figures exposed for fraudulent qualifications.

Register intended as deterrent

These include former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng, former KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Vincent Mdunge, senior member of the ANC and former MP Pallo Jordan, former SABC chairperson Ellen Tshabalala, South African ambassador to Japan Mohau Pheko, Prasa's head of engineering services Daniel Mthimkhulu, and former chief of acquisitions for the SA National Defence Force, Shamin "Chippy" Shaik.

The draft national policy, which is now available for public comment for the next 30 days, outlines the creation of these registers - defining what is meant by misrepresented qualifications, outlining the process for how they will be dealt with, and detailing the various roles and responsibilities expected.

When an investigation into possible fake qualifications is initiated, all parties must be informed of the process, the possible action that might arise from it, as well as be given the right to make representations and to possibly appeal the findings.

Ultimately, only those found legally culpable of qualification fraud would be included on registers.

The Register of Fraudulent Qualifications would contain the names and details of individuals and providers who had been found by a court of law to be holding or issuing at least one fraudulent qualification.

The Register of Misrepresented Qualifications and Providers operating outside of the SA National Qualifications Framework (NQF) will list individuals who have misrepresented a qualification, as well as a list of providers who have not adhered to the SA NQF.  Similarly, this will only be made up of cases where the conviction was obtained through court action.

Once it comes into effect, the NQF Amendment Bill proposes that the register will be published for the public "periodically".

It is intended to act as a "deterrent to individuals and providers who are contemplating misrepresenting their qualifications or operating outside of the NQF".

The draft policy was developed by SAQA – whose mandate is to advance the objectives of the NQF – as well as by the Department of Higher Education and Training, and various quality verification councils.

'I qualified myself'

One of the public scandals which gave rise to the draft policy was that of Prasa's Mthimkhulu, who, in August 2015, was found not to have the qualifications needed for his position.

The University of Witwatersrand’ registration office – where he said he had studied – could find no record of him.

In May, 2015, Mdunge was sentenced to five years imprisonment for fraud and forgery after he was found to have presented a fake matric certificate in order to obtain promotion in the police service.

In February 2015, it was discovered that the American La Salle University - which Pheko claimed had awarded her a PhD in 2000 - had actually closed in 1996, when it emerged it was selling degrees and other academic qualifications via the internet.

Tshabalala resigned from her SABC board position in December 2014, after Unisa confirmed that, although she had registered for a degree, she had never obtained the qualification.

In August, that same year, former minister of arts and culture and ANC stalwart Pallo Jordan, who had used the title "Dr" for years, was found to have never achieved this qualification.

In February 2014, it emerged that now former SABC Chief Operating Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng had lied about his matric qualification. He later told the City Press newspaper that, "I qualified myself".

Shamin "Chippy" Shaik, once the chief of acquisitions for the SANDF and brother of convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik, was, in 2008, stripped of his University of KwaZulu-Natal Mechanical Engineering doctorate after large sections of it were found to have been plagiarised.

Read more on:    education  |  corruption

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