Bogus qualifications are a major problem for both government and private sector companies. The 16 public servants recently exposed as qualifications cheats were merely the tip of the iceberg, says experts, with many more are waiting to be discovered should government get its house in order and implement widespread background screening.
Ina van der Merwe, CEO of Kroll Background Screening, comments: “At the moment about 14% of all qualifications sent to us for verifications turn out to be false. That includes everything from matric certificates to degrees and diplomas.”
Three years after efforts began to verify public servants' qualifications, employees are resisting the process and government departments are dragging their feet about getting it done, a report tabled in Parliament this week found.
Meanwhile, 16 public servants below middle management level – most of them in the Western Cape – had so far been found to have fraudulent qualifications, according to the Public Service Commission's (PSC) report.
To date only seven provincial departments and two national departments had completed the process of background screening, with 60 provincial and 19 national departments in the first stages of the job.
"The main constraints cited were staff resistance to the verification process and that staff take too long to provide proof of qualifications where it is requested," read the report.
It recommends that heads of department take charge of the process.
"A strong message needs to be sent to all public service officials that the verification of qualifications is part of the anti-corruption programme of government, and that lack of compliance may adversely affect the ethical credibility of the department as a whole."
Van der Merwe suggests that government introduce incentives for employees who drag their feet or who are reluctant to hand in their qualifications for verification.
“We know from our own experience over many years that qualifications cheating has become something of a national sport because it is so easy to get away with it. Unless government and companies in the private sector become pro-active about the verification process this will remain a problem.”
She says the main problem with employees who are holding positions with bogus qualifications is the fact that they are unable to perform effectively because they lack the educational skills. This could be one of the reasons why certain government departments provide poor service delivery to the public, Van der Merwe adds.
“They are also depriving honest employees who went to the trouble to achieve diplomas or degrees of jobs that should rightfully be filled by them."