More than 20% of all job applicants have criminal records ranging from murder, rape and armed robbery to petty crime and white collar fraud.

Vhonani Mufamadi, CEO of Ideco Group, says criminal record percentages have been rising steadily over the past several years but have spiked in the last 18 months, as has awareness of these trends – in large measure due to the more effective criminal record checks that background screening companies were able to do thanks to Ideco's direct link to the SAPS Finger Print Identification System (AFIS) known as AFISwitch.
Mufamadi says the criminal records hit rate of 20% plus was among the highest in the world. Since the downward slide of the South African economy many more white collar crimes are expected to happen and employers are well advised to use the system to detect risk in their businesses.
Mufamadi, whose company is also a shareholder of background screening company Kroll, says the present system guarantees a "hit or no hit" result – that is whether an applicant had a criminal record or not – within 48 hours compared to the several weeks that it took the police in the past to find the fingerprints manually.
Kroll CEO Ina van der Merwe says that, although it took a bit of time for the employer to receive full details of the crime committed, the "hit or no-hit" facility is capable of producing a result within one to two days, letting employers know quickly if the candidate had a record or not.
"A company might well decide to appoint someone with a petty crime on his record to a position of limited responsibility while it would be unthinkable to employ an applicant with a conviction for fraud in the company's financial department."
She says the cost of the criminal records check was very reasonable and could save a lot of unnecessary problems later when they were being ripped off by a fraudster who had not been tested for prior convictions.
With corporate fraud and theft levels running at all time record levels, determining whether a candidate had a criminal past has become not just an option but an essential part of the background screening process.
Van der Merwe said at least 18% of all credentials tendered at present were questionable or outright bogus.
This includes degrees and diplomas as well as IDs, drivers' licences and passports.
"One of the reasons why so many employees still get away with false documents and criminal records is because many employers simply don't take the trouble to verify these credentials," she says.