The recently enacted National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act makes it a criminal offence for individuals to misrepresent their qualifications, or for institutions who do not hold requisite accreditations to enrol students into their institutions.
Tracy Robbins, a senior associate at Baker Mckenzie, says that such a misrepresentation is punishable by a fine or a period of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, or both.
“The Qualifications Act also creates a framework within which registers will be created for professional designations, misrepresentations and fraudulent qualifications by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA),” she said.
“This means that in addition to criminal sanctions, those convicted under the Qualifications Act will also be ‘named and shamed’,” she said.
Robbins said taht the Qualifications Act also criminalises the wilful misrepresentation or publication of qualifications.
Practically, this means that offences under the Qualifications Act are not only limited to misrepresentations on CVs for employment seeking purposes, but also include any wilful misrepresentations that may occur on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn, she said.
Robbins noted that qualifications fraud landed in the public spotlight during 2014 when media outlets reported that a number of high profile South Africans had misrepresented their qualifications.
In 2015, the South African Fraud Prevention Services (SAFPS) recorded a significant number of fraud cases relating to the falsification of qualifications.
Citing figures released by LexisNexis, Robbins said that the most prevalent forms of qualifications fraud are:
- Non-existent matric certificates;
- Inflated education;
- Unfinished degrees;
- Fake degree certificates.
“The introduction of the Qualifications Act is certainly a step in the right direction in keeping job applicants honest,” said Robbins.
“It also offers employers reasonable protection against financial losses and dangerous accidents due to bad hires.
“These advantages are, however, only useful in as far as employers conduct the obligatory verification processes under the Qualifications Act before hiring any applicants,” she said.