The fact that former Prasa engineer Daniel Mtimkulu had been charged with fraud and uttering relating to his alleged fake qualifications and the jailing of former police spokesman Vincent Mdunge for a period of five years for claiming he had a matric certificate had opened the flood gates for more employers to take legal action against qualifications fraudsters.
Background Screening company EMPS said it had uncovered the highest level of qualification fraud ever last year.
EMPS CEO Kirsten Halcrow, said a growing number of her clients were considering taking legal action against qualification fraudsters.
"Prior to the jailing of Vincent Mdunge and the charges now being faced by Daniel Mtimkulu, most employers did not really have the appetite to pursue legal action.
"These two cases and especially the jailing of the SAPS spokesman has had a dramatic effect of companies who have to deal with fraudsters on a daily basis.
"In the past they were prepared to merely accept the resignations of these individuals but there is a growing sense of anger that these fraudsters had in many cases done severe damage to companies and their reputations in the business sector and that some form of sanction is necessary to send out a message that lying about qualifications and getting jobs with fake degrees and matric certificates is not acceptable behaviour," Halcrow said.
Mdunge got five years' imprisonment last year for two counts of fraud and one of forgery for allegedly presenting a fake matric certificate to gain promotion in the police force and to gain entrance to do further studies at Unisa.
Mdunge, 49, was convicted on a count of fraud for receiving a salary to which he was not entitled.
"The announcement that Mtimkulu would be prosecuted over his alleged qualifications fraud has served as a wake-up call to the many corporates who have fraudsters on their staff and who may be taking legal action against them in the near future."
Halcrow said an issue that had long been side-lined – post employment screening – had now also suddenly become a hot ticket.
"We have known for a long time that some employees slipped through the background screening net when they were employed initially. There is also the issue that some employees had picked up bad habits while employed such as gambling that had plunged them into debt.
"Debt is a problem because it can act as a trigger for trusted employees to defraud their employers to pay off loan sharks and other creditors."
Halcrow said 7,62% of all qualifications verified by her company so far this year turned out to be "problematic". This compared with a 6,8% average for last year.
She said it was imperative that employers check the qualifications of all candidates and not just those slated for senior or sensitive positions.
She also reiterated the dangers that employees with false qualifications could pose to a company.
"Apart from being unable to do the job they were hired for, they could also do severe damage to the reputation of a company.
"The cost of doing a comprehensive background check can range from R200-R500. It would be foolish in the extreme not doing it and as we have seen in the Prasa case, the consequences can be very unpleasant," she said.
Danie Strydom, CEO of one of South Africa's largest qualifications verification companies, QVS, said it is encouraging to see that the authorities started to act against qualifications fraudsters.
"There is no difference between qualifications fraud and any other form of fraud."
The case of former SAPS spokesman Vincent Mdunge who was sentenced to five years in jail for fraud after faking his Matric certificate was clear proof of the fact that successful prosecutions were possible, Strydom said.
He said the private sector should take note of government's initiative to beef up background checks for public service employees to ensure that all qualifications claimed on CVs were valid.
"The recommendations by a parliamentary portfolio committee urging Department of Public Service and Administration to beef up its vetting procedures to ensure that government does not employ people on the basis of false qualifications is laudable," he said.
He said there had been a noticeable increase in the number of fraudulent and false qualification verifications done by his company.
Over the past 24 months this figure has been steadily climbing.
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