Picture: 123RF/FRANNYANNE
Picture: 123RF/FRANNYANNE

The Department of Higher Education and Training has proposed naming and shaming fraudsters who claim fake qualifications in an online public register administered by the South African Qualifications Authority (Saqa), in the hope that this will deter others from following suit.

The measures are contained in the draft National Qualifications Framework Amendment Bill, currently before Parliament. It aims to tighten the noose on institutions that offer bogus qualifications and individuals who fake or misrepresent their accomplishments, and is a response to the problems currently confronting employers and education institutions.

The bill contains provisions that compel education institutions and employers to report fraudulent or misrepresented qualifications to Saqa, which works closely with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to pursue cases of alleged fraud, the department’s Shirley Lloyd told members of Parliament’s portfolio committee on higher education, on Wednesday.

The department’s chief director for legal services, Eben Boshoff, said the draft National Policy on the Misrepresentation of Qualifications. which was published for public comment in 2017, had been withdrawn on legal advice. It had also proposed setting up a public register of individuals and providers who had misrepresented or faked their qualifications.

There have been a host of recent public scandals public servants and top executives with bogus qualifications, such as former SABC chair Ellen Tshabalala, who claimed to have a BCom and postgraduate degrees from Unisa, and rail agency Prasa’s former head of engineering, who was not registered as an engineer. Even the Cabinet has not been immune: former arts and culture minister Pallo Jordan resigned he was exposed for misrepresenting himself as "Dr" when in he did not have a PhD.

Saqa had recorded a total of 1,276 fake qualifications (444 national and 832 foreign qualifications) at the beginning of 2017, according to ANC MP Julie Kilian.

Lloyd said Saqa currently reported on bogus qualifications and institutions to the minister every two months.

The bill was published for public comment on November 18 2016, and 48 submissions were received from various roleplayers, according to Boshoff.