Joe Samuels, head of the SA Qualification Authority. Picture: SAQA
Joe Samuels, head of the SA Qualification Authority. Picture: SAQA

Government's South African Qualifications Authority has published a new policy framework for dealing with falsified or illegitimate qualifications.

The document appears to be a response to a series of scandals involving high-profile people such as the SABC's Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the ANC's Pallo Jordan, which have undermined the credibility of the country's qualifications controls.

The Draft National Policy on the Misrepresentation of Qualifications seeks to "define what is meant by misrepresented qualifications" and to "provide a framework for dealing with individuals and providers who misrepresent qualifications," according to SAQA CEO, Joe Samuels.

The policy document said: "Media exposure of high ranking officials claiming to hold qualifications that they were not awarded or for which they did not enroll, has created greater public awareness around misrepresented qualifications."

The draft policy stated: "Apart from being illegal, the misrepresentation of qualifications has other serious implications. People are appointed to positions based on their false qualifications, which raises questions around their competence to hold these positions.

"In more senior positions, the safety of ordinary citizens and employees, the long-term viability and profitability of organisations, and public service delivery rest in these fraudsters’ hands."

The policy said issuers of certificates and degrees suffered from "the stigma of being associated with fraudulent qualifications" when their names were abused on false qualifications.

The policy proposes the establishment of a Register of Misrepresented Qualifications and Providers. The private sector, the police and the department of justice would be involved in identifying culprits.

When a person was found to have misrepresented their qualification, "the person’s name and details, or details about the provider with the relevant timeframes of non-compliance (if applicable) are published in the RMQP," the policy proposal said.

Those who provided false information committed an offence and could be tried and found guilty by a court of law.

"Details about the person and/or provider are entered into the Register of Fraudulent Qualifications with details of the court sentencing and relevant timeframes," the document said.

The authority would also crack down on institutions identified as "degree mills" that churned out certificates, diplomas and degrees with little or no substantive education process.

Such degrees and institutions would be identified and removed from a schedule of approved qualifications.

"For an Individual to be holding a qualification/part-qualification that is authentic, the following criteria must all be met:
(i) The qualification must be registered on the NQF;
(ii) The qualification must be offered by a registered and accredited provider;
(iii) The individual must have enrolled for the qualification/part-qualification and havemet the entrance requirements or been admitted to the qualification/partqualificationthrough RPL;
(iv) The individual must have completed the qualification/part-qualification and havemet the criteria for the awarding of the qualification/part-qualification either through successfully completing the summative assessments, or through RPL, or througha combination of assessment and RPL; and
(v) The individual must have been awarded the qualification/part-qualification by the relevant awarding body."

Samuel said: "SAQA encourages all stakeholders who directly or indirectly engage with qualifications, are in the education and training sector, in the police services or judiciary, have knowledge of the SA legal system, are employers, or have an interest in curbing the proliferation of misrepresented qualifications, to engage with this draft Policy and submit comments to SAQA within 30 days of its publication." 

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