201110 Students writing their matric exams at the Sena-Marena High School in Soweto. As the grade 12 national senior certificate exams enters its fifth week, concerns that the standards of exam papers have dropped have been raised. . 140910. picture: Chris Collingridge 637

Johannesburg - As matriculants gird themselves for the release of marks early in the new year, some students who did not do as well as they may have hoped might be tempted to forge their results to break into the business world.

But, cautions EMPS, lying or embellishing matric results is a criminal offense that can lead to jail time.

Perhaps the most high profile example in recent times is that of disgraced then SABC acting COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who was found by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to have lied about having passed matric in his job application.

EMPS notes one of matriculants’ favourite ploys is to add desirable subjects such as mathematics and science to a matric certificate, and at the same time change symbols from an E to an A or a B.

This, says the background screening company, is easier than many people may think. It notes the South African Police Service has recently arrested members of syndicates who forged everything from passports and IDs to matric certificates to permanent residence permits for illegal aliens.

CEO Kirsten Halcrow notes matric certificates are the most widely forged qualifications documents.

Ina van der Merwe, director and CEO of South African background screening company, Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE), notes qualification increased by 200 percent between 2009 and 2014.

MIE records reveal that the high percentage of qualification fraud in the trade industry is followed by matric certificates, short courses of between six and 12 months and degrees of up to four years.

Van der Merwe says: “Our experience in conducting background checks has revealed a disturbingly high level of Matric qualification fraud before 1992. Matric certificates which we have found to be invalid – both before and after 1992 – are not always fake, but often rather include symbols or percentages which have been altered to reflect better results.”

“There is a perception that if senior members of government can lie about their qualifications and in many cases get away with it for years, why not take a chance in the hope that nobody will take the trouble to verify the certificate with a background screening company, adds Halcrow.

Halcrow said the majority of CVs that are submitted to her company for vetting contain some embellishments ranging from non-existent matric certificates, inflated education, unfinished degrees and even fake degree certificates.

“Lying or embellishing qualifications constitutes fraud which is a criminal offence.

“Two cases that may lead to many more prosecutions is that of former police spokesman, Vincent Mdunge, 49, who was sentenced to five years in jail for fraud and forgery over a fake matric certificate.

In handing down sentence, Durban Regional Court magistrate Thandeka Fikeni said she tried to be as lenient as she could. But, she said: “There is absolutely nothing respectable about white collar criminals and crime.”

EMPS adds the other high profile case that highlighted the prevalence of qualifications fraud was that of Passenger Rail Agency South Africa (Prasa) former Head of Engineering services in the rail division, Daniel Mtimkulu, who now faces criminal charges for allegedly having lied about his qualifications.

He claimed he held a doctorate degree, among others. It also emerged that he was not registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa.

“These two cases have changed the landscape and I believe we are going to see many more prosecutions in future,” Halcrow said.

Halcrow stressed that lying on a CV was not just the proverbial ‘little white lie’ but amounted to fraud, which is illegal.

“Problems lie not only with embellishment but also with omissions. If a job seeker has a criminal record – however petty the crime may be – they are obliged to disclose it. If an employer does a proper background screening, a criminal record check will usually form part of the process and if there is a record, the check will reveal it.

“There is no question that job seekers who have few if any formal qualifications because employers are simply too lazy to do proper background checks are getting jobs for which they are not qualified.

“In addition to putting their companies at risk they are also denying qualified job seekers who have put in the blood, sweat and tears to get the necessary qualifications the opportunity to get the jobs they deserve,” Halcrow notes.