Quality assurance council, Umalusi, has raised the alarm about certificates submitted to it for verification as at least 17% could not be authenticated owing to apparent fraud.
The council revealed in its annual report for 2022-23 that the number of verifications made during the year under review totalled 299 262.
These included 5114 manual conformations, 275 142 e-verifications and 19 006 full verifications.
The verifications completed were 63 274 more than in the 2021-22 financial year.
CEO Mafu Rakometsi said one of the uncontrollable challenges for Umalusi was the unlawful sale of the national senior certificate by fraudsters.
“This is a threat to the credibility of the qualifications on our sub-framework,” Rakometsi said.
He added that in the last two and half years Umalusi verified more than 200 000 qualifications for different clients.
“Every quarter, an average of 17% of copies of certificates submitted for verification could not be authenticated. One of the possible explanations for this could be the issue of fraudulent certificates,” he said.
“Umalusi has no control over this matter except to continue educating the public on verifying the credibility of private institutions before enrolling for qualifications at the institutions.”
Umalusi council chairperson Yunus Ballim said the institution has launched the online certification replacement system as an important milestone in digitizing Umalusi service.
He said the system has improved the efficiency of replacing certificates by allowing candidates to apply online, directly with Umalusi.
“One of the difficulties for Umalusi is the unlawful sale of Umalusi certificates by fraudsters. Such fraudulent certificates do not have currency since they are not authentic and do not appear on the national learner records database,” Ballim said.
The continuation of the fraudulent activities was a threat to the credibility of these qualifications, he said.
“I am happy management has put in place robust systems to preserve the credibility of the qualifications,” he said.
Ballim noted that the verification of certificates was Umalusi's critical function as a quality council.
“Stopping the distribution and use of fake certificates requires that society - parents, learners, institutions of higher learning and employers -become more vigilant about authenticating qualifications, which demands reliable verification of the certificates that are presented,” he added.
Rakometsi said Umalusi provided a verification service to the public via verification clients.
“An increase in the number of verifications was noted in the last quarter of the year. Additionally, several affidavits were issued and Umalusi officials were subpoenaed to testify in court cases,” he said.
According to Makometsi, the institution has established a fraud and ethics hotline number as a platform for internal and external stakeholders to report alleged incidents of fraud related to their work and mandate.
Anti-corruption reports include examination irregularities, the use of fraudulent certificates and institutions operating without accreditation, among others.
“During the reporting period the organisation received eight such complaints, where they were processed through established channels in the organisation,” he said.