Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law tough new rules criminalising the submission of fraudulent qualifications or misrepresentation of education credentials.
Job seekers and prospective students who submit fraudulent qualifications or misrepresent them will now face up to five years in prison in terms of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Amendment Act 2019.
SA Qualifications Authority (Saqa) chief executive Joe Samuels told Independent Media on Tuesday that Ramaphosa signed the Act into law last Tuesday. The new law was published in the Government Gazette on Monday. According to Samuels, Saqa, which is responsible for advancing the NQF objectives, will study the Act and look very seriously parts that can be implemented immediately and do preparatory work for other aspects of the new law.
The Act is expected to come into effect on a date determined by Ramaphosa by proclamation in the Gazette and its provisions may have different commencement dates.
Five-year sentences, unspecified fines or both will be handed to people found guilty of making false entries in the national learners’ records database or are party to the falsification, dissemination or publication of a qualification or part-qualification of any person. Owners of bogus education institutions will also face jail time for awarding fraudulent qualifications.
”A person, an education institution or sk ills development provider is guilty of an offence if a person, the education institution or skills development provider claims to be offering a qualification or part-qualification registered on the NQF whereas that qualification or part-qualification is not so registered,” reads the statute.
Jail time also looms for those who falsely or fraudulently claim to be holding qualifications or part-qualifications registered on the NQF or awarded by an education institution, skills development provider, quality council or obtained from a lawfully recognised foreign institution.
The Act also provides for the establishment of a separate register of misrepresented or fraudulent qualifications or part-qualifications, which is expected to be published periodically and act as a deterrent. Local and foreign education institutions, their directors or board members falsely claiming to be registered and accredited may be ordered to close and be declared unfit to re-apply and re-register in the country or offer any qualification or part-qualification for a period not exceeding 10 years.
All organs of state, employers, education institutions, skills development providers and quality councils will be required to authenticate, before appointment or registration, all qualifications or part- qualifications presented to them for hiring or study.
There are three quality councils in the country and they are sector-based structures responsible for the development and quality assurance of qualifications. The Council on Higher Education is the quality council for the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework, Umalusi (general and further education and training qualifications sub-framework) and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations, which is responsible for the occupational qualifications sub-framework.