Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency/ANA

Johannesburg - Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor says there has been an increase of fraudulent qualifications reported to regulatory bodies over the past five years.

In the 2017/18 financial year alone there were 982 fraudulent qualifications uncovered, with 385 since April this year.

“There is an upward trend in the number of misrepresented qualifications that have been detected,” Pandor said.

She was responding to a parliamentary question from the ANC’s Juli Kilian, who asked about the role of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) in safeguarding the integrity of the national qualifications framework.

Pandor said that in 2010/11 there were 47 reported fraudulent qualifications, 37 in 2011/12, 76 the following year and 62 in 2013/14.

The number grew to 106 in 2014/15, only to drop to 92 in 2015/16, then 24 in 2016/17, 982 in 2017/18 and 385 since April 2018.

Pandor said SAQA had been tracking qualifications since 2005.

“Up until 2015, SAQA paid Umalusi for every school-leaving record that was verified. There was no agreement in place between Umalusi and SAQA in 2015 and 2016, and this led to a relatively high number of school-leaving qualifications not being confirmed as misrepresented qualification in 2017.

“The relatively high number in 2017/18 is due to those qualifications being confirmed as misrepresented qualifications to SAQA in August 2017.

“Furthermore, the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations began submitting their misrepresented qualifications to SAQA in August 2017.

“This also accounts for the higher number of misrepresented qualifications in 2017/18,” Pandor said.

She also said that despite the relatively high number of fraudulent qualifications detected in 2017/18, it was still less than 1% of the qualifications that were verified by SAQA and the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations.

Pandor also revealed that the total number of fraudulent foreign qualifications and SAQA certificates of evaluation was 2 263 over the past five years.

There was a total of 892 fraudulent qualifications, with 201 reported in 2016/17 and 444 in 2017/18.

“The 444 misrepresented foreign qualifications reported in 2017/18 include 89 qualifications (revealed) by a whistle-blower.

“These purported to originate from a university in Ghana, and SAQA representatives personally visited the university to check the authenticity of these qualifications.” Pandor also said the high number of forged SAQA certificates of evaluation that were detected by the Department of Home Affairs was alarming.

The department began reporting on these certificates in 2015. “SAQA responded to the trend by piloting the SAQA certificates of evaluation, and has rolled out the project as a permanent feature in this financial year.

“It important to note that the Department of Home Affairs can identify forged certificates of evaluation because the foreigners are unable to bypass all the security features on the certificates,” Pandor said.

“Furthermore, SAQA provides access to its database via its internet so that the Department of Home Affairs officials can verify the SAQA certificates of evaluation easily and quickly.”

Asked whether the government had taken the necessary steps to verify qualifications before appointing public servants, Pandor said all provincial and national departments were required to verify the qualifications with SAQA.

“Some government departments are utilising the services of SAQA to verify the qualifications of the public sector employees,” she said.

Political Bureau