YOU CAN be reported to the South African Qualifications Authority if you make a false claim on social media about your accomplishments. Freepik
The main objective of the new National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act is to “name and shame” people who falsify or lie about their qualifications, as well as stamp out illegal tertiary institutions who produce students with fake certificates, says Thabang Rapuleng, director for employment practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, commenting on the act, which was signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week.

The new act aims to thwart illegal tertiary institutions that issue fake certificates, while also preventing people from misrepresenting their qualifications and also job-seekers and students who claim to have qualifications they don’t have or submit fraudulent qualifications. These people could face up to five years in prison.

Rapuleng said the act will highlight a list of institutions that have issued fake certificates or qualifications, making it easier for employers to identify which institutions to avoid.

“For example, I might have gone to that fake institution. They gave me a fake qualification - that is going to be flagged. But then there are also individuals that will lie about their qualification. They are claiming to have a qualification that they don’t have at all,” said Rapuleng.

He said South Africans lying on their CVs about their qualifications is quite common in both the public sector and private sector.

“It is quite common that people misrepresent their qualifications, their work history, their experience and so on. I think it’s quite common, particularly related to qualifications. That’s why these amendments now make it a criminal act, and it says that one can face imprisonment of up to five years.

“You employ someone on the basis and belief that they hold a certain qualification, and you believe that they will be competent to operate as someone with that qualification. Then they get paid on the basis of that qualification when it was not for that qualification they would not be earning that salary, so it is fraudulent, because you are getting a salary you would not have received if you have not misrepresented your qualifications,” said Rapuleng.

Aadil Patel, the national head of the employment practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, said the new legislation will go a long way towards clamping down on bogus education institutions, but could also bring about significant changes in South African workplaces.

“In addition, the National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act allow the South African Qualifications Authority (Saqa) to establish separate registers for professionally misrepresented qualifications, designations and fraudulent qualifications. This means that even if you don’t lie on your CV to get a job, if you make a false claim on Twitter or LinkedIn, you can be reported to the Saqa for further investigation,” said Patel.

Rapuleng said that, before registering to study at an institution, you should check with the Department of Higher Education whether it is registered with the South African Qualifications Authority, and whether the particular qualification is recognised.

“Those are the two main things one has to do, and don’t go on the basis of looking at the structure of the institution, because what happens is that students tend to look at the building and see that it looks professional,” said Rapuleng.