Making bogus claims about your degree could land you in hot water — and behind bars.
The National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act, which came into effect this week, was designed to ensure that employees are not bamboozled by false qualification claims.
It also aims to preserve the integrity of the institutions that grant degrees.
And lying on your social media pages, such as LinkedIn, is as punishable an offence as presenting a fake qualification on a CV addressed to a potential employer.
The act states that criminal prosecution can result when a person “falsely or fraudulently claims to be holding a qualification or part-qualification registered on the NQF or awarded by an education institution, skills development provider, QC or obtained from a lawfully recognised foreign institution”.
Shirley Lloyd, recently retired head of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) directorate said on Wednesday that the act came into force at a time when there was “definitely an increase” in people making fake claims.
“It doesn’t only happen in South Africa, but it crops up all the time,” she said. “Matric certificates are often cited, as well as doctorates and other postgraduate degrees.”
She clarified that one’s culpability would depend on the extent to which a person deceived someone, and said anyone was in a position to point out fraud, not just employers.
“It extends to the point of how much you have misled (people about) your qualification. If you have deceived people, it extends across social media platforms.”
“Your Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook accounts, they could all be seen as a way for an employer to verify your qualifications,” she said. “In the bigger context of social media, you are misleading people. You may be offered a job under false pretences.”
Lloyd said offenders could face a minimum of five years behind bars if found guilty.
“Unfortunately, we have also seen it in high places, with government officials, CEOs and ambassadors. It’s been a long time coming, and we are very happy that we can now hold people accountable.
“When you are called out on that, [the] legal process can begin. In a court of law they may find you guilty of fraud,” Lloyd said.
SA has seen several instances of officials embellishing their CVs, with ANC struggle veteran and valued intellectual Pallo Jordan being found to have lied about having a PhD in 2014.
In 2013, SABC chairperson Ellen Tshabalala tried and failed to obtain a court interdict to prevent authorities from confirming claims that her Unisa degree was the stuff of fiction.
Lloyd added that employers also had a responsibility to ensure that they did their due diligence and checked on employees’ credentials, as a case could also be raised for their culpability should fraud be carried out.