Lying on your CV about your qualifications or placing fake qualifications on any social media platform may seem harmless in some instances, but it could be incredibly risky and dangerous in most industries and it may now lead to being convicted.

A background screening and vetting company, Managed Integrity Evaluation (“MIE”), released a report which stated that the number of misrepresented qualifications in South Africa has increased from 44 880 in 2016 to 50 618 in 2017.

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed off on the National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act No. 12 of 2019 (“the Act”) in August 2019. The National Qualifications Framework Amendment Bill of 2018 (“the Bill”) had undergone many discussions and public hearings and its object was to amend the National Qualifications Frameworks Act No. 67 of 2008 in order to strengthen the legislation it provides for and to address some loopholes.

The National Qualifications Framework (“NQF”) is a comprehensive system approved by the Minister of Education for the classification, registration, publication and articulation of quality-assured national qualifications.

The Act states that criminal prosecution may result if someone “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, Quality Council (“QC”) or obtained from a lawfully recognised foreign institution”.

Anyone is in the position to point out potentially misrepresented or fraudulent qualifications. The Act specifically makes provision for all organs of state, employers, education institutions, skills development providers and Quality Councils to, prior to the appointment or registration of an individual, authenticate whether the qualification is indeed registered on the individual’s record database. If not, the qualification must be referred to the South African Qualifications Authority (“SAQA”).

SAQA is then responsible for verifying national qualifications by determining whether they are authentic. In terms of a foreign qualification, SAQA must first verify if it is authentic and then compare it to South African qualifications for placement within the South African NQF. The quality of qualifications is therefore protected.

SAQA therefore identifies whether qualifications are misrepresented but only a court of law can declare the qualifications to be fraudulent.

The Act makes provision for a “name and shame” mechanism by having separate registers for misrepresented qualifications and for fraudulent qualifications. The naming and shaming goes both ways as the names and details of individuals and providers who have been found to be holding or issuing fraudulent qualifications will be included. This is hopefully a deterrent mechanism to potential phoneys.

The Act makes provision for offences and penalties where a person makes a false entry, is a party to the falsification or publication of the qualification, or whilst having a fraudulent purpose knowingly provides false or misleading information. Anyone convicted of an offence in terms of the Act will be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, or to both a fine and imprisonment.

All in all – the Act aims to protect the integrity of South African education and training systems. The Act is welcomed as it is important to protect the public against dishonest individuals and providers. It protects businesses and the government from employing people who simply do not hold the necessary qualifications for certain positions.

Nicolé Maré – Attorney

Kim Rademeyer – Partner