Over the years, there have been various media reports on high-profile employees (particularly politicians) who misrepresent their qualifications to their employer. In fact, for the 2017/18 financial year, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) uncovered 982 fraudulent qualifications including instances where qualifications were embellished or overstated and where employees have been dishonest in their job applications about their qualifications. The introduction of key amendments to our law in the form of the National Qualifications Authority Amendment Act 12 of 2019 (NQAA) may reduce the use of fraudulent qualifications. The NQAA applies to employers in both the public and private sector.
The NQAA was assented to on 13 August 2019. With the commencement date still to be announced, the NQAA is not law just yet. However, since the law is imminent, this article explores the employment implications of the NQAA.
SAQA powers bolstered
The NQAA provides new measures for SAQA to:
- verify all qualifications and part-qualifications (including foreign qualifications); and
- establish a register of misrepresented or fraudulent qualifications or part-qualifications
Further, the NQAA introduces criminal sanctions for persons who misrepresent their qualifications through the use of fake or fraudulent qualifications. This is not only limited to misrepresentation on a curriculum vitae or job application. The NQAA broadens its scope of application by holding that it is an offence for any person to falsely or fraudulently claim to hold a qualification that is registered on the National Qualifications Framework or awarded by a recognised and accredited institution.
Any person found to be misrepresenting their qualifications or lying about their educational background could be liable for a fine or imprisonment for up to 5 years.
Educational institutions or skills providers who falsely claim to be registered or accredited by SAQA may also be criminally charged under the NQAA.
What does this mean for employers?
The NQAA places a new obligation on all employers which is that prior to appointing a new employee, the employer must take steps to authenticate the qualification(s) that is presented to them by the prospective employee. There is uncertainty regarding whether this process must be followed for all prospective employees and what the consequences of non-compliance are for the employer.
Given SAQA’s new register of misrepresented qualifications, employers may be able to approach SAQA to authenticate a qualification(s) provided to them by prospective employees.