Demand for background screening services increase as companies zone in on fraudulent applicants

AUGUST 1, 2016

We are over the halfway mark for the year 2016, and statistics up to this point reveal that there has been an increase in the number of businesses vetting potential and existing employees. However, this has not deterred countless individuals from committing qualification fraud. “Candidates continue to lie and apply for positions for which they are simply not qualified.”

This is according to Ina van der Merwe, Director and CEO of background screening market leader, Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE). Van Der Merwe notes that in addition to sheer desperation resulting from the high level of unemployment in South Africa, currently standing at 26.7%, candidates may not fully realise the consequences of committing qualification fraud.

MIE’s 2015 Background Screening Index found that, over the last five years, South Africa experienced an 11% increase in demand for background screening services.

 “MIE conducted approximately 470 000 qualification checks in 2015 and have vetted a further 300 000 qualifications from January to June 2016 alone.”

“From the increase in background screening services, it is evident that organisations are taking this epidemic more seriously and are taking the necessary steps to combat fraud to protect their businesses from associated risks. Despite that, we continue to see high levels of falsified information when screening candidate’s qualifications,” says van der Merwe.

 In terms of the “biggest liars” for 2016 to date (January to June), the CEO shares that the trade industry sector recorded the highest percentage of qualification fraud once again.

She says, “Artisan qualifications such as those for boilermakers, electricians, plumbers, millwrights, riggers and slingers, fitter and turners, and machinists continue to hold the greatest risk when it comes to qualification fraud.”

“High percentages related to fraudulent trade qualifications are followed by international and African qualifications, averaging 47% in the first half of 2016; National Secondary Department 30%; and tertiary short courses 29%.”

“It is concerning that we still find so many candidates falsifying their academic information. Not only is this illegal, but if they are successful in securing employment in this way, they could put their employer at financial and reputational risk,” van der Merwe explains.

 For example, should an unqualified person be appointed in a financial position such as a Finance Manager and not have the necessary qualifications, knowledge and skills to do the job, then the company in question could face major financial losses.

 “If tax returns were not submitted or VAT was incorrectly claimed as a result of the Finance Manager being ill equipped to fulfil his or her duties, the company will pay penalties. These costs incurred would be over and above the cost of employing and training this individual,” says van der Merwe.

In February this year, Higher Education and Training Minister, Blade Nzimande, emphasised that the South African government will take serious action against fly-by-night institutions and individuals who misrepresent their qualifications.

 He noted that his department was engaging institutions in the justice and judicial system to ensure that this practice is seen as a more serious offence.

“If you lie about your qualifications or you produce a false certificate, it is fraud already in terms of existing laws,” Nzimande explained.

Van der Merwe adds that while qualification fraud is a serious matter, carrying the same consequences as any other fraud (including jail time), businesses and recruiters often do not report it.

MIE works with the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) to combat fraud by populating their database with individuals who have committed a relevant offence.

“It is crucial to utilise reputable screening organisations that work closely with such organisations in a bid to combat this epidemic. MIE processes qualification verifications through the National Qualifications Register (NQR®), which has a database of over 3.5 million graduate records and 24 subscribing tertiary institutions.”

“What’s more, because the NQR® is well known for being quick, accurate and reliable, people tend to take less chances falsifying information from subscribing institutions,” van der Merwe concludes.