Effective Risk Management begins with recruitment
South African and international businesses lose millions each year as a result of fraudulent references and qualifications, which can result in financial loss, costly errors, accidents and legal action – not to mention the potential damage to reputation and long term business relationships. Employee verification has therefore become a vital component of risk management, and when handled well, can greatly reduce risk and headaches for all concerned.
Thorough checking is of course what we all strive for, but in today’s environment that can be time consuming and it is still easy for even the most vigilant checks to miss details – even at the highest levels. Recent high profile cases involving qualifications fraud include Pallo Jordan’s departure from parliament, the Public Protector’s report on SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and falsification of qualifications by National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise.
The argument has been made that if someone can do the job as required, the details don’t really matter. However Greg Brown, Director of Governance, Risk & Compliance at LexisNexis South Africa, points out that one fraudulent claim can be indicative of questionable integrity and credibility, and this can in turn call into question a business’s integrity.
“It may be an old cliché, but prevention is always better than cure, therefore employee background checks should begin long before an individual becomes part of your business,” says Brown. LexisNexis South Africa conducts risk management research on an ongoing basis, and Brown shares some insights into this potential minefield:
“Research conducted by LexisNexis indicates that an alarming number of qualifications and even ID numbers supplied by candidates are fraudulent,” says Brown.
“Current standard practice involves three checks per candidate, however sometimes this is not enough to detect fraudulent documents. Technology based platforms such as LexisNexis RefCheck, which verifies information directly with the institution or supplier, can be instrumental in reducing risk and protecting businesses against qualifications fraud.”
LexisNexis South Africa’s own RefCheck data for 2013 indicates that 20% of candidates had adverse information on their credit reports. One in 16 identity documents submitted by candidates is fraudulent, falsified or invalid, and one in 20 has a positive AFIS Criminal Database hit.
Qualifications fraud is the most common form of falsification in South Africa, particularly when it comes to matric certification. RefCheck data showed one in every 25 candidates claiming to have a matric certificate is simply not registered and no record of their studies exist. Many who claim to have a matric qualification in fact only have a subject certificate, or are in the process of getting that qualification.
Tertiary qualifications frequently have invalid dates and incomplete courses or defaulted payments. Major tertiary institutions have been hit hard including the University of Venda, where 50 students gained entrance with fraudulent matric certificates, and Unisa, which reported that it had prosecuted 94 cases of qualifications fraud consisting mainly of fraudulent matric certificates between 2010 and 2013. Furthermore, global qualifications are just as unreliable, with more than 30% of candidates being unable to supply paperwork to support their global qualifications claims.
On a positive note, Brown says technology is playing an active role in enhancing background checks. As an example, the South African Police Service introduced the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) to enable companies to conduct criminal checks based on electronic fingerprints. This significantly improved the accuracy of the results obtained.
So, how does a business ensure that seemingly legitimate qualifications are indeed the real deal? For their own peace of mind many businesses around the world are now turning to managed services to verify all candidates. RefCheck currently services thousands of clients via an online consent driven platform.
On the whole, Brown confirmed that South Africa has a well-established background screening industry and is constantly moving forward to meet the requirements of the South African market.