Tackling the menace of Fake Certificates in Kenya
The problem of fake certificates is a global challenge. The National Student Clearinghouse, a US organization that offers a certificate verification service, reports that prevalence of falsified academic credentials is a serious, prevalent and growing problem. In 2015 the New York Times reported on a billion-dollar industry consisting of 3,300 “diploma mills”. These were fake universities and colleges that sold certificates for all levels of certification, worldwide. We also have in the world many universities and colleges awarding certificates that they have no accreditation or mandate to do so.
The problem of buying totally fake academic certificates is only a small part of the problem. Some people who have genuine certificates, falsify their academic transcripts or even the final grade or classification of the qualification. In the recent past, counterfeiting of qualifications has been made easier through use of ICT and related technologies. In Africa, like elsewhere, higher education is highly sought-after and provides a measure of status and improved job prospects, which has made it more difficult for people to resist the temptation of adding or altering the qualifications that they have. The challenge in many countries, especially in Africa remains rampant, as employers or Government have not put in place any mechanisms to counter it. For example, it is generally thought that 30 to 40% of all qualifications in Africa are falsified and/or fake. But apart from South Africa many countries in Africa have not put in place systems to detect and deter the use of fake and falsified documents. In spite of this, In 2018, South Africa saw a sharp increase in the number of fraudulent qualifications reported to regulatory bodies such as the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
It is generally thought that fake credentials are becoming more common in Kenya. And here, they take the form of buying totally fake academic certificates, falsified documents, using documents that belong to other people, and certificates issued by colleges and universities that do not have manage to do so. Before enactment of the KNQF act of 2014, there was no centralized place for reporting of fake certificates in the country. This posed a serious problem for colleges, universities and employers. It undermined their legitimacy and reputation and robed honest candidates of opportunities for further education and/or employment.
For colleges and universities, fake qualifications pose a reputational risk – as other colleges, countries and employers do not trust their qualifications. If students with fake certificates from a specific college manage to gain entry on a falsified transcript, their performance will be below standard. Future applicants from that college or university may be disadvantaged by association. This also poses a risk to university selection criteria data and policy, as it damages the validity of using prior academic records from universities and colleges across the country as a predictor of success.
Another consequence is that a high prevalence of fraudulent qualifications has increased the tendency for universities to hire their own students mostly–for further study, or even employment, rather than recruiting from further afield. That’s because students who’ve already been trained by the institution are more easily verified and represent a known entity.
It is because of this observation that the KNQA is now putting in place a mechanism to verify and weed out fake certificates in the country. These include the use of a robust verification system, reference checking and competency-based interviews (policies, standards and guidelines still under development). For us to do this effectively, we are developing a system that links higher education institutions to a centralized database where third party queries may be done. The service will verify KCSE, KASNEB, TVET level and University level certificates and qualifications. The system also checks whether an academic institution is accredited by the relevant government body. To do this the system is currently recruiting all institutions that award qualifications in the country to register and to commit to submit data on their graduates in a timely manner.
While this is on-going the Authority through its VeriCert program has started on a pilot basis to verify certificates using a manual system that involves the use of forensic experts for corporate organizations only. It is hoped that lessons learnt from this process will assist in the development of a robust online qualifications verification system for Kenya. The service costs Ksh.1000 for each certificate verified and is available to corporate clients only. To use the service, send us a copy of the certificate and transcripts for the qualification that you intend to verify.
To apply for verification of your certificates click on the link below: