Saturday, September 26, 2020

Botswana – Hire in a hurry, regret in leisure

In the rush to address the problem of skills shortage, Botswana is importing what the Indian media has branded “graduates from institutions of fake educational certificates”

Morula Morula, a reporter with the Botswana Guardian newspaper, likes to regale friends with the story of a job hunting expatriate, fresh from India, who turned up at a local secondary school.

The school head teacher looked curiously at the Indian young man standing on the other end of the desk, clutching a sheaf of degree certificates that said: “BSc Maths, PhD English, BSc Agriculture, BSc Chemistry, BSc Biology”. He nodded his head sympathetically and said: “I am sorry, sir, at the moment, we only have openings for Setswana teachers.” The Indian young man scratched his head and asked, “Setswana? What is Setswana? Just give me two weeks and I will present my degree certificate in Setswana.”

By and large, Botswana’s growing problem of fake educational qualifications, work experience and reference certificates being presented by expatriates remains a subject of xenophobic jokes, to regale the country’s chattering class and entertain cocktail parties.

Once in a while, an aggrieved Motswana worker who has just lost his job will knock on the door of a local newsroom to complain that he was fired because an expatriate he was understudying and who is using fake CVs wanted to renew his contract and work permit.
A few years ago, the local media exposed an Indian doctor who bungled surgical operations because he had got the job using forged medical school certificates.

Earlier this year, Botswana junior medical doctors wrote to the Ministry of Health, complaining that “there is news that some of the doctors who were hired by government and hand picked from China, are now found not to posses medical degrees.”

These cases were, however, brushed aside as isolated incidents. A letter by an aggrieved Indian expatriate addressed to the University of Botswana Vice Chancellor, Professor Bojosi Otlhogile, however, points to an organized network by Asian fraudsters, who are helping colleagues get jobs in Botswana through “dressed up” CVs and forged university certificates.

The Indian whistle blower, who is an insider in the network, decided to spill the beans because his application for a teaching position at the university was turned down and the job given to an Indian friend, who presented a bogus degree certificate.

In the confidential letter, he states: “One thing is certain, University of Botswana is nurturing a lot of this fraud, and one can get a job with a bogus post graduate degree, or even manage to obtain an MBA with secondary school leaving certificate. It is a shame to allow this trend to continue. And for myself, I would not have written this letter, had I been given the job, and I would have roped in some more of under-qualified, unemployed friends for a fat salary!!”

The whistle blower further exposed one of his colleagues from India, working at UB with a fake degree, and revealed how the colleague offered to organize a bogus post graduate degree for him so that he can get a job with the university. He also exposed a friend working at the Princess Marina Hospital with a padded CV and fake university degree.

He further revealed how the friend managed to enroll for an MBA degree at the University of Botswana using the bogus CV and degree certificates.

To show how serious he is, he lists names and residential addresses and pointed UB authorities to “the Registrar, University of Chennai” in India to verify his claims.
“I wonder if the university authorities are aware of these fraudulent certificates which are freely available in India. Do they verify the authenticity of these fraudulent certificates?” asks the confidential letter.

India’s Nepal News says the menace of fake certificates has spread all over the country. Personalities at higher places in government bureaucracy, universities, banks, and the likes, can easily be found with fake certificates. “It was said, once upon a time, that if one wished to land a lucrative job, all he had to do was come to India and approach some fake educational institutions through designated brokers. A deal could be struck depending on the buyers’ choice for the level of qualification they wished to obtain. The buyers could even dictate the marks they wished to get in various subjects. Understandably, in such cases, the purse to be paid in lieu of the certificate with desired marks must have been fat.” These days, however, things are changing.

While job seekers still look for ways to jazz up their CVs, background screening has become the order of the day. No pay cheque, without a check is how Indian corporates work. As Indian resume-makers peg-up CVs at break-neck rate, the business of background screening is growing at the same speed. CVs, certificates and antecedents of applicants are run through a Sherlock Holmes special toothcomb before hiring. So much so that the current size of the background screening industry in India is estimated in billions of Pula and still counting.

Background checks are not entirely new to Indian companies. But, like in Botswana, those were more as a formality, not a stringent necessity. The process has now become tougher and organized.

As India gets smart towards ‘resume’ frauds ÔÇô most are now looking outside the country were screening procedures are just a formality and not as stringent.

In a letter to the Ministry of Health, local doctors have warned that it is a lapse that Botswana is making in a hurry and will regret in leisure. They point out that in the haste to address the shortage of doctors and other skilled personnel, government officials, who are recruiting expatriates, simply gloss over the background check procedure.

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