Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Botswana Innovation Hub Director and BTC Board member in fake PhD scandal

For many years, Geoffrey Gaone Seleka’s professional colleagues, business associates and everyone who is acquainted to him, address him as ‘Dr Seleka’. This is so because Seleka has, for all these years, managed to have everyone believe that he sweated and toiled for academic qualifications that include a Doctorate in Science, Information Technology, from Rochville University in the USA.

Sunday Standard investigations can however reveal that Rochville University is an unaccredited online university that is notorious for selling fake educational credentials and has no listed physical address. The university’s operations have since been declared illegal in the USA and its diploma and degree certificates are mailed from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Along with many similar enterprises, it is owned by the Karachi (Pakistan) based company called Axact.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has indicated that while Rochville University claims to be accredited by various organizations, none of them are recognized higher education accreditors. In fact, Sunday Standard has managed to confirm that indeed Rochville is a fake University that is accredited by fake accreditors. While on its website Rochville indicates that it is accredited and recognized by the Board of Online Universities Accreditation (BOUA), a quick check with the Council on Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education gave us a bold response; Consumers Beware: None of these accrediting agencies are recognized as college accreditors in the U.S.

The list of the bogus accreditors we got had 61 agencies and yes, BOUA, which Rochville swears by, is in the list of blacklisted accreditors. Sunday Standard also sought the help of the American Embassy in Botswana and they directed us to an organization called Better Business Bureau (BBB) which is based in the USA and helps people find and recommend businesses, brands and charities they can trust. Rochville University did not come out in the BBB database of accredited and trusted business enterprises. According to their fee structure posted on their website, to acquire a PhD qualification one has to pay $85 as application fee, $14 275 course fees and $55 as graduation audit fee. This therefore means a PhD certificate at Rochville costs $14 415 (about P140 000). Rochville is famous in the U.S. for being ‘the university that conferred an MBA Degree on a dog’.

In 2009, an organization called GetEducated Consumer Reporting Team, which investigates bogus institutions of learning, applied for MBA degree at Rochville University using the name of their dog, Chester Ludlow and paid $499 online. Rochville University didn’t disappoint as a week later, an express package arrived from a post office box in Dubai. The package contained Chester’s MBA degree, two sets of college transcript, a certificate of distinction in finance and a certificate of membership in the student council.

The dog had earned a GPA of 3.19. As bonus, Chester also received a Rochville University window decal for his car (the poor dog doesn’t own a car nor can it drive one). The Consumer Reporting Team said while Rochville charged $499, the average cost of a real distance MBA degree in the U.S. is close to $25 000. In 2012, three years after Chester earned his degree; Rochville University was cited as a degree mill and named as one of several online schools operating out of Pakistan. The Michigan courts ordered Rochville to cease operation and pay restitution to duped students in the U.S. According to a statement from Nicole Wilson of Top MBA Connect, an organization which ranks MBA programs in the U.S, degrees issued from Rochville University are “worthless, since they are either fraudulent or come from schools that aren’t governed by proper standards”.

Reached for comment, Seleka said he was not aware Rochville University was not accredited and had been classified an illegal institution in the U.S. He also failed to provide contacts for the university that conferred him the Doctorate degree despite having claimed he physically registered at the university during enrolment. He couldn’t also answer if the certificate was mailed to him or whether he physically attended the graduation. We had asked him to provide contacts for the Rochville University that he went to, after he had suggested we could be talking about a different Rochville University. Sunday Standard can however confirm that there is only one university in the U.S. called Rochville and it is the one accused of selling certificates.

When asked to give the title of his PhD thesis and its chapters, Seleka responded that his Masters modules and courses were taken into consideration, meaning he only ‘upgraded’ the version he used for his Masters and doesn’t have a thesis specifically dedicated to his PhD. He says it was “an extended analysis of Software Engineering Methodologies that I used in MSc”. We used internet search engine Google to locate the thesis but unfortunately it didn’t turn up. On further probing, Seleka said his qualification was not a PhD but a “Doctor of Science”. Sunday Standard enquired from several universities in Belgium, U.S.A. and Australia whether it was possible to be conferred the title ‘Dr’ without attaining PhD or an honorary bestowment and all of them responded that a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) qualification is required to earn the title unless the Doctorate degree is honorary.

We also wanted to find out from Seleka the names of his thesis examiners but he said “Since it was modular there was no oral examination but written assessment”. Sunday Standard can however confirm that for any conventional PhD qualification, the student has to write a thesis that has to be thoroughly examined by outside examiners and not by your PhD supervisors or your lecturers. Seleka said his Doctor of Science education was self-sponsored. The other information gathered by Sunday Standard is that while in some countries “Doctor of Science” used to be the title used for the standard doctorate in the sciences, the proper titles to use are Sc.D., D.Sc., S.D., D.S., or Dr.Sc. Seleka is currently the Director of Marketing, Communications and Registration at Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH), a company duly registered under the laws of Botswana to develop and manage Botswana’s first Science and Technology Park.

According to what he posted on his LinkedIn professional account, he joined BIH in 2012 and is “responsible for selling/positioning Botswana as a Science and Technology destination, locally and internationally. In addition to that I am responsible for developing relevant incentives to attract the Science and Technology organizations to Botswana”. The company is mandated to support new ventures and existing companies as well as attract companies, universities, research institutions and advanced training institutes to establish in the Botswana Innovation Hub. Seleka is also a Board Member of Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL).

From 2008 until he joined BIH in 2012, Seleka was Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) Director at Barclays where he was accountable for end to end Information and Communication Technologies for Barclays Bank Botswana. Some of his responsibilities were IT Security and IT Risk for the bank. He was also accountable for translating Business Strategy into IT Strategy. He was also accountable for IT Business As Usual Activities, including Infrastructure Support, Core Banking Applications Support, and Service Management. Prior to joining Barclays, Seleka was Head of Information Technology at Jwaneng Diamond Mine from September 2007 until October 2008. He was accountable for IT Programmes, IT Risk and Governance, IT Service Management, and IT Strategy. According to his LinkedIn professional profile, Seleka is also Board Chairman at Nogid Pty Ltd Group, which is a real estate, logistics, Information Communication Technologies and Hotel and Catering Company.

In his professional profile at BTCL where he is a Board Member, Seleka is stated as having academic qualifications that include a Doctor of Science, Information Technology, from Rochville, USA and an MBA in Quality and Project Management from Madonna University, USA.

He is also said to hold a MSc. Computer Information Systems from University of Detroit Mercy, USA and a BSC/BA in Computer Information Systems and General Psychology from the same institution. Interestingly, on his LinkedIn account, a business-oriented social networking service mainly used for professional networking with more than 364 million users, Seleka only addressed himself as ‘Dr’ but didn’t mention Rochville University where he supposedly was conferred the title. He only stated his last school as University of Detroit Mercy. This is where he acquired his MSc. Computer Information Systems and a BSC/BA in Computer Information Systems and General Psychology.

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