The sordid scam of fake degrees

Not only Pakistan but many countries including US indulge in using bogus certificates
Lahore, June 25: Following the detection of innumerable politicians holding fake educational degrees in Pakistan, warning bells are also ringing for both private sector and government departments to 'hunt out' those employees who may have falsified on their resumes to attain jobs.

As political parties may not just be the only arenas infected by the crooks in this context, warning signs are beginning to flash for employers to watch out for the cheats in their vicinities too.

For genuine graduates, receiving a university degrees is the culmination of years of hard work, yet many holding prized offices in both private and public sectors today may have managed to obtain these certificates without ever attending a class, taking an exam or even opening a text book for a change.

The United States Federal Trade Commission had viewed in its 2005 report, and it may well be applicable in Pakistan's case, that if a person holds a Master's degree but no bachelor's degree, alarms should ring.

This Commission had stated in its report that there may be incidents, where degrees have been earned out of sequence or more quickly than would normally be the case. According to this report, if people presenting a Master's degree for a certain purpose are asked to submit their Bachelor's degrees too, there are bright chances that a few more scandals will unearth.

While the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan might still be concentrating on verifying the authenticity of the Bachelor's degrees presented to it by the politicians, it won't thus be a bad idea to also ask the lawmakers presenting a Master's degree, to show their respective Bachelor's degrees.

Although the afore-mentioned US institution had acknowledged the fact that it can sometimes be difficult to identify fake qualifications, it still warned the employers that they should also check the credentials of any schools with which they are not familiar.

This American institution had also warned employers against relying on web site details and had suggested checking directly with the school or university itself, when trying to confirm whether a particular person had actually studied there or not-asserting many diploma mills churning out such certificates go to great lengths to make themselves appear as legitimate as possible by creating sophisticated web sites.

The United States Federal Trade Commission had viewed that these web sites display a detailed description of faculty members and courses on offer, besides providing contact phone numbers and legitimate addresses.

It was not long before the fears of the US Commission actually came true and a newly- appointed Pastor Steven Flockhart at the West Palm Beach Church of Florida was found guilty of using fabricated credentials to seek the job.

Priest Flockhart consequently submitted resignation to church leaders after a thorough scrutiny of his resume had revealed that he had actually obtained his Bachelor's, Master's and Doctorate degrees through correspondence courses offered by an unaccredited Georgia theological school.

A research conducted has revealed that these phony degrees come in two types; they include those certificates which are made to look like as if they have been issued by a legitimate university and those offered by "non-accredited" universities or the online diploma mills.

Interestingly, both types of bogus degrees have already been identified in the case of Pakistani lawmakers, whose party leaders are currently haunted and hounded by allegations ranging from immorality to cheating at the cost of nation's future.

During the last decade or so, when it has become known to all in the US that obtaining bogus degrees is nothing more than a child's play, employers are increasingly concerned about the proliferation of fake degrees and qualifications in the marketplace.

Both public and private sector organizations in the US are well aware today of the costs associated with hiring someone who did not actually have the qualifications which he or she may have stated in his/her Curriculum Vitae (CV), knowing that a firm could also leave itself open to legal action should any mistakes be made by its 'under-qualified' staff members who may have faked their educational credentials.

Officials in the US state of Oregon have taken extra steps over the years to counter the fake degree problem, by establishing the Office of Degree Authorization (ODA).

The ODA maintains lists of accredited academic institutions which are recognized by government and private-sector employers in the state. Efforts of the Oregon state follow an earlier national approach to the problem. During the 1980s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had established a task force, called "Dip Scam," which was designed to look into the spread of fake degrees and was entrusted with the task to close down as many illegitimate schools as possible.

This task force was closed in 1991, when its head Allen Ezell had opted to resign.After relinquishing his job, Allen Ezell went out writing a book called "Degree Mills: the billion dollar industry."

In his book, the former FBI Task Force chief had estimated that tens of thousands of fake qualifications were generated each year, and the problem was bound to worsen because of the increasing demand.

In September 2005, a Hong Kong woman was sentenced to 12 months for using fake degrees to secure employment with a local company.At a hearing in the Hong Kong District Court, the Police Commercial Crime Bureau had pressed the charges that the woman had used phony degree certificates obtained from two universities in Singapore and one in the United States.

Meanwhile in the United Arab Emirates, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has been screening degrees provided by job applicants seeking working visas for the region for a few years now.

In South Korea, where demand for English language teachers in on the rise, the authorities in Seoul have recently made it mandatory for candidates in US, UK and Canada etc to send their actual diplomas or a notarized copy performed by the nearest South Korean consulate.

This was done to counter the felons attempting to use fake degrees in order to teach in Korea. Just a fortnight ago, a nursing student at the University of Bedfordshire in United Kingdom has been sentenced to imprisonment for 15 months by the Peterborough Crown Court for defrauding the UK National Health Service (NHS) of nearly 28,000.

Investigations revealed that the nursing student Isabel Moyo had used various false documents to gain her place on a three-year nursing diploma course, commissioned and funded by the NHS.

As reported earlier by The News, the menace of buying degrees from online diploma mills has also disgraced former Iranian interior minister Ali Kordan, who was later impeached by the Iranian parliament in November 2008 for allegedly lying about his credentials.

Kordan had claimed to have obtained an honorary doctorate degree in law from the Oxford University, but a probe had found him guilty of acting fraudulently. British politician and author Jeffrey Howard Archer, a member of parliament and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, was also accused of providing false evidence of his academic qualifications.

Archer, made a Life Peer in 1992 by the Queen, was accused of buying a fake diploma from a US institution to get admission at the Oxford University.Kostas Margaritis, a Greek politician and member of New Democracy Party, was found guilty of obtaining a degree from the Shelbourne University, another institution from the US consortium of diploma mills.

Antoine Zahra, a Lebanese parliamentarian, had claimed a diploma in business studies from the University of Harrington, an unaccredited institution.Antonie Zahra was among the 14 Lebanese politicians accused of presenting counterfeit degrees in recent years.

George Weah, a retired Liberian football player-turned-politician and FIFA world player in 1995 with 135 international goals to his credit, had also listed a degree from Parkwood University, yet another unaccredited diploma mill operational in the US.

Nigerian politician and a former governor, Dr Andy Uba, is another one in the list with disputed academic credentials. He had claimed to have graduated from the Buxton University in UK, yet another institution which had turned out to be an unaccredited diploma mill. The news

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Fake degree case
Rawalpindi: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Member Provincial Assembly (MPA) Malik Yasir Raza Thursday appeared in Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi Bench along with his lawyer Sardar Abdul Raziq to defend his educational qualifications.

The LHC would hear the final arguments in the case after a week.

Earlier, Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (FBISE) Controller Examination Manzoor Ahmed confirmed that the MPA had qualified the intermediate examination from the Federal Board, however his photograph could not be verified from the record as the board discards the record after every 10 years. FBISE official told the bench that it could not be verified that either his photograph in the record was changed or not.

LHC Judge Justice Khawaja Imtiaz Ahmad also recorded the statement of the MPA who said that all his educational certificates were original and tempering in record at any level did not take place.

Counsel for the prosecution Ilyas Sheikh informed the court that there was clear difference in the photographs of Raza affixed on his FA certificate and on his BA degree.

He requested the court to check both the portraits thoroughly to mark the difference between the two photographs. The LHC adjourned the hearing for final arguments for the period of one week. Daily times

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Fake degrees
The whole story about Fake Degree cases have disappointed many people as it has exposed the real face of politicians and this shows that those politicians who can cheat in obtaining fake degrees and by betraying people they have won elections, how could they be interested in solving people's problem. I hope that HEC must announce all those names who have fake degrees so that people get to know which politicians are betraying them. Political parties must also feel shame that their members have done this type of shameful act and must ensure that these politicians didn't get another chance for contesting elections. F.P report

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