'Misrepresenting qualifications is fraud'

Labour law specialist Patrick Deale says theoretically, Hlaudi Motsoeneng could be charged with fraud.

FILE: Labour law specialist Patrick Deale says theoretically, Hlaudi Motsoeneng could be charged with fraud. Picture: Supplied

CAPE TOWN - The question, 'does willfully falsifying or misrepresenting one's qualification amount to fraud', has been an issue that's come under the spotlight again after news that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)'s Hlaudi Motsoeneng has now permanently assumed the position of Chief Operations Officer (COO).

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi announced the news on Tuesday evening, saying the decision was made following a recommendation by the SABC board.

There have been concerns over Motsoeneng's permanent employment, particularly after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's damning findings against him.

In a report, the Public Protector found Motsoeneng's appointment was irregular and that he had misinterpreted his qualifications.

Her investigation also showed that Motsoeneng received three appraisals which increased his salary from R1.5 million to R2.4 million a year.

While Motsoeneng is adamant he passed matric, it was found that he in fact did not.

'CAN BE CHARGED WITH FRAUD'

Labour law specialist Patrick Deale says theoretically, Motsoeneng could be charged with fraud.

"It undermines the fundamentals of the working relationship, on the basis that he has undermined the core thing that holds any employment relationship together. And that is the element of trust."

Deale says, "In the workplace and in the working relationship, it is fraudulent and it's an act of fraud between two citizens; an employer and employee, to make a misrepresentation to defraud someone."

He says the act of lying about qualifications is something that happens quite frequently.

"Unfortunately it happens often. And in fact there's an industry - or a sort of a sub-industry - that operates in producing falsified certificates on the one hand and a counter industry that is designed to depict them."

According to Deale, however wrong it may be, it's done because people need a qualification to get a foot in the door on the work ladder.

"They do things that are wrong and fraudulent because to get the job, they'll do anything."

Deale says such an act of dishonesty creates an element of doubt about the person and can sever a working relationship.

"If he's done it once, he can do it again. How often has he done it since then? It becomes a pervasive sense of distrust about the person."

Meanwhile, the communications minister has said an independent law firm cleared Motsoeneng of wrongdoing.

Muthambi said the decision to ratify his appointment was both rational and lawful and that the SABC had appointed an independent law firm to look into the allegations against Motsoeneng.

At the same time Madonsela has reacted to Motsoeneng's permanent appointment with surprise and is still waiting for a response from the public broadcaster.

Motsoeneng has also come under fire recently for suggesting journalists should be licensed and over claims that he received a wife as a gift from Venda chiefs.