Critical comment

Why integrity is key in the workplace


The public broadcaster has become an open joke. Earlier this month, SABC employees were again found to have fraudulent matric documents, with more than 2 200 staffers without a shred of proof that they had passed high school. In fact, a senior finance administrator was found to be in possession of a diploma as a beauty therapist.

If that was not damaging enough, SABC CEO Hlaudi Motsoeneng came back with a backlash of his own. People with degrees were a drain on the SABC, he believed. This after a skills audit found senior management at the SABC lacked strategic thinking skills.

For an institution supposedly dedicated to objective, fair and accurate news for a democratic country, these latest findings underscore the level of corruption and dishonesty in South Africa. Bottom line, Mr Motsoeneng—a document that is not authentic is a form of fraud. A qualification unrelated to the position held is not only irresponsible but unethical too. And hiring someone who does facials for a living to look after finance is not rational, is it?

Facing up to dishonesty

In one respect, of course, the beleaguered CEO is correct. A degree does not do the work. A piece of paper—a scroll, a certificate—cannot make a strategic decision or implement a new policy. It is a person—with skills, experience, proven ability and a sense of accountability—who does the work. As such, we would expect that person to be honest, transparent and principled.

It’s not the lack of qualification that outrages us. A few tests can recognise prior learning or on-the-job experience, or a proven track record in your field will establish credibility. No, it is the deeply rooted dishonesty that disturbs us. And the attempt to dismiss the dishonesty is what angers us. This is where the matter of integrity comes into play. And new studies indicate that the level of integrity a person demonstrates might even be more important that person’s qualifications.

So who cares about a Matric anyway?

Last year, SA celebrated its highest matric pass rate at 78.2%; the results enjoyed positive comment from media, educators and the job market. We can debate whether a lower education quality has contributed to this or not, but the fact remains that a matric certification is the first benchmark a potential employer will look at. A matric confirmation is the first real insight into the person you’re hiring.

However the second most important point of call should be the candidate’s level of integrity. The results of new studies indicate that there may well be a correlation between a lack of skills, qualifications and a low level of integrity. The reason for this would be simple. The less likely an employee is to be appointed to a position, based purely on qualifications, and with a lack of these qualifications in place, the more likely they are to become desperate and do whatever it takes to enhance their chances in the workplace.

With South Africa’s reputation for corruption, a local qualification and integrity verification is not only proof to educational instruction gained, but also an investigation into the integrity and honesty of the application.

Today anyone with a computer and a printer can make up a certificate. It is important to have independent and trusted specialists to verify the results—this applies equally to international qualification verifications.

With the latest SABC debacle, we have to wonder how the HR departments are managing existing staff or recruiting new talent. From the lack of qualification, we could assume nepotism and collusion are more important than the right certificate or CV.

For companies, a trusted verification process comprised of ethics and integrity testing - is a credible way to ensure you have the right employees to do the right jobs. The SABC should consider it to corruption-proof its brand because liars should be in the fourth estate.

Jenny Reid, Managing Director of iFacts

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Issue 71


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