Graduates with fake degrees working in Singapore is an issue that goes back a long time

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) revealed that it is currently investigating 15 work pass holders in Singapore who had declared education qualifications from Manav Bharti University in their work pass applications.

The private university in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh was recently caught for having sold 36,000 degrees across 17 states in over 11 years, the Times of India reported earlier this month.

“If found to have falsely declared their educational qualifications, their work passes will be immediately revoked and they will be permanently barred from employment in Singapore,” said an MOM spokesperson in a statement on Wednesday (17 Feb).

MOM added that the onus is on the employers to ensure the “authenticity and quality” of the academic qualifications of the foreigners they wish to hire, particularly before making a work pass application for them.

MOM also said that as an additional safeguard, it carries out its own checks after the employer submits the staff members’ academic documents.

“We scrutinise higher-risk academic institutions, companies and individuals more closely, conduct additional checks and require submission of verification proof of the qualifications declared in selected applications,” it said.

Past cases of foreigners caught for providing fake qualifications in their applications

However, this is not the first time such an incident has happened in Singapore. In fact, the actual scale of this issue in Singapore is much bigger than what most would have expected.

In 2015, an Indian-born Singapore citizen Nisha Padmanabhan was embroiled in a controversy after she included her MBA degree in her job application. Her MBA was issued from the web-based Southern Pacific University (SPU), a suspected degree mill.

Ms Nisha was an employee of the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), now called Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). After its initial investigations, IDA concluded that Ms Nisha “did not deceive” the statutory board as her MBA “was not a relevant certificate for her position in IDA”.

However, it later changed its position and said it was “continuing to look into” the matter, as public uproar continued.

At the end, IDA confirmed its position – that Ms Nisha’s employment was not based on considerations of her MBA degree “as her position required only a bachelor’s degree, and that it also considered her relevant skills and prior work experience”, according to the Straits Times.

In 2019, Mikhy Brochez, the foreigner at the centre of the Singapore’s HIV Registry leak, had in fact used forged university degrees to get jobs at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) when he was working in Singapore.

When TP was asked by the media how Brochez was able to be recruited by the school with forged degrees, a TP spokesman said, “Based on the documents that Brochez submitted in his job application in 2008, he met the job requirements.”

Brochez, who started working in Singapore in 2008, managed to impress TP so much that the institute even allowed him to set up a Child Psychology Clinic within the polytechnic, for him to provide consultancy and assessment services when he was with TP.

However, UK newspaper The Independent later uncovered that Brochez’s credentials were fake.

With regard to TP and NP hiring Brochez despite his qualifications being forged, Mr Alvin Ang, MD of Quantum Leap Career Consultants, call the oversight by TP and NP “a serious breach of professional ethics”. He said, “You are hiring him as a lecturer. The academic aspect of his degree is the most important part, so how could you miss that out?”

Besides this case, in September 2019, Pakistani national Mohammad Sohail was charged and convicted by the district court here for lying in his permanent residence (PR) application to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) more than 20 years ago.

Sohail first arrived in Singapore in 1995 on an Employment Pass (EP) and quickly married a Singaporean woman the following year. Between September and October 1997, he applied for PR and falsely stated he had a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Punjab.

In actual fact, he had submitted a fake degree, which he obtained from his cousin in Pakistan. It’s not known if he had also used the same fake degree to obtain his EP earlier so as to be allowed to work in Singapore. In any case, Sohail’s PR application was approved in December 1997.

What’s even more boggling is that it took ICA more than 20 years to uncover the fake degree sent in by the Pakistani and how he obtained the EP to work in Singapore in 1995 before he married the Singaporean woman.

The Pakistani man is not the only one who managed to con the ICA in granting PR status to them by producing a fake degree.

In January last year, a 38-year-old Filipino was jailed for “providing false statements” to ICA on her and her daughter’s PR applications.

De Luna Noriza Dancel submitted false documents purportedly from the Centro Escolar University during her PR application in 2008 and 2009. She was eventually granted PR status by ICA but was only arrested about a decade later in 2017 for submitting the fake documents. And in took about another 2 more years for De Luna to be prosecuted and sentenced.

These issues are not recent.

In 2007, China national Hong Tao was arrested after it was found that his degree from the Anhui Institute of Electro Mechanics was fake. The man, who worked as an engineer in Singapore for eight years before his arrest, was granted PR in September 2006.

As for the recent fake degree scandal uncovered at Manav Bharti University recently, many netizens have also shared their personal encounters with their colleagues from India who allegedly have only the bare minimum knowledge and skills to carry out a certain task.

To make it worse, they even said that higher management turns a blind eye to the situation despite knowing that these foreign workers have below-par capabilities.

According to MOM, in the last five years, an average of 660 foreigners have been permanently barred each year from working in Singapore for submitting fake education qualifications in their work pass applications.

Over the same period, an average of eight foreigners each year were convicted and penalised by the courts for false declarations of educational qualifications.

Even so, records by MOM shows that the number of Employment Pass (EP), S Pass and Work Permit granted to foreigners have been, on average, steadily increasing since 2007.

The numbers for S Pass have been on the rise since 2007, except for a slight dip in 2020. However, the figures for EP and Work Permit have been fluctuating from 2007 to 2019, with a slight reduction in 2020.

Based on all the previous cases of fake education qualifications highlighted in the article, it clearly shows that this problem has been happening for a long time now.

These cases are just some of those that have been reported and discovered. As such, one can’t help to wonder if authorities are doing much to prevent such reoccurrence in the country.

 

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