Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Universities blacklist woman for forging academic transcript to get job

Universities blacklist woman for forging academic transcript to get job
Students at SFB. Uwigase has been blacklisted for forging a transcript to get a job.
When she forged an academic transcript to secure a job in a non-government organisation, Bebey Ugirase had no idea she was knocking at a jail door.
Ugirase, who was last month convicted of forging academic transcripts from the School of Finance and Banking (SFB), will now not be allowed to study in any other institution of higher learning in the country, officials said.
The former People and Culture Manager (ostensibly, in charge of human resources) at Plan-Rwanda, an international NGO, was sentenced to a year in prison, after Gasabo Intermediate Court found her guilty of forging a bachelor’s degree from SFB.
After learning of the court decision, the school management told this paper that Ugirase’s case was referred to the school senate.
Elias Kiyaga, the director of communication at SFB, said when a student commits a serious offence in a public school, other public universities are notified so that they cannot admit the student again.
Basically, they blacklist the student.  
“We notified all the schools since we gave a copy to the National Council for Higher Education and the Ministry of Education,” he said.
A May 9 letter from SFB Rector to Kicukiro District Police Commander, a copy of which The New Times has seen, says Ugirase was a student of Kigali Institute of Science and Technology and Management (Kist) from 2003-2005.
Ugirase, like her coursemates in the Department of Human Resources Management, was transferred to SFB when government relocated the faculty of management to this school, starting with the academic year 2006.
“After that academic year (2006), Bebey Ugirase dropped out of her studies yet she still had the courses she failed to be cleared.”
Ugirase would wait until December 2009, when she wrote to SFB, a copy of the letter we have, saying that she had been sick. In the letter, she further said Plan-Rwanda had offered her a job to cater for her family.
Therefore, she asked to be allowed to repeat the courses she had failed, so that she can be able to graduate.
However, SFB maintains that after this letter, the student didn’t follow up; she simply disappeared.
How she got caught
Sources from Plan-Rwanda speaking on condition of anonymity to save their jobs, told this paper that since 2007, when Ugirase was employed, the organisation was characterised by an era of frequent dismissals of staff, which they allege, as a human resource manager, she was behind.
Most dismissals, they say, were unfair. Thus, our source disclosed, suspicion over her qualifications was raised, most especially in 2012, when an audit committee carried out an exercise in the company, coinciding with a reportedly ongoing harassment of some staff members.
The staff suggested to the regional office to commission an investigation into Ugirase’s qualifications, after what they called a string of professional mistakes that went on for years.
In the May 9 letter, Plan-Rwanda Country Director asked SFB for the official certification of Ugirase’s degree in Human Resources Management.
In response, SFB acting Rector told Plan-Rwanda that Ugirase dropped out of school in 2006, having failed some courses.
Yet, the academic transcript, a copy of which this paper has obtained, indicates that Ugirase graduated from SFB in 2007.
A part from the confusion on dates of graduation, four factors indicated to the school that their student forged a degree.
First was that, according to the letter, SFB did not hold any graduation in 2007 since students had to wait for master’s graduates, which was the following year.
Secondly, it was indicated that the format of her transcript started being issued from year 2010 onwards, meaning by 2007, a different format was in use.
Thirdly, the transcript bears a registration number which is different from the registration number she was admitted to Kist with in 2003.
Keeping mum
Several efforts to contact Plan-Rwanda were futile. However, an official who preferred anonymity because they are not authorised to speak on behalf of the organisation, said the matter is confidential.
“We are worried how someone could work here for five years in a senior position and no one would know about it, yet she used to push for some alarming decisions against staff; she pushed for several dismissals here,” said a source.
The source added that after the incident, there was no meeting called to warn the staff about forgery “a part from asking us to never talk about the case.”
The source said there is still suspicion of forged academic papers in the institution and they would wish the management to carry a general investigation exercise amongst all the staff.
Reliable sources tell this paper that the prosecution in Gasabo Intermediate Court has appealed against the one-year sentence against Ugirase.
However, SFB maintains that the verdict “will have a positive impact since it sends a strong warning and it will deter others who thought they could forge SFB transcripts and get away with it.”
Rare case 
The National Council for Higher Education (NHCE) maintains that cases of forging academic transcripts from local universities were “very rare.”
Antoinette Mbanzamuheto, the principal foreign credentials officer in the Council, said: “Once, last year, we learnt about one case from Kigali Institute of Education and the case was referred to Police to handle.”
The official said since December, last year, they dealt with 19 cases of the equivalence, a document that is given to the students bringing to the Rwandan field foreign degrees to confirm its validity and value to the local field.
The applicant always submits this document alongside their foreign degrees.
“Most of the documents that were found not to be authentic were certificates in nursing fromDR Congo,” she said, adding that these cases are currently before court.
“We have now taken serious measures; when we issue the equivalence, we publish it on our web site. During application, the employers check to make sure the candidate has got the document from us. The candidate can also come and complain if they see that we did not publish their equivalence if any,” said Mbanzamuheto.
Without mentioning the number, the police spokesman for the central region, Superintendent Albert N. Gakara, said they receive many cases of forgery in cheques, contracts between parties and even, academic papers.
He commends the ministry of health that has been discovering some cases during an investigation among the staff.
“Some had forged degrees from neighbouring countries and they were caught while applying for their equivalence in our medical field,” he said, warning defaulters that “punishments are awaiting them” and warned the public, not to take for granted all documents presented to them.


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