Skills Development Providers (SDPs) & Training Providers

Plagiarism, Qualification and Intellectual Property Fraud

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    When economic times are tough, and jobs are few, there are many temptations to cheat.

    Students will know about plagiarism – when you are writing a paper, an article or a thesis and you use someone else’s words, you need to put the words in brackets and state the original author of the words.
    Qualification and Intellectual Property fraud usually takes place in the workplace and related businesses.

    First qualification fraud. There have been a number of media reports of people getting into employment by using a fake qualification. The sellers of the fake qualification are committing fraud, and the buyer risks being found out – and losing their job. If they are publicly named and shamed, they risk their entire future career. The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) will now be playing a major role in checking qualifications.

    Now Intellectual Property fraud. This is of major interest to the skills-universe community. In order for training and skills development providers to deliver on their contracts, they use material, which has been developed especially for the qualification they are offering. Most often the material has been developed by a developer, and the provider pays to purchase the material.

    Where does intellectual property fraud come in? When the seller of the material has no right to the material, when the seller has just copied material that someone else has developed. The original developer owns the rights to the material they developed – they own the copyright. Nobody else has the right to take over, or use, or sell the material – without the specific permission of the original developer.

    What are the consequences of intellectual property fraud? The seller who has sold material without permission may be sued by the copyright owner – the seller may have to pay penalties and all the legal costs – not only their own, but also all of the legal costs of the person who has been cheated.

    How do you know if the seller has the right to sell the material? That is difficult, but if the material is very much cheaper than other quotes that would be something to be concerned about. Asking questions about the content to see whether the seller really understands the content might indicate that they are not the developer.
    Definitely get a written undertaking that the material has been developed by them, or that they have permission to sell the material – so that if you find out that they have committed intellectual property fraud, that would be part of your evidence presented in court.

    From a skills-universe perspective, if it is brought to our attention that one of our members has committed intellectual property fraud, and is selling the material to our community, we will immediately delete the member and block them from returning.

    So the questions for skills-universe members:
    • Are you aware of anyone selling material that they have no right to,
    • Have you purchased material that you are not sure about, and might be using someone else’s material
    • How do you go about checking whether the seller has the copyright to sell the material?

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    Terrence Coombes

    “From a skills-universe perspective, if it is brought to our attention that one of our members has committed intellectual property fraud, and is selling the material to our community, we will immediately delete the member and block them from returning.”… I absolutely agree on this action, however, I feel we should be acting a little more vigorous.

    As a suggestion; would it not be better for the industry to “name and shame” such organizations/individuals? After all, these materials are not only offered on the Skills Universe platform but on others (OLX, Gumtree etc) too. So when a possible client is searching for materials, all possible actions can be taken to inform people of the quality offering this individual or organization delivers.

    Tass Schwab

    Ah, Sylvia, a topic close to my heart. We recently had an incident that had one of our Clients and our Development team (that we are Agents for) uncover an entire den of thieves. Our Development team discovered that their QCTO Material was being re-sold by some of the purchasers!

    It takes a lot of money to develop a Qualification and especially the QCTO ones that are recent. So how do you spot a problem?

    1.Ask for Samples, if they are the same from a number of Quotes, ask why.
    2.Always ask for an SLA with the Development Team.
    3. Ask if it has been accredited before and if proof of this can be sent.
    4.Really cheap material may be a red flag (it is a free market but a QCTO Qualification that is super cheap, question this) Just like you shop around for the best car, be careful what you are buying, it could really be voetstoets!
    5. Check to see how long the Agent (such as us) or Developer has been in the business. This is a good indicator that they are not in this for the money but the love!
    6. If they say they are selling Accredited Material, they are lying. The accreditation processes of the SETAs are linked to the individual training providers and the training provider’s Quality Management System, rollout plans, etc. We can therefore only supply you with “Accreditation Ready” material and we undertake to correct the material to meet the requirements of the various SETAs, as the training provider goes through the accreditation process and receives feedback from the SETA verifier.(this is quoted directly from one of the Development companies that act as agents for)
    7. Ask around, ask other people what they think of the Developers that you are purchasing from. There are many ethical practitioners here, seek them out.

    And finally, consider the bigger picture here. You have the livelihood of many people at stake here. They are sitting in your classroom hoping to make a difference to their lives. Care where it has come from, and care about how you are spending your money.

    Thank you for raising this topic Sylvia. I am looking forward to reading other peoples experiences, and advice.


    Thank you Tass – I think that we should develop your guidance into a file that can be added to the Helpdesk section. We could do it with a policy statement – as suggested below.

    Terrence – thank you for those suggestions.

    I would like to discuss with our Portal Publishing CEO Alan before confirming our policy on your suggestions, and then we should publish a policy statement on how we will react.

    My first thoughts are that I don’t think as Portal Publishing we should be taking those actions. However, in terms of the new SAQA guidelines, I think that we would be obliged to report the names and contact details to the QCTO and to SAQA, and they have the status to take the matter forward with legal or other actions of blacklisting, etc.

    Pierre Wepener

    Hello Sylvia,

    Thank you for this post. I am taking a very hardline on this and I am leaving no stone unturned. I have made formal Police Charges against two providers who are possibly selling other Developers’ Intellectual Property and re-selling it in a very Fraudulent manner as well.

    I’ve went to extreme lengths to find the Source Developers and received written affidavits from them, confirming that the alleged transgressors have had no legal right to “re-sell” the material.

    I have further more also located all the businesses that procured the very same material and they too have been implicated and named within my SAPS declarations. It is my opinion that they too have possibly not followed due diligence in confirming authenticity and ownership of the source learning material, and they are quite a few!

    I will allow the SAPS investigation to run its course and I am pursuing these matters to the full extend of the law. One of the “alleged” guilty parties made an effort to “run”, and I therefor published all his personal details on my own website with a reward of R10 000 to his location and whereabouts. He then very quickly re-appeared with dozens of excuses, and what bothers me the most that he works for one of the SETA’s. He also then implicated his source of the material and I have laid formal charges against them as well.

    The 2nd implicated person/ company was quick to respond with a “Accreditation Letter” from the QCTO,. The QCTO is possibly also indicated in this process and the charges spell out their OVERSIGHT role and accountability in the process of accreditation of providers and learning material.

    It is unacceptable that material”possibly” “passed” QCTO verification without them “possibly” not have verified the ownership of the material nor possibly not having reviewed the currency, and authenticity of the material. The 2nd implicated provider sells the material for 100’s of thousand of rand. This is FRAUD and not only theft of Intellectual Property. I will refrain from posting their details here until the Legal System has run its course.

    I am further taking it to the extreme and starting a Youtube Channel where everyone can join in and report these “corrupt fraudsters”. I will publicly name and shame them and ensure that not one of them will ever find a job nor run a business in this industry again. I am furious and this has happened once too many times now!

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Pierre Wepener. Reason: Spelling
    • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Pierre Wepener.
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