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Some officials in Africa, mainly Liberia, lying about credentials

NAIROBI, Kenya —A little misrepresentation on one’s resume might not seem like a big deal when applying for a low-ranking position, but one may never know where their professional career will end up. History and ongoing experience have proven that these small lies can come back to threaten a person’s career and future.  Although falsifying career and academic credentials and professional progress is universal, the practice seems common in several African nations and among Africans who once lived and worked abroad before entering politics, government or the private sector in their respective nations.

In some countries, especially in developed nations, when people lied about their credentials or on their resumes, the consequences can be very grave including termination or resignation from their jobs, being publicly shamed or even going to prison.

Liv Løberg of Norway

Few  years ago, a top Norwegian bureaucrat lied about being a registered nurse and having two degrees. She was sentenced to 14 months in prison. According to public information, before she became a convicted felon, Liv Løberg held top administrative jobs within health care and other public sectors, and was also a former politician for the Progress Party in Norway.

In 2010, a journalist revealed that Løberg did not have the degrees she claimed she did from the London School of Economics, Queen Mary College and Norges Handelshøyskole. She wasn’t even a registered nurse. In actuality, Løberg dropped out of high school and only had one year of practical nurse education.  In 2012, she was sentenced to 14 months in prison and fined 1 million NOK.

Following the mishandling of the response to Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. and the Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown’s resignation, discrepancies in Brown’s resume were uncovered. Brown claimed to have overseen the emergency services division for the city of Edmund, Okla. Sources revealed that Brown was an assistant to the city manager, which is more like an intern. Brown also claimed to have been a political science professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, but school officials said he was never a member of the faculty. Brown is now a radio show host.

A top Wall Street analyst lied about studying at MIT when he actually attended Boston University.  In fact,  at one time, the investment firm Salomon Smith Barney’s Jack Grubman was Wall Street’s highest-paid analyst with a salary of $20 million per year. Then it was uncovered that he never attended MIT like he told his employers.  According to reports, and in an interview with BusinessWeek, Grubman said that he lied because he “probably felt insecure.”

Although the practice of lying about academic and professional credentials is becoming common globally, especially in Africa, few have been punished or made shamed. In Kenya, top political leaders and high State officers were caught up in an academic certificate forgery fiasco that threatened their professional and political careers only 10 months to the 2017 polls.

Kenyan MP Oscar Sudi

One of those mired in the potentially damaging farce was Jubilee radical MP Oscar Sudi (Kapseret constituency), who joins a long list of prominent personalities, including governors, MPs and top civil servants. At the time, the country’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission revealed that more public officers who possess forged academic papers were going to be arraigned in court.

The EACC Chief Executive Officer Halakhe Waqo had informed MPs that investigations were then ongoing to establish the validity of the academic papers of various public servants, including legislators, senior and junior government officers.

“The Ethics and Integrity department of the EACC is conducting ongoing investigations into fake certificates for public servants. It will be shocking to see some in court,” Halakhe said.

The Commission for University Education in Kenya also warned that those who are caught with fake academic certificates would face the law.

“We authenticate certificates both from local and international universities. This is a warning to both leaders and individuals who will be found possessing fake academic papers that they will be nullified,” CUE chief executive David Some told the Star newspaper.

In South Africa, a top politician and anti-apartheid activist Pallo Jordan resigned as an MP after it was revealed that his academic qualifications were fake. A former cabinet minister, Jordan first served under ex-President Nelson Mandela and is generally referred to as Dr. Jordan. But the media, according to sources, reported that  he had lied on his resume about having a doctorate degree.

In response, the sitting ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe in a statement said: “A man of Comrade Pallo Jordan’s intellect does not need to perpetuate deceit, he must be given time to deal with his guilt.”    In view of that, the governing African National Congress (ANC) said Mr. Jordan had apologized for “deceiving government and the people of South Africa for many years”.

A report in South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper at the time said that its investigation found that the ANC veteran had no degrees or diplomas from the University of Wisconsin-Madison or the London School of Economics, the two institutions cited on his CV.

Pallo Jordan of South Africa

An ANC veteran, Mr. Jordan, 72, began serving the ANC in exile and rose through its ranks, returning to South Africa after the party was unbanned to become its spokesman. Sources say he went on to serve in several ministerial posts after the end of white minority rule in 1994 until 2009.

In Johannesburg, the BBC’s Pumza Fihlani reported that Mr. Jordan is a respected political figure in South Africa and the news has caused a stir in the country, but that the incident was not the first time senior ANC members have been exposed for falsifying their qualifications, with two similar cases in the last few years.

Liberia’s President George M. Weah left, and his Presidential Press Secretary Sam Mannah right.

In West Africa, lying about credentials and on resume is common. In fact, it is more common in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Benin, Cameroon, the Gambian, the Ivory Coast, and Liberia.

The latest discovery being the current press secretary to the President of Liberia, Mr. Sam Mannah.  Mr. Mannah claimed on his Facebook’s page and in other documents that he served as assistant vice president at Bank of America, and worked at J.P. Morgan Chase Bank and even Nation Star mortgage insurer as a senior official, all big U.S. financial services companies.  So far, there is no available records to justify the claims of Mr. Mannah serving as a vice president for Bank of America.  Some sources at these institutions laughed about such claims.   These various institutions have also not admitted having or not having a Sam Mannah as an assistant vice president for Bank of America.  Others familiar with Mr. Mannah’s stay in the U.S. say he once worked as a collector or cash security guard for Brinks, a company that collects and transports funds from clients to banks.  While there is a likelihood that Mr. Mannah may have worked with some of these companies, allegations that he served as a senior official as far as reaching to the rank or position of a vice president cannot be proven and therefore the burden of clarifying such matter rests with the accused.

Mr. Mannah also claims he holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations or  communications and that he had previously worked with these major U.S. financial services institutions before being chosen by the newly elected Liberian president George Mannah Weah to lead the office of public communication at the presidency. The key issue is, if an official who leads presidential communications in a nation like Liberia allegedly turns out to be dishonest about his professional credentials and  experiences, how then can Liberians as well as Liberian international partners and international journalists trust whatever he says about the presidency and the country.

Although Globe Afrique plans to seek clarifications from and also publish the side of Mr. Mannah and Kenyan MP Oscar Sudi in the next few weeks to dispel rumors about their credentials, some international reputation management sources say lying on credentials or resume is not just limited to the current case in Liberia, Kenya and South Africa.  And in fact, Mr. Mannah and MP Sudi are offered an opportunity to clarify any misconception about their credentials by writing Globe Afrique to state their case.

But some sources say many people who served in the previous Liberian administration were also accused of lying about their credentials and work experience in western nations.

There is an acknowledgement that it’s not worth creating resume or credential lies just to get a job or status even though Kenya, South Africa, Liberia and a number of African nations seem to encourage lies told by politicians and bureaucrats. Catching a lie on a resume would automatically disqualify a culprit no matter what. TO BE CONTINUED!

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Jacob Ujamaa Nyerere

Jacob Ujamaa Nyerere is a public affairs researcher and senior investigative correspondent.
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