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19.03.2004 Feature Article

Letter from The President: Those fake documents

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Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents Hardly a day passes these days without one reading stories in the newspapers about people using fake certificates or some other documents to either enter an educational institution or gain employment or even acquire a visa. The latest report I read had it that a certain 23-year-old wanabe outsmarted the authorities at the Wa Government Hospital by posing as one of the few doctors who prefer to feed on our dry pastures here instead of traveling abroad to, well, you know it, seek greener pastures.

The managers of the Wa Hospital were taken in by the young imposter's show of 'sincerity' and 'patriotism' and they offered him accommodation in a hotel. As soon as he checked into his hotel room, the wanabe started eating and drinking 'by heart', with bill debited to the account of the hospital. The young man even had the temerity to tell a second-hand cloth dealer from whom he had bought some items, to go the hospital to collect his money. He was such a foolish, unimaginative, dim witted imposter. The good news is that he has been arrested and is now doing time in some jail somewhere.

In another case, a man posing, yet again, as a doctor was allowed into a surgical theatre at the Koforidua Hospital, apparently to perform an operation on a critically ill patient. He gave himself away when he started throwing up at the sight of blood.

Lest I forget, there was this other story that one of the leading banks in the country employed a man who presented all sorts of 'certificates' to support his claims that he had been educated in some of the best universities in Europe and the land of the Bushman. As soon as they saw those 'certificates' the bank's managers started trembling with excitement and they didn't hesitate to offer employment to this conman. He was given the best perks of the jobs, almost close to those enjoyed by the CEO of the bank. Suddenly, this young man started behaving weird – not only did he employ his girlfriend as his Personal Assistant, his accounting was lousier than a class one pupil's arithmetic and he could not make head or tail of some of the most basic tenets of the profession.

People use fake passports, fake birth certificates, fake bank statements, fake letterheads, fake currency notes and, yes, fake certificates of death. You may think that the presentation fake documents is not a new phenomenon. “It has always been like that”, a typical Sikaman citizen will say. I hope that the controversy over my real academic credentials and my failure to set the records straight have nothing to do with the recent upsurge in the use of fake academic certificates. Whatever the reasons might be, don't you think that the situation is getting out of hand? I think so and I am very worried. The world is watching us and the sooner we moved to check this canker the better it would be for every Sikaman citizen and the country as a whole. If we don't act, institutions of higher learning abroad will unnecessarily scrutinize every certificate originating from our country. Foreign business executives will think too long and hard before entering into any transaction with their Sikaman counterparts because they will always harbour some suspicion about the documents from our country.

In my excellent opinion, even though we've known about this problem of fake documents, we have mostly failed to take action to take the necessary action. The reason is not far fetched – no one wants to expose anyone because we all look forward to a day when we would have to use a fake document to obtain academic admission, a visa, a business deal etc. The first thing we all need to do to check the use of fake documents is for all of us to discourage people we know from pursuing fake documents. If your father wants to travel outside the country and he hasn't got sufficient funds in his account do not encourage him to go to a wayside printer and get a fake bank statement made for him. Well, I know this is a tough one and you won't discourage any member of your family from getting a fake travel document but bear in mind that when he is caught, the law will deal with him very bitterly.

Secondly, people in responsible positions must keep their eyes wide open and exercise some skepticism. I don't understand why the authorities at the Wa and Koforidua Hospitals allowed themselves to be duped by quack doctors. Are they so dumb that they could not conduct a simple background check? Just pick up the phone and call the Ghana Medical Association – I suppose they are diligent enough to keep a database of all qualified medical doctors in the country. If someone comes to you, claiming to be a doctor at the age of 23 (and the person doesn't strike you as the genius type) common sense dictates that you interview him extensively to find out about his skills and experience. If you fail to do this, I am afraid, I have no choice than to describe you the way Tony Aidoo sees me – you are dumb.

The little said about the universities, which admit hundreds of fake certificate-bearing students, the better. What does it take to crosscheck examination certificates with the Examinations Council? I don't want to hear the excuse that “we receive thousands of applications annually and we can't go through all of them”. If it's so hard for the university authorities to crosscheck the examination certificates, they should simply make it an obligation for the applicants to get certified copies of their results from the examinations council. The student will go to the exams council, fill out of a form indicating the course he is applying for, pay a small fee and ask the council to send his results direct to the university where he intends to study. It's as simple as that. If the university in Saskatchewan can enter into an arrangement like this with the West African Examinations Council, I don't see why the University of Ghana cannot do the same. For years, they have been admitting hundreds of people who end up being dismissed for using fake documents for entry.

These fake-document bearing candidates block the chances of genuine certificate holders, thereby jeopardizing the future of our youth. What is the point in admitting a student with a fake certificate with six straight A's and denying admission to a student with well-deserved, genuine certificate wtih six D's? In the next admissions cycle, I don't want to hear that any university in this country has had to dismiss students for using fake certificates to gain admission. That's an order! Any university registrar who fails to put a mechanism in place to check the use of fake certificate belongs in the ranks of the unemployed.

Finally, before I sign off, I want to ask why so many people have resorted to the use of fake certificates. People who failed to make the requisite grades have no qualms about presenting fake documents to gain admission into higher institutions of learning. Why? The answer is simple. Those who were found to have used fake certificate were left very easily off the hook. They were not handed over to the police, they were not investigated and no punishment was meted out to them. I bet that if they had been prosecuted, there wouldn't be any more room in our prisons for the incarceration of rapists, armed robbers, murderers and many other criminals. The time has now come for those fake document users to be made to dance to the music. Those who have been found to use fake certificate to gain admission into the universities should not just be told to pack bag and baggage and leave the university campuses. They should be arrested, investigated and jailed. If there is no room for them in the prisons, we can, for example instruct them to work in the universities as porters and cleaners. Using fake documents will no longer be an attractive alternative to studying well and passing well.

Excellently yours,

JA Fukuor [email protected]

J. A. Fukuor
J. A. Fukuor, © 2004

The author has 204 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: JAFukuor

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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