Height of fraud

The falsification of qualifications is nothing new. However in an ever-more high technology world, where considerable skills must be combined with detailed knowledge and understanding, those who seek to cheat the system by claiming professional fitness that they do not possess, are a criminal menace.

This truth has been starkly underlined by the discovery in China that at least 200 commercial airline pilots have lied about their level of experience. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) began re-checking pilot qualification after a fatal crash last month in which 42 people died. Preliminary investigation suggests that during the final approach the pilot had made a series of elementary errors which caused the airliner to miss the runway completely and smash.

The fact that half the improperly qualified pilots so far unmasked have been working for the same Chinese airline, ought to heighten the alarm for both the CAAC and passengers. This is because it would seem to suggest that there has been either systemic deception or that the carrier involved has been unacceptably lax in its recruitment procedures.

It is indeed bad enough to have anyone lie about their qualifications. It is even less acceptable to have employers connive in hiring individuals who they have good reason to believe are frauds.

Unfortunately here in the Kingdom, we are no strangers to the problem of bogus professional qualifications. In January this year the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties revealed that some 15,000 foreigners who had been working with the health system had been barred, either for incompetence or because their qualifications were phony or otherwise invalid. This last group numbered more than a thousand. Some 600 of these fakes were nurses or pharmacists, both highly specialized callings in which proper training and qualification can only be acquired over several years. But astoundingly there were also 150 bogus dentists and opticians and a horrifying 75 fake doctors.

These people had the lives and well-being of thousands of patients in their untrained and incompetent hands. How many unfortunate people died because of misdiagnosis or suffered unnecessarily because of inappropriate treatments can only be guessed.

The medical institutions that hired these cheats must bear some responsibility in that the initial interviews were perhaps not sufficiently probing. Moreover checks on the qualifications and the taking up of references ought to have exposed the deceptions. This said, however, technology makes forging qualifications relatively easy. In addition anyone intent on passing themselves off in the world of medicine may well have had experience in low-status hospital jobs, picking up enough of the jargon to pass cursory inspection when pretending to be a doctor.

There is of course another aspect to this scandalous behavior. All over the world young people are scrimping and saving to get through college and qualify as real doctors, real airline pilots, real engineers, real specialists, whose skills and knowledge will constitute a major contribution to society. The despicable ploys of the cheats with bogus qualifications are an insult to all the hard work and application being demonstrated by these bona fide and admirable students. -arabnews