THE American embassy is now forced to verify educational certificates for study visa applicants with individual schools after uncovering “genuine fakes” issued by corrupt Zimbabwean Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC) officials.
The excellent document quality for these fake test reports “suggests that a high level staff member at ZIMSEC has been involved in selling them”, said Donald Petterson, the US embassy’s former Chargé d'Affaires.
In a leaked diplomatic cable, Petterson said “corruption flourishes within the Zimbabwean civil service, resulting in a near total collapse of government controls over passports and official documents”.
“In a new trend seen this reporting period, post has seen questionable student examination results, strongly suggesting corruption within ZIMSEC,” Petterson said in the October 8, 2009, memo to Washington released by WikiLeaks.
He said student visa applications accounted for approximately 15 percent of the embassy’s non-immigrant visa workload, “with line officers increasingly encountering fraudulent educational records or financial documents”.
“In spite of our strained diplomatic relations at the ministerial level,” Petterson said, “our fraud prevention unit has enjoyed a good working relationship with ZIMSEC, which has been very responsive in verifying transcripts and education levels.
“However, within the past few months we have noted a disturbing trend involving fraudulent original O and A Level testing reports. Previously, the consular section had only seen amateurish attempts to produce fraudulent school certificates but never witnessed the presentation of fake certified copies of the test reports given by ZIMSEC.”
He said the “new fraud trend” was only detected because an applicant who presented fraudulent test reports had also applied for a student visa in 2008 and the consular officer doubted that her A Level results would have improved so dramatically in one year.
Petterson wrote: “Because we now believe that ZIMSEC has been compromised, we have begun verifying A and O Level test results and certificates with the schools the applicants attended.
“Although this independent check will require additional effort from our fraud prevention unit, we believe it is necessary ...”