Low Yen Ling: No background check can exhaustively keep out cheats
Low Yen Ling responds to questions about fake credentials of HIV data leaker
No system can exhaustively keep out those who are out to lie and cheat, however thorough the checks are.
That is what Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower Low Yen Ling told Parliament yesterday, when answering questions about the fake credentials of Mikhy Farrera Brochez, the American at the centre of the HIV Registry leak.
Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC) had asked about the due diligence carried out by Temasek Polytechnic (TP) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) when hiring Brochez.
Ms Low said the polytechnics had checked copies of his educational certificates against the originals, which is in line with public sector practices and those of many private sector companies.
GOOD GRASP OF SUBJECT
Ms Low said Brochez had demonstrated a good grasp of the subject during his interviews with the schools' management staff, including those with expertise in psychology.
Brochez had used forged academic certificates to get jobs at the two polytechnics between 2009 and 2012.
Dr Intan said she found it strange the polytechnics had checked the copies with the original and did not check with the issuing institutions.
She added: "If the original is already falsified, then you are just checking a false document against another false document. So, I would think there must be a more robust process in place."
Ms Low said TP and NP have since incorporated more stringent checks, verifying educational certificates with the issuing institutions for both new and existing staff.
Since 2014, all five polytechnics here also conduct reference checks with previous employers or character referees before making a hire.
But Ms Low said there are practical limits to such checks, if for instance overseas institutions refuse to provide confirmation, citing privacy reasons.
"We are also mindful of not going to the extremes and risk losing valuable talents," Ms Low said.
Brochez was a lecturer in psychology and early childhood subjects at TP from February 2009 to January 2011.
He taught four modules in the first year and three modules in the second year to 85 students.
Ms Low said this represented about 0.5 per cent of the TP cohort of 15,900 students at the time. The modules he taught comprised about 10 per cent of the students' graduating requirement.
She clarified that TP never implemented the child psychology clinic that Brochez had claimed he was helping to set up and he was never involved in such an initiative.
Brochez later joined NP's School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and was an adjunct lecturer there from June 2011 to April 2012.
He taught about 1.5 per cent of the NP cohort and his modules made up about 3 per cent of the graduating requirement.