Key Findings From The 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index
Transparency International has released its 28th annual Corruption Perceptions Index, revealing that corruption levels are at a worldwide standstill.
Berlin-based NGO Transparency International has released its 28th annual Corruption Perceptions Index which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption on a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). The research found that most of the world continues to fail to fight corruption with 95% of countries making little to no progress since 2017.
Global developments in a nutshell
Across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and concerns about security have created an environment of uncertainty where corruption is flourishing. This year’s CPI found that 124 countries have stagnant corruption levels while the number of countries in decline is accelerating. Global peace is deteriorating and corruption is both a major cause and key result of this downward slide.
In Western Europe, traditionally the CPI’s best performing region, countries have remained either stagnant in their fight against corruption or seen their scores decline steadily over the past five years. This is primarily because of undue influence over decision-making, poor enforcement of integrity safeguards and threats to the rule of law that are undermining government effectiveness.
Countries with low scores towards the bottom of the index have mostly failed to make significant process where multiple crises are threatening security, stability, democracy and human rights. In parts of the Americas, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, restrictions and attacks on civic space and basic freedoms are continuing, ensuring the fight against corruption remains at a standstill.
Rising authoritarianism is a problem in the Asia Pacific region where civil society’s oversight function is being pushed to the limit while recovery efforts from the pandemic are taking precedence over the fight against corruption. In the Middle East and North Africa, corruption is continuing to undermine the fight against democracy.
A closer look at the country scores
The 2022 CPI found the scale of corruption is enormous and that the global average has now remained unchanged for the eleventh year running. Two thirds of countries scored 50 out of 100 or below while the global average was just 43 out of 100. This year, Denmark, Finland and New Zealand were the cleanest countries in the ranking, scoring between 87 and 90. With a score of just 12, Somalia was rock bottom of the 2022 CPI.
Top scoring countries
- New Zealand
Bottom scoring countries
- South Sudan
Stagnation in Europe
As has been the case historically, Western Europe and the European Union once again topped the 2022 CPI with an average score of 66 out of 100. Despite that, progress has stagnated and many countries are actually showing worrying signs of decline.
A number of scandals emerged in 2022, highlighting how powerful industries and foreign actorshave managed to unduly influence decision making across Europe. These include the Uber Files scandal in France, a German state government’s ties to Gazprom and allegations that members of the European Parliament took bribes from Qatari and Moroccan officials. All have served to demonstrate how external influence and threats to the rule of law have flourished in the face of accountability and transparency measures that have been neglected and rolled back in recent years.
“Just as Europe faces myriad challenges – from the war in Ukraine and subsequent energy and food shortages to looming recession – the region is failing to fight corruption. This year we’ve seen how powerful industries and foreign leaders can influence policy at the expense of the public interest from France to Germany and the EU itself. In order for leaders to effectively tackle the crises facing the continent, they must prioritise sustained, comprehensive action to combat corruption and ensure integrity in politics”, according to Flora Cresswell, Transparency International’s Western Europe Regional Coordinator.
Since 2017, 96% of countries in the European region have either declined or made no significant progress in fighting corruption. Since then, Luxembourg (77), the United Kingdom (73) and Austria (71) have all experienced a significant decline in their scores while Ireland (77) was the only country seeing a major improvement.
The United Kingdom in particular has dropped five points to its lowest ever score as a result of a number of scandals from public spending to lobbying along with revelations of ministerial misconduct. Hungary (42) was Europe’s worst-ranked country and it was followed by Bulgaria (43) despite Sofia recently adopting a whistleblower protection law.
There are even concerns about some of the CPI’s very top performers. Countries towards the top of the index have stagnated as a result of a failure to address shortcomings in political integrity frameworks. Notably, no Nordic countries have seen significant improvement since 2017 while reliable performers such as Switzerland (82) and the Netherlands (80) are beginning to show signs of decline due to concerns over lobbying regulations and weaknesses in integrity.
The Americas: lack of bold action to fight corruption
The United States is finally showing signs of improvement after several years where anti-corruption and democratic norms were challenged. The Biden administration prioritised corruption as a national security concern two years ago and significant pro-democracy initiatives were approved at both state and local level, including expanded voting access.
Funding for fighting foreign and transnational corruption has increased while meaningful accountability actions were taken after the January 06 attack on the US Capitol. All of these efforts have seen the US add two points to its 2022 CPI score.
Elsewhere in the Americas, Uruguay (74) and Canada (74) are the region’s top performers while Venezuela (14), Haiti (17) and Nicaragua (19) had the worst scores. Weak and unaccountable public institutions in Latin America have created the perfect conditions for criminal networks to thrive and this has fueled violence and insecurity. There is strong evidence that organised criminals are exerting strong influence over politicians in Honduras, Guatemala and Peru.
Some countries have taken extreme measures to tackle criminal gangs and drug cartels by concentrating power in the executive branch which has reduced transparency, accountability and threatened human rights. There have been some success stories in the Americas with the Dominican Republic (32) gaining four points in the last two years by strengthening the independence of its justice and oversight bodies, boosting transparency in public procurement and bringing in an asset forfeiture law that is instrumental in fighting corruption and organised crime. Despite a recent stagnation, Guyana (40) has experienced significant improvement in the last 12 years, though it needs to shore up oversight in its extractive sector where corruption is leading to the loss of billions of dollars.
Brazil is the country to watch in the Americas this year after its anti-corruption frameworks were dismantled over the past four years. Jair Bolsonaro’s government created the largest institutionalised corruption scheme ever known in Brazil and his movement ended in an assault on the national congress, presidency and supreme court buildings in January 2023. His successor, Lula da Silva, has a major challenge on his hands to restore Brazil’s anti-corruption measures.
Neglected anti-corruption efforts in the Asia Pacific region
Even though the Asia Pacific region had some top performers in the shape of New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong, the region has continued to stagnate for the fourth year in a row with an average score of 43. India, the world’s largest democracy, has remained idle on the CPI with a score of 40 and its government has continued to consolidate power while limiting the public’s ability to respond. Concerns about the status of India’s democracy are growing as journalists, activists and civil society organisations continue to be targeted for speaking out against the government.
Elsewhere in the region, Malaysia (47) is struggling to recover from the 1MDB scandal, still considered one of the largest corruption incidents ever to occur globally. Former Prime Minister Najib Razak was jailed for his involvement in the scandal while the Anti-Corruption Commission recently opened an investigation into another former prime minister who allegedly misappropriated more than $136 billion of government funds during his time in office.
After taking some promising steps towards rebuilding its anti-corruption framework, Mongolia has now fallen to a historic low score of 33 as it fails to tackle ongoing risks, particularly in its extractive industry. Political turmoil has also seen Pakistan tumble to a historic low score of just 27. After years of decline, Australia (75) has managed to stop the trend and undertake meaningful action to fight corruption. Its new government has already passed legislation for a new Anti-Corruption Commission, as well as pledging to protect whistleblowers and to establish a beneficial ownership register.
Key developments in the Middle East and Africa
Authoritarianism, long-running conflicts, political misconduct and private interests overtaking the common good have continued to result in rampant corruption across the Middle East and parts of Africa. In the Middle East, Yemen (16) and Syria (13) demonstrate the tragic impact of protracted conflict while the Gulf states have all registered declines in their CPI scores. This is primarily due to the prevalence of hyper-nationalism and the absence of channels for civic participation which has left the public absent from the decision-making process.
Qatar (58) was recently in the spotlight for alleged bribery during the award process for the FIFA World Cup which it recently hosted. The UAE (67) remains the highest scorer in the Middle East, but it has started to show signs of decline amid a lack of transparency, harsh restrictions and a series of rights-restricting legal reforms.
In North Africa, Tunisia has continued to slide towards authoritarianism. Under the pretext of an anti-corruption purge, its president fired dozens of judges and placed the judicial system under his authority. Meanwhile the National Anti-Corruption Authority remains shuttered after its 2021 shutdown.
Elsewhere in Africa, protracted armed conflicts and rising terrorist threats have exacerbated serious long-term corruption problems. Overcoming the challenge in the continent’s lowest scoring countries of Equatorial Guinea (17), South Sudan (13) and Somalia (12) seems especially daunting. There has been improvement in some areas, however, such as in Angola where President João Lourenço’s ongoing commitment to root out systematic corruption is having an impact.
The Seychelles was Sub-Saharan Africa’s top performer with a score of 70 and it took a significant step forward through the amendment of its Anti-Corruption Act in 2019. Botswana (60) was another country with a strong score in the region due to a robust democratic system and the continuous improvement of legislative and policy frameworks. The strengthening of opposition parties has helped Botswana introduce anti-corruption legislation such as the 2016 Whistleblowers Act and the 2019 Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act.
Transparency International remarks that corruption may be a multifaceted problem but it is one that we know how to solve. To that end, the organisation has a number of recommendations:
Reinforce checks and balances and promote separation of powers: Anti-corruption agencies and oversight institutions need to have sufficient resources and independence to function effectively. Institutional controls must be strengthened by governments to manage the risk of corruption in defence and security.
Share information and uphold the right to access it: The public should receive accessible, accurate, timely and meaningful information on public spending and the distribution of resources. Guidelines must be both rigorous and clear for upholding sensitive information, such as in the defence sector.
Limit private influence by regulating lobbying and promoting open access to decision-making: Fair and public processes should determine policies and the use of resources. Measures should be implemented such as mandatory public registers of lobbyists, the allowance for public scrutiny of lobbying and the enforcement of strong conflict of interest regulations.
Combat transnational corruption: In many advanced economies, systematic weaknesses allow cross-border corruption to occur without detection. This must be addressed and sanctioned by closing legal loopholes and regulating professional enablers of financial crime.
180 countries and territories were ranked by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people. The research relies on 13 independent data sources from 12 different institutions. They are then standardised on a scale of 0-100 before the average is calculated, along with the measure of uncertainty.
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