Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) has been released for 2018.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on January 30, 2019

The CPI found Denmark was the country with the best anti-corruption score. The Scandinavian country scored 88 of a possible 100 points, topping the list ahead of New Zealand (87 points) and Finland, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland, which all tied for third place with 85 points.

Majority of countries scored under 50/100 on the Corruption Perception Index

The study draws on 13 surveys of business leaders and expert assessments to rank 180 countries. This year’s instalment found that anti-corruption measures had gone backwards in many countries and more than two-thirds of the countries included scored under 50. The average score was 43.

The score reflects the strength of a country’s anti-corruption framework, including “the existence of adequate laws on financial disclosure, conflict of interest prevention and access to information”.

This year’s report had particular bad news for the US, which tumbled out of the top 20. It achieved a score of 71, good for 22nd place and down from 16th place last year.

The US, Australia among the countries falling down the list

Zoe Reiter, Transparency International’s Representative to the US, told NPR that the US had traditionally been placed behind Canada and northern European nations on the list, “That said, what we are seeing is this trend toward declining trust, not by just the public but also by experts, in the strength of our democratic institutions.”

Australia also went backwards in the list, achieving an equal record low placing of 13th. Australia has now regressed by eight points over the past six years.

Transparency International Australia’s CEO, Serena Lillywhite, said the results showed Australia needs to establish a well-resourced anti-corruption agency with broad powers.

“Now is the time, without delay and political wrangling, for our federal parliament to come together and create a well-resourced, nationally coordinated pro-integrity framework, with an emphasis on prevention alongside strong investigative powers,” she said.

Transparency International: corruption is a threat to democracy

Australia was far from alone in going backwards, however, and Patricia Moreira, Managing Director of Transparency International, said the results were concerning.

“Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption,” she said.

“With many democratic institutions under threat across the globe – often by leaders with authoritarian or populist tendencies – we need to do more to strengthen checks and balances and protect citizens’ rights.” The report noted that many nations have seen mass protests over the past year involving citizens demanding more transparency and an end to corruption among public officials.

Venezuela, for example, ranked 168th. The country has seen widespread protests against the regime of President Nicolás Maduro which was widely condemned as corrupt by the international community.

“Our research makes a clear link between having a healthy democracy and successfully fighting public sector corruption,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International.

“Corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak and, as we have seen in many countries, where undemocratic and populist politicians capture democratic institutions and use them to their advantage.

2018 CPI

Header image credit: Kristofer Trolle