Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 offers a warning that the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continue to affect societies around the world. What surprises has this year's index brought, and how has the UK fared?
The Corruption Perceptions Index measures perceived levels of public sector corruption in countries around the world.
This year we used 13 surveys to rate corruption perceptions in 177 countries, drawing on data sources from independent institutions specialising in governance and business climate analysis.
Unfortunately, more than two thirds of the 177 countries in the 2013 index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean). The average country score this year is 43/100 – ask any school child what 43 out of 100 means on a test and you will get the same answer: failure.
Denmark and New Zealand tie for first place with scores of 91. Top performers have high levels of press freedom, open budget processes and strong accountability mechanisms.
Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia this year make up the worst performers, scoring just 8 points each.
There is a close correlation between low scores and poverty. Low-scoring countries are generally notable for lack of transparency and accountability and high levels of reported bribery. They suffer from poor governance and untrustworthy public institutions like police or media. Many have signed up to important conventions like the United Nations Convention against Corruption, but they do not do enough to enforce laws aimed at penalizing and preventing corruption.
The Index ranks the UK at 14 with a score of 76 out of 100: an improvement on last year’s rank of 17 and score of 74. As the Index measures people’s perceptions, it is not possible to know precisely why any individual country has improved its position. We believe the UK’s improved score reflects the continuing halo effect from the Bribery Act, and improved rhetoric from the UK Government on tackling corruption. Since the Index results were compiled, the Government has built further on the positive momentum of the Bribery Act and the G8 Summit by promising to deliver an action plan that will coordinate anti-corruption activity across all Government departments.
Despite this progress, we see two principle vulnerabilities in the UK – continued scandals related to politics and parliamentary ethics, and the removal of key corruption defences as outlined in our recent report on local government corruption. These elements will need to be addressed to make sure the UK does not slip back down the ratings in future years. Most importantly, the Government needs to deliver on its promises from the G8 and Open Government Partnership summits.
Standouts this year include Syria and Spain. Syria dropped 9 points to a score of 17/100, and fell to a rank of 168, making it the biggest decliner in the index. The civil war has stopped good governance in its tracks. For many years, state involvement in business through informal networks has contributed to an erratic economy. Families associated with the regime in one way or another came to dominate the private sector in addition to exercising considerable control over public economic assets.
In Spain the CPI score fell 6 points to 59/100 points. This year the country suffered its largest ever corruption scandal over political party funding. Both the Spanish Prime Minister and Royal family have been embroiled in corruption scandals.
The overarching message from this year’s Corruption Perceptions Index is clear: corruption is still a big problem in the world. Future efforts to respond to significant global issues such as economic crises, climate change and extreme poverty face a massive roadblock in the shape of corruption. Take poverty, for example. The average score of the 48 poorest countries is 28, down one point from last year. This illustrates that the marginalised and poor remain the most vulnerable to corruption, whether it is paying the bribes or suffering by being dependent on the basic services that fall by the wayside because public money is looted by corrupt officials. As long as corruption goes unchecked, the poor will continue to suffer most.