The recently released 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) shows little progress has been made tackling corruption worldwide for almost a decade. In fact, according to Transparency International (TI), persistent corruption across the globe is adversely affecting health care systems and contributing to “democratic backsliding amid the COVID-19 pandemic”.
In the first of this two-part series, we briefly discuss the CPI, and the launch of its 2020 Index in Australia that highlighted the varying government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also offer a general overview of the 2020 CPI’s findings and recommendations. In part two, we will focus on Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in terms of CPI rankings, and findings. We will also ask: Is it time to move forward on a National Integrity Commission in Australia?
Corruption Perception Index (CPI)
In 1993, Transparency International was formed in Berlin, Germany. Charged with taking action to combat global corruption, the NGO presents a yearly corruption perception index as a way to document and monitor global corruption trends. An important aspect of the NGO’s commitment to exposing systems and networks that enable corruption, the CPI uses a scale of 0 to 100 – where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean – to rank 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption.
Using data collected from expert, independent institutions and business executives, the 2020 CPI is, like past reports, an eye-opening read that highlights persistent corruption is undermining health care systems and contributing to democratic backsliding amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alarmingly, more than two thirds of the 180 ranked countries scored below 50, with the average score being just 43 (see the case study: Lebanon: systemic corruption problems require a systemic response). Yet higher scoring countries are also experiencing serious corruption problems, some of which – including limited anti-bribery laws, lack of transparency and bank secrecy – are outlined in the CPI 2020: trouble in the top 25 countries report. Also of interest is the CPI 2020: five cases of trouble at the top report, that offers five corruption cases of foreign bribery or money laundering in “clean” countries. Importantly, how top CPI countries perpetuate corruption is addressed in these reports.
2020 CPI Australian launch, COVID-19
Hosts Transparency International Australia launched the 2020 CPI in Australia on January 29 via webinar. Speakers, Serena Lillywhite, CEO, Transparency International Australia, Miriam Mathew, Pacific Regional Engagement and Advocacy Lead, Transparency International, Christopher Knaus, Reporter for The Guardian, and Peter Aitsi, Chairman, Transparency International PNG, offered a sobering overview of the 2020 Index. Opening with a short video, each speaker then offered an array of insights that marked the first year of the global pandemic, where corruption further undermined both public health and democracy, and ultimately, cost lives. Speakers noted that government responses to the pandemic often lacked transparency, and served private interests over the public good. This occurred in countries with high and low CPI scores, highlighting the fact that no country is immune from corruption.
“The past year has tested governments like no other in memory,” said Serena Lillywhite, CEO of Transparency International Australia, recently, “and those with higher levels of corruption have been less able to meet the challenge. Corruption thrives in times of crisis.
“COVID-19 has highlighted the consequences of weak institutions and poor governance. Corruption takes many forms – from bribery and embezzlement, to overpricing, and favouritism. The risk of corruption is also exacerbated with emergency powers that allow decision-makers to fast-track new laws and new spending behind closed doors.
“This leads to a further erosion of trust in government, wasted public funds, lower quality services, shortages in medical supplies and staff – eventually costing lives.”
- Most countries have made very little progress in tackling corruption in almost a decade. As previously mentioned, more than two thirds of the 180 countries included in the Index scored below 50 out of 100, with the average score being just 43.
- Even the top scoring countries are facing serious corruption challenges as outlined in the CPI 2020: trouble in the top 25 countries and CPI 2020: five cases of trouble at the top reports.
- Links have become apparent in terms of the importance of strong democratic governance, and the capacity of countries to be able to equitably manage an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Country rankings overview
Top 2020 CPI ranking countries are Denmark and New Zealand (both scoring 88 out of 100), followed by Finland, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland (all scoring 85).
The bottom countries are South Sudan and Somalia (both scoring 12 out of 100), and Syria (scoring 14), and Yemen and Venezuela (both scoring 15).
In terms of the Asia-Pacific region, 31 countries are included in the Index, with an average score of 45 out of 100. New Zealand has the highest score (88 out of 100), followed by Singapore (85), and Australia and Hong Kong (both scoring 77). The bottom scoring countries from the Asian region are Cambodia (21), Afghanistan (19), and North Korea (18).
It should be noted that while the 2020 CPI has ranked Australia in 11th place, Australia has dropped eight places since its peak in 2012 (85 out of 100).
The United States achieved its worst score since 2012 (73 out of 100), with 67 points (down 2 points from 2019). Contributing to this score are alleged conflicts of interest and abuse of office at the highest level, and weak oversight of the US$1 trillion COVID-19 relief package which many say marked a retreat from crucial democratic standards that promote accountable government.
There is some good news, however. Since 2012, the earliest point of comparison in the current CPI methodology, 26 countries significantly improved their CPI scores, including Ecuador (39), Greece (50), Guyana (41), Myanmar (28) and South Korea (61).
Transparency International recommendations
To reduce corruption, mitigate corruption risk, and to better respond to future global crises, Transparency International recommends:
- Strengthen oversight institutions to ensure resources reach people in need. To achieve this, anti-corruption authorities and oversight institutions must have adequate funds, resources and independence to perform their duties.
- Ensure open and transparent contracting to combat wrongdoing, identify conflicts of interest and ensure fair pricing.
- Defend democracy and promote civic space to create conditions to hold governments accountable.
- Publish relevant data and guarantee access to information to ensure the public receives easy, accessible, timely and meaningful information.
Next week: Australia and the Asia-Pacific – No country is immune from corruption, part two
* * *
Further reading: a selection of our blogs
VPS corruption prevention & COVID recovery
Spotlight on how to help prevent corruption and mismanagement
Corruption begets more corruption: IACD19
Ignore corruption at your peril
Corruption risks in post-VPS employment
Australian dialogue on bribery and corruption
* * *
A participant in the UN Global Compact, CourtHeath seeks to raise awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals and the principles of the Global Compact with business and government organisations in Victoria.
* * *
Image: Heat map showing the perceived levels of public sector corruption in 180 countries/territories around the world (© Transparency International)
* * *
Written by Wendy Cavenett
[category courtheath's blog]
[Corruption Perception Index, corruption, public service]