Let’s get straight to the point: No country gets close to a perfect score in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2016.
Over two-thirds of the 176 countries and territories in this year’s index fall below the midpoint of our scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). The global average score is a paltry 43, indicating endemic corruption in a country’s public sector. Top-scoring countries (yellow in the map below) are far outnumbered by orange and red countries where citizens face the tangible impact of corruption on a daily basis.
The interplay of corruption and inequality also feeds populism. When traditional politicians fail to tackle corruption, people grow cynical. Increasingly, people are turning to populist leaders who promise to break the cycle of corruption and privilege. Yet this is likely to exacerbate – rather than resolve – the tensions that fed the populist surge in the first place.
Putting the scores in context
The lower-ranked countries in our index are plagued by untrustworthy and badly functioning public institutions like the police and judiciary. Even where anti-corruption laws are on the books, in practice they’re often skirted or ignored. People frequently face situations of bribery and extortion, rely on basic services that have been undermined by the misappropriation of funds, and confront official indifference when seeking redress from authorities that are on the take.
Grand corruption thrives in such settings. Cases like Petrobras and Odebrecht in Brazil or the saga of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine show how collusion between businesses and politicians siphons off billions of dollars in revenue from national economies, benefitting the few at the expense of the many. This kind of systemic grand corruption violates human rights, prevents sustainable development and fuels social exclusion.
Higher-ranked countries tend to have higher degrees of press freedom, access to information about public expenditure, stronger standards of integrity for public officials, and independent judicial systems. But high-scoring countries can’t afford to be complacent, either. While the most obvious forms of corruption may not scar citizens’ daily lives in all these places, the higher-ranked countries are not immune to closed-door deals, conflicts of interest, illicit finance, and patchy law enforcement that can distort public policy and exacerbate corruption at home and abroad.
Corruption hurts all countries, in every region of the world. Learn more about public sector corruption in your region below.
Regional analysis by Paul Banoba, Transparency International
The elections held across Africa in 2016 provide a good reflection of corruption trends in the region.
In countries like Ghana, which is the second worst decliner in the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index in the region, the dissatisfaction of citizens with the government’s corruption record was reflected in their voting at the polls. South Africa, which continues to stagnate this year, has witnessed the same. Joseph Kabila’s Democratic Republic of Congo and Yahya Jammeh’s Gambia, which both declined, demonstrate how electoral democracy is tremendously challenged in African countries because of corruption.
Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe are the most improved African countries in the 2016 index. Both countries held democratic presidential elections in 2016. It is no surprise that the independent electoral observer teams labelled the Cape Verde elections for 2016 as “exemplary”. This election that saw Jorge Carlos Fonseca re-elected, was held in a framework of a continuously improving integrity system, as observed by various African governance reviews.
In São Tomé and Príncipe elections held in July 2016 led to a smooth change of government, which is increasingly a challenge in the African region.
Despite being a model for stability in the region, Ghana, together with another six African countries, has significantly declined. The rampant corruption in Ghana led citizens to voice their frustrations through the election, resulting in an incumbent president losing for the first time in Ghana’s history.
Some other large African countries have failed to improve their scores on the index by a statistically significant amount. These include South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya. South African President Jacob Zuma was in court and in the media for corruption scandals. This included his own appeal against findings in a report by the Public Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela, regarding undue public spending in his private homestead in Nkandla.
Kenya – despite the adoption of a few anti-corruption measures including passing a law on the right to information – has a long way to go. President Uhuru expressed frustration that all his anti-corruption efforts were not yielding much. He may need new strategies as Kenyan citizens go to the polls in 2017.
Right at the bottom of the list is Somalia, whose parliamentary elections were marred by malpractice and corruption, and whose presidential elections were postponed three times last year and are yet to be held.
What needs to happen
African leaders that come to office on an “anti-corruption ticket” will need to live up to their pledges to deliver corruption-free services to their citizens. They must implement their commitments to the principles of governance, democracy and human rights. This includes strengthening the institutions that hold their governments accountable, as well as the electoral systems that allow citizens to either re-elect them or freely choose an alternative.
Image: Corruption Watch
Correction 13 September 2017: The sentence about large African countries having failed to improve their scores on the index was amended to include the phrase “by a statistically significant amount”.