Out-Law News 3 min. read

‘No room for complacency’ as global anti-corruption efforts stall

A new report from Transparency International (TI) suggests the fight against global corruption has stalled, with more than 80% of countries making little or no progress over the last decade.

According to the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, profiteering has grown significantly worse in 23 nations - including Australia, Canada, Luxembourg, Turkey and the United States – while overall 27 countries fell to their lowest position in the index since 2012.

Some countries, however, did make significant progress against corruption in the last decade, including Angola, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Estonia, Ethiopia, Greece, Guyana, Italy, Latvia, Moldova, Myanmar, Nepal, Paraguay, Senegal, Seychelles, South Korea, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Denmark, Finland and New Zealand each scored 88 out of a possible 100, making them the least corrupt countries in the world, according to the CPI. The United Kingdom remained outside the top 10 in the index with a score of 78 out of 100, placing it 11th – one position higher than in 2021 – behind Germany, which received a score of 80.

With a score of 11, South Sudan is the most corrupt nation in the index, behind Syria, Afghanistan and North Korea. The global average score remains unchanged at 43 for the tenth year in a row – with two-thirds of countries scoring below 50.

Fiona Cameron, anti-corruption expert at Pinsent Masons, said: “The TI corruption perception index is globally recognised and its findings will be disappointing for some jurisdictions, anxious to demonstrate that they have a zero tolerance policy to corruption in all its guises and many of which, including the UK, have made commitments over the last few years to improve things.”

“However, the conclusions are not wholly surprising. TI’s finding that countries which violate human rights generally score lower on the CPI is consistent with increasing moves by western democracies to challenge such behaviour through the introduction of modern slavery legislation and sanctions for those with a poor record on human rights. Despite this, there can be no room for complacency. While the worst scores generally belong to non-democratic countries – many of which are facing humanitarian crises – major consolidated democracies have also remained stagnant or fallen down the CPI,” she added.

“In the UK, for example, consistent reports of underfunding and delays in legislative reform appear to have hampered regulator’s attempts to tackle economic crime, while the Council of Europe’s latest review of the Warsaw Convention found that 14 countries, including the UK and France, are failing to comply with international standards for holding companies liable for money laundering,” Cameron said.

“Ultimately, the TI’s finding confirm that despite the rhetoric, not enough is being done to make a difference by too many. The message is clear – more must be done to tackle corruption and key in that fight is a commitment to root out and prevent human rights abuses.  Countries must have that in clear site when setting their anti-corruption agendas and ensure that they don’t just signal a commitment but actually take action,” Cameron added.

Edward James, corporate crime lead for Africa at Pinsent Masons, said: “While perceived levels of corruption vary from country to country, overall the perceived levels of bribery and corruption remain high across the African continent and little progress has been made to improve this perception. The scoring in the CPI should however be read in context. Global enforcement trends suggest that the perpetrators of bribery and corruption are often multinational companies headquartered in countries with comparatively low perceived levels of bribery and corruption.”

James added: “The CPI is nevertheless a good indicator that global companies should take into account when considering entering new jurisdictions in Africa and as part of the ongoing assessment of risk in countries that they already operate in. Similarly, major engineering contractors seeking to partake in large infrastructure and other projects in Africa should also consider the CPI when assessing the risks involved in tender processes and ongoing activities in a particular country.”

“The CPI should not be read in isolation. Every country, industry and sector faces their own nuanced bribery and corruption risks that may not be properly reflected in the CPI scoring. As such, whilst the CPI is a useful starting point, companies should take further steps to understand the prevailing levels of bribery and corruption risks that they face and how these risks may manifest in the practical circumstances that they face,” he added.

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