Most of the world continues to fail to fight corruption, with 95% of countries having made little to no progress since 2017, a closely watched study has found.
Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures the perception of public sector corruption according to experts and business people, also found that governments hampered by corruption lack the capacity to protect the people, while public discontent is more likely to turn into violence.
Transparency International chairwoman Delia Ferreira Rubio said: “Corruption has made our world a more dangerous place. As governments have collectively failed to make progress against it, they fuel the current rise in violence and conflict – and endanger people everywhere.
“The only way out is for states to do the hard work, rooting out corruption at all levels to ensure governments work for all people, not just an elite few.”
The report ranks countries on a scale from a “highly corrupt” 0 to a “very clean” 100.
Denmark is seen as the least corrupt this year with 90 points, and Finland and New Zealand both follow closely at 87. Strong democratic institutions and regard for human rights also make these countries some of the most peaceful in the world, the report said.
However, the report also shows that, while western Europe remains the top-scoring region, some of its countries are showing worrying signs of decline.
The United Kingdom dropped five points to 73 – its lowest ever score.
The report said a number of scandals from public spending to lobbying, as well as revelations of ministerial misconduct, have highlighted woeful inadequacies in the country’s political integrity systems. Public trust in politics is also worryingly low, it said.
Countries like Switzerland, at 82, and the Netherlands, which scored 80 points, are showing signs of decline amid concerns over weak integrity and lobbying regulations – even though their scores remain high in comparison to the rest of the world.
In eastern Europe corruption is seen as remaining rampant as many countries reached historic lows.
Russia in particular was highlighted as a glaring example of corruption’s impact on peace and stability.
The country’s invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago is a stark reminder of the threat that corruption and the absence of government accountability pose for global peace and security, the report said.
It added that kleptocrats in Russia, which scored 28 points, have amassed great fortunes by pledging loyalty to President Vladimir Putin in exchange for profitable government contracts and protection of their economic interests.
“The absence of any checks on Putin’s power allowed him to pursue his geopolitical ambitions with impunity,” the report concluded.
“This attack destabilised the European continent, threatening democracy, and has killed tens of thousands.”
Before the invasion, Ukraine, which is on 33 points, had a low score but was undertaking important reforms and steadily improving.
Even after the outbreak of the war, the country continued to prioritise anti-corruption reforms.
However, wars disrupt normal processes and exacerbate risks, the report pointed out, allowing corrupt actors to pocket funds meant for recovery.
Earlier this month, investigations exposed alleged war profiteering by several senior officials.
The index rated 180 countries and territories. Somalia was at the bottom with 12 points, and South Sudan tied with Syria for second-to-last with 13.
Only eight countries improved last year, among them Ireland with 77 points, South Korea with 63, Armenia at 46, and Angola at 33.
The report also pointed out that, after decades of conflict, South Sudan is in a major humanitarian crisis with more than half of the population facing acute food insecurity – and corruption is exacerbating the situation.
In Yemen, on 16 points, where complaints of corruption helped spark civil war eight years ago, the report said the state has collapsed, leaving two-thirds of the population without sufficient food in what has become one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
Compiled since 1995, the index is calculated using 13 different data sources that provide perceptions of public sector corruption from business people and country experts. Sources include the World Bank, the World Economic Forum and private risk and consulting companies.