The 2022 report from Transparency International, ranking the world’s states according to their perceived levels of corruption, has a few surprises. This latest index from TI lists Denmark as the least corrupt country in the world – but several states in Western Europe have scored markedly worse than before. In Sub-Saharan Africa, Seychelles once again tops the score-sheet for the region, while Somalia scores the lowest not just in the region, but in the world. Apart from its index, the report also discusses the role that factors such as conflict play in a country’s level of corruption.
Perhaps the most telling take-aways from this year’s Transparency International (TI) index, ranking the world’s countries according to their corruption levels, come right at the start of the report: corruption and conflict are inextricably linked, says the report; and countries with strong and well-functioning democratic governments are often the least corrupt.
Why is this so? Conflict creates a breeding ground for corruption. ‘Political instability, increased pressure on resources and weakened oversight bodies create opportunities for crimes such as bribery and embezzlement.’
But corruption poses more than just a local threat, limited to the borders of particularly intransigent countries. Corruption is also a threat to global security, and the updated index illustrates the point that countries with high corruption scores play a significant role in undermining the world’s stability.
‘For decades, [these countries] have welcomed dirty money from abroad, allowing kleptocrats to increase their wealth, power and geopolitical ambitions,’ the report says. ‘The catastrophic consequences of the advanced economies’ complicity in transnational corruption became painfully clear following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.’
According to TI chief executive officer, Daniel Eriksson, it is quite possible for a country’s leaders to ‘fight corruption and promote peace all at once.’
What is required, however, is for governments to open up space to include the public in decision-making. ‘From activists and business owners to marginalised communities and young people. In democratic societies, the people can raise their voice to help root out corruption and demand a safer world for us all.’
Access to information
TI lists a number of actions that governments, serious about dealing with corruption, could take. These include:
- Reinforce checks and balances and promote separation of powers. Anti-corruption agencies and oversight institutions must have the resources and independence they need to carry out their work. ‘Governments should strengthen institutional controls to manage risk of corruption in defence and security.’
- Share information and uphold the right to access it. Governments must enable people to receive information that’s accessible, timely and meaningful. Among other things, people need to have information about public spending and resource distribution. And it’s not good enough simply to claim that anything to do with a country’s defence is off-limits to the public: ‘There must be rigorous and clear guidelines for withholding sensitive information, including in the defence sector.’
The TI index system is to assign a score out of 100, where the higher the score, the less corrupt the country and, conversely, the lower the score, the more corrupt. The index then lists all the countries in the world according to these scores.
Restrictions on basic freedoms
Overall, there’s little to celebrate in the new report for sub-Saharan Africa which emerges as the lowest scoring region in the world. Significant declines in the index rating in many countries outweighed the gains made by a few.
Countries with low scores have remained unable to make significant progress, says the report. In many regions, ‘restrictions and attacks on civic space and basic freedoms continue amidst multiple crises threatening security and stability, democracy and human rights.’
For the fifth year in a row, the top slot in Sub-Saharan Africa has gone to Seychelles, giving it boasting rights as the least corrupt country in the continent.
How has Seychelles done it? The island state has maintained its ranking or achieved higher scores each year, from a low of 36, to 2021 when it reached 70, a score duplicated in the current report.
Head of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS), May de Silva, said that during the period covered by the report, Seychelles had made ‘more arrests for corruption-related offences, charged more suspects, and submitted more cases to the AG’s office for consideration of charges, than ever before.’
‘With this increase in reporting and anti-corruption activity, we expected to be perceived as a more corrupt country than this time last year because we have lifted the stone.’
She said the ACCS remained committed to the anti-corruption fight in Seychelles, and was focused on continuing its work ‘to eradicate this crime to make our society fairer for all our citizens.’
According to the Seychelles News Agency the ACCS has two corruption-related cases now being heard at the supreme court of Seychelles.
Next highest in the index were Botswana and Cape Verde, both scoring 60. And, at the other end of the scale, scoring the lowest in Africa were Burundi, Equatorial Guinea and Libya, all on 17, then South Sudan scoring 13 and the lowest on the world list, Somalia, on 12.
The average country score across Sub-Saharan Africa was 32. But there were some positive changes in the region: the Maldives went up 11 points from its 2019 score, with Angola topping even that, being ranked 14 points higher than in 2018.
As far as the rest of the world is concerned, there have been some disappointing scores, among them countries often viewed as relatively uncorrupt. The United Kingdom and Canada both dropped seven points from their 2018 position, for example, while Austria slipped five points back from its 2020 score.
A major theme in this year’s report is a stress on the fundamental threat to peace and security posed by corruption. Corruption is not only a result of conflict, but also a cause. It ‘generates new grievances in society, or drives existing ones, by undermining defence and security institutions, and by eroding state legitimacy.’
Challenge to states
Corruption also allows a country’s ‘elites’ to exert illegitimate influence, sow instability and undermine government institutions abroad as a way of achieving favourable outcomes. Corruption is sometimes even used as a ‘foreign policy weapon’ to undermine democracy in other countries.
‘Corruption weakens the state’s capacity to protect its citizens. The misuse or theft of public funds can deprive institutions responsible for ensuring security of the resources they need.’
And that in turn makes it harder for a state ‘to secure control of its territory and prevent violent threats, including terrorism.’
As TI’s chair, Della Ferreira Rubio put it, ‘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.’