Transparency International has released the latest Corruption Perceptions Index which shows the United States has begun to slip in rankings under the Presidency of Donald Trump.
The index also reveals that “the continued failure of most countries to significantly control corruption is contributing to a crisis in democracy around the world,” Transparency International said in an online statement.
The index ranks 180 countries as, well as territories, by the level of perceived public sector corruption and uses a scale of zero to one hundred.
Zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
More than two-thirds of countries score below 50 on this year’s CPI with an average score of just 43. This includes South Africa.
The top countries are Denmark (88) and New Zealand (87). The bottom countries are Somalia (10), Syria (13) and South Sudan (13).
The highest scoring region as a whole is Western Europe with a 66/100 average, while the lowest scoring region is Sub-Saharan Africa with 32/100.
Sixteen countries saw their scores drop steeply, including Australia, Chile, Malta, Hungary and Turkey. In the last seven years, only 20 countries significantly improved their CPI scores, including Estonia, Senegal, Guyana and Côte D’Ivoire.
Turkey in particular plunged from “partly free”, to “not free” and Transparency's report shows that throughout the world, political leaders “…who run on a populist platform are gaining power and undermining democracy. High corruption rates can contribute to increased support for populist candidates”.
The United States lost four points in a year, largely due to the presidency of Donald Trump where threats to its system of checks and balances and the erosion of ethical norms are taking place at the highest levels of power, according to Transparency.
Sub-Saharan Africa at the back of the clean government queue
Sub-Saharan Africa has posted dismal figures, with only eight of 49 countries scoring more than 43 out of 100 on the index. While the African Union declared 2018 the African Year of Anti-corruption, the facts did not support the hyperbole.
Still, Seychelles scores 66 out of 100 which puts it way out front in the region, followed by Botswana (61) and Cabo Verde (57).
At the very bottom of the index, for the seventh year in a row, is Somalia (10) followed by South Sudan (13) to round out the lowest scores in the region.
“With an average score of just 32, Sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest scoring region on the index, followed closely by Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with an average score of 35,” the report says.
But the report shows there are some positive trends, with Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal improving significantly.
“Côte d’Ivoire moved from 27 points in 2013 to 35 points in 2018, while Senegal moved from 36 points in 2012 to 45 points in 2018” the report shows.
Transparency says these gains “may be attributed to the positive consequences of legal, policy and institutional reforms undertaken in both countries as well as political will in the fight against corruption demonstrated by their respective leaders.”
Other countries showing improvement were Gambia up seven points to 37, Eritrea up four points but still battling at 24/100.
Mozambique has plummeted in the last few years, losing 8 points steadily over the last seven years, moving from 31 in 2012 to 23 in 2018.
“An increase in abductions and attacks on political analysts and investigative journalists creates a culture of fear, which is detrimental to fighting corruption,” says the report.
One of the biggest scandals in recent history was reported in Mozambique, where the former finance minister and Credit Suisse banker, Manuel Chang, has been charged with concealing more than US$2 billion dollars of hidden loans and bribes.
But there are some glimmers of hope, Transparency reports.
“Angola, Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa and Kenya are all important countries to watch given some promising political developments. The real test will be whether these new administrations will follow through on their anti-corruption commitments moving forward.”
In Nigeria’s case, the Buhari administration has established a presidential advisory committee against corruption, while there’s also been an improvement of the anti-corruption legal and policy framework in areas like public procurement and asset declaration.
The country has now launched a national anti-corruption strategy, among others, but Transparency warns that there’s been no results yet.
The country has improved by four points since 2015 with President Joao Lourenco championing reforms and tackling corruption since he took office in 2017. He has fired more than 60 government officials, including Isabel Dos Santos, the daughter of his predecessor, Eduardo Dos Santos.
Transparency points out that the problem of corruption in Angola goes far beyond the dos Santos family.
Transparency International has given South Africa special attention since the removal of Jacob Zuma from office, and the installation of Cyril Ramaphosa adding hope to citizens who are fighting corruption.
However, the organisation says South Africa remains unchanged on the CPI since 2017 with a score of 43. It says under President Ramaphosa, the administration has taken additional steps to address anti-corruption on a national level, including through the work of the Anti-Corruption Inter-Ministerial Committee.
At the same time, the ruling party has sat on the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) for a decade doing almost nothing.
One positive, Transparency points out that citizen engagement on social media and various commissions of inquiry into corruption abuses are positive steps in South Africa.
The first commission of inquiry into corruption, the Zondo Commission, has heard from numerous witnesses who are starting to come forward revealing just how deep corruption runs in South Africa’s ruling party.
Transparency says the fact that President Zuma refused to release the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report on corruption in the Gauteng Department of Health and under his succesor the corruption facts have emerged is good news for governance.
But the high-profile individuals it implicated continue to avoid trials and jail time.