Tom Stocker: Fight against corruption stalls

Tom Stocker: Fight against corruption stalls

Tom Stocker

A new report from Transparency International (TI) suggests the fight against global corruption has stalled, with more than 80 per cent 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, China, Ethiopia, Greece, Italy, Myanmar, Ukraine 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, placing it 11th – one position higher than in 2021 – and 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 (13), Afghanistan and North Korea (both 16). The global average score remains unchanged at 43 for the tenth year in a row – with two-thirds of countries scoring below 50.

The TI CPI is globally recognised and its findings will be disappointing for some jurisdictions, anxious to demonstrate that they have a zero-tolerance policy to corruption, 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, 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.

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.

In the UK, for example, consistent reports of underfunding and delays in legislative reform appear to have hampered regulators’ 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.

Global enforcement trends also suggest that the perpetrators of bribery and corruption are often multinational companies headquartered in countries with comparatively low perceived levels of bribery and corruption.

Ultimately, whilst the CPI should not be read in isolation, the TI findings confirm that despite the rhetoric, too many are falling short in their efforts to stamp out corruption. More must be done and a key commitment will be to root out and prevent human rights abuses. Countries must have that in clear sight when setting their anti-corruption agenda.

Tom Stocker is a partner at Pinsent Masons

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