Anti-corruption organisation Transparency International has warned that the costs of graft around the world remain high and the situation is, in many cases, getting worse rather than better.

In the Berlin-based organization’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index, published today, it said that 124 countries have stagnant corruption levels, while the number of countries in decline is increasing.

The index uses more than a dozen sources of information to score countries on a scale of 0-100 points, where 100 is very clean and 0 is highly corrupt. Top-ranked Denmark has 90 points, while at the other end of the scale Somalia has just 12 points. On average, countries score just 43 points – a level that has been unchanged for the past 11 years. More than two-third of countries score less than 50 points.

On a regional basis, Western Europe comes out on top, with an average score of 66 points. On the other hand, Sub-Saharan Africa scores less than half that, with just 32 points each. While 25 countries around the world improved their score in the past year, including Angola, the Maldives and Vietnam, some 31 countries saw their score go backwards, including Canada, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.

Countries from Africa and the Middle East dominate the lower reaches of the table. Among the ten lowest-ranked countries, three are from the MENA region – Libya, Yemen and Syria – while another four are from sub-Saharan Africa – Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, South Sudan and, right at the bottom of the pile, Somalia. These countries are joined in the bottom ten by Haiti, North Korea and Venezuela.

At the top of the chart, wealthy countries from Western Europe and the Asia Pacific region dominate, with Denmark, New Zealand and Finland taking up the top three places.

Regional decline for Middle East


Some regions are also heading in the wrong direction, with the average score across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) falling to a new low of 38 points.

The least corrupt Middle East country is the UAE, ranked in joint 27th place alongside Chile with 67 points. However, Transparency International had words of warning about the UAE and other, relatively highly-ranked countries in its report such as Qatar (ranked 40th, with 58 points), saying their scores had fallen over the past year amid a push by Gulf states to turn to “hyper-nationalism” and restrict the space for civic engagement.

“The UAE remains the highest scorer in the region, but has begun to show worrying signs of decline. While its government has taken steps to increase efficiency in public administration, there is still little transparency, and mechanisms to protect against corruption and other abuses are lacking,” the report said.

In the case of Qatar, Transparency International said that “While petty corruption offenses are regularly punished, independent mechanisms to detect and prevent systemic corruption are severely lacking.” It added that anti-corruption legislation is at times misused to target critics and whistleblowers, such as Abdullah Ibhais, a World Cup organizing committee employee who was jailed for three years after publicizing abuses against migrant workers; he was convicted of bribery and misuse of funds.

“Political corruption has become endemic across the Arab region. Governments are consolidating control, restricting basic rights and freedoms, agitating civic unrest and directing resources away from critical anti-corruption mechanisms and political integrity frameworks,” says Kinda Hattar, MENA regional advisor at Transparency International. “Until leaders step up to protect the rights and voices of people across the region, the deadly spiral of corruption and violence will continue to escalate.”

According to Transparency International, the widespread problem of corruption in the MENA region is inextricably linked to the violence seen in many of the area’s countries.

The region “exemplifies the myriad ways in which corruption and violence fuel each other,” it said in its report. “Many states have been built on corrupt systems that empower the few and employ wasta (favouritism) and bribes, stratifying societies and building up grievances that lead to conflicts and bloodshed.”

The report also noted how, across the region, there was a lack of transparency in state security budgets which allowed funds to be spent without public scrutiny and, in some cases, to be redirected by corrupt actors.