Transparency International (TI) recently released its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2013. The results can be directly compared to last year’s but not earlier years’, as the methodology changed in 2012. Click here to see our comments on the 2012 CPI.

Scores range between 1 - 100, from most to least corrupt. Although the index is an imperfect tool, it nonetheless is a good indicator of corruption perceptions, and the new methodology – based on raw scores from TI’s data sources – is expected to improve accuracy of the results.

Overall, there is not much change from last year in our region of operation (CEE/SEE, Turkey and Central Asia) with most countries gaining or losing only one point as compared to last year’s index.

Romania, the Czech Republic and Hungary each lost one point, with respective scores of 43, 48, and 54 out of 100. More significantly, Romania and the Czech Republic each dropped three rungs in the rankings. Both countries have been plagued by corruption scandals. Romania is ranked third from the bottom among fellow European Union (EU) member states. Its score may be a reflection on the lack of more tangible results achieved so far despite the anti-corruption commitments made during the last election campaign. But there have been some efforts to clamp down, notably a series of high-level cases involving, among others, Romania’s deputy Prime Minister who was recently charged with electoral fraud. The EU is maintaining its monitoring process.

The Czech Republic’s score reflects its difficulties in following through with key anti-corruption measures and implement systemic changes that should, as a matter of priority, target the financing of political parties and guarantee independence in the investigation and prosecution of corruption cases.

Hungary just enacted a new whistleblower framework, but it remains to be seen how effective it will be in supporting the government’s efforts in curtailing corruption. It is scheduled to take effect in the new year. However, the initiative comes after a step back: the Parliament voted to amend the Freedom of Information Act to limit the right to access public information, a move widely criticized by corruption watchdogs.

Serbia, Slovakia and Turkey have only marginally improved their positions, achieving respectively 42, 47 and 50 out of 100. Slovakia’s stagnating score is disappointing. Promises of greater transparency and scrutiny – in political party financing for instance – remain largely unfulfilled. Meanwhile, state-owned companies and public institutions – including the judiciary – are still plague by cronyism and abuse of power.

Though Turkey has one of the best non-EU country showing in the CEE-CIS region, it is still beleaguered with corruption. TI’s 2013 Global Corruption Barometer results for Turkey suggest that corruption has in fact increased in the country over the last two years. The bribing of public officials is still widespread (e.g. to obtain permits and licences), alongside higher-level corruption, with political parties very much in the spotlight.

Serbia improved three points on its 2012 score, placing it 72nd (up from 80th in 2012). Some recent measures may have boosted public confidence, such as the new public procurement law, in force since April, part of the country’s wider fight against corruption and strengthening of state finances. Some high-ranking officials have been prosecuted, and Miroslav Miskovic, the country’s wealthiest citizen, is standing trial on charges of embezzlement and tax evasion. All this in the wake of anticipated EU accession talks, expected to be launched in January 2014. Though Serbia is slowly climbing up the rungs, it is still perceived as one of the more corrupt states in Europe.

The picture is much grimmer in Central Asia, where four of the five republics occupy a position in the bottom ten rungs of the index, with Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan tied for 168th place out of 177 countries surveyed. Though all four made a modest climb up the ladder this year, they remain among the most corrupt countries in the world.

Only Kazakhstan fares better, but with a score of 26 and a rank of 140, it still makes a poor showing. What’s more, the country has moved down seven places in the rankings in the past year, signifying that bribery and extortion in the public sector are widely seen to pervade. Though the government has put forth initiatives in recent years to tackle the problems, including the adoption of a Strategic Anti-Corruption Plan 2011-2015, the country is still struggling with corruption in the police and the judicial system, as well as administrative red tape.

Except for Hungary – and now Turkey which sits right on the fence – all countries in our region of operation score below the 50 point watermark, indicating they are still plagued by serious corruption problems. While many countries are quite vocal about their anti-graft promises, most have failed to deliver on the systematic measures required to back their resolve. Until this is remedied, the countries in CEE and Central Asia will continue to earn bad marks from experts and the business community alike.

The full results of the 2013 CPI are available at Transparency International’s website.