Transparency International (TI) recently released its annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2013. The CPI scores and ranks 177 countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sectors are seen to be. While the CPI is limited to measuring perceived (not actual) corruption, it remains an important and widely used benchmark indicator of public sector corruption levels around the world. It is a helpful tool for businesses and other organizations in assessing the relative risk of corruption where they operate

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Methodology of the Index

The CPI is derived from 13 international survey sources that look at a range of relevant issues including government accountability and access to information, prevalence of conflicts of interest and abuse of office, and the existence and enforcement of integrity rules and anti-corruption laws. Data from these various sources is aggregated and evaluated. Countries are then scored on an index scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean). CPI’s methodology was recently updated in 2012, which should allow for better consistency from year to year going forward[1].

Key Findings in CPI 2013

The most significant CPI ranking improvements in 2013 were made by Myanmar, Brunei and Laos. Countries with the most significant reported declines include: Syria, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Libya. As in last year’s CPI report, Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia share the lowest ranking of the countries included in the index.

Perceived corruption level rankings remain persistently high in many countries, territories and regions. TI reports that nearly 70% of countries included in the CPI scored below 50 in 2013 —TI considers a score below 50 to indicate a significant corruption problem. These numbers are a reminder of the persistent nature of corruption globally.

The CPI and accompanying commentary offer other interesting takeaways. In the Asia Pacific region, for example, despite strong economic and social development over the past decade, China and India have scores of only 40 and 36 respectively. TI commentators note that while China has had some recent success with corruption convictions, the lack of checks and balances, transparency and independent scrutiny of government has enabled corruption to persist. India’s low score is blamed, at least in part, on a number of recent large scale corruption scandals, coupled with an apparent ongoing inability to effectively combat small scale corruption.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Botswana remains the highest ranked country in the region and 30th in the world. Others with scores over 50 include Cape Verde, Seychelles, Rwanda and Mauritius. Overall, however, the region’s average score remains the lowest in the world at 33. TI commentators urge that improvements in respect for constitutional order and rule of law may help to address these persistent corruption concerns.

In the Americas, some 66% of countries were given scores below 50 and the average score in Latin America was only 39 points. There were a number of countries whose scores declined slightly — including Chile (71), Uruguay (73), Argentina (34) and Brazil (42), which had each dropped by one point. The cumulative effect of these small declines was cited as a worrying trend towards slow backwards movement in the region. Some experienced more significant declines. Guatemala’s score (33), for example, reflected a drop of 4 points, which TI commentators attributed to a variety of contributing factors including the country’s strategic location for organised crime and the power of opaque private interest groups. TI commentators also observed a drop in Canada’s score of 3 points this year (to 84), noting it will be important for Canada to continue its efforts to “strengthen its anti-corruption infrastructure and enforce its use,” to avoid further declines. Some countries, such as the US and Peru saw no change from last year (from 73 and 38, respectively), though TI challenged stagnating numbers in the region (particularly on the part of the US).

Read more about the CPI 2013 commentary on the Transparency International website.