On Jan. 27, 2016, Transparency International published its Corruption Perceptions Index (“CPI”) for 2015. The CPI ranks 168 countries and territories based on the perceived level of corruption in each country’s public sector. 

Canada placed 9th in the rankings and improved its score by 2 points with 83 points on a scale of 0-100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. The 2015 CPI is available for download here.

Denmark ranked in the top spot for the second year in a row, followed by Finland and Sweden, with scores of 91, 90 and 89 respectively. North Korea and Somalia occupied the two bottom positions, with just 8 points each. Overall, 2015 was a year of advances, with a greater number of countries improving their scores than declining. However, more than two-thirds of the countries ranked in the 2015 CPI continue to score less than 50. Countries of interest to Canadian corporations with operations abroad include: the United States (76, 16th place), South Korea (56, 37th place), Brazil and India (38, tied for 76th place), Russia (29, 119th place), Kenya (25, 125th place) and Iran (27, 130th place).

The ranking is good news for Canada, which improved one place and 2 points over its 2014 results. Such improvement may surprise some observers, given the number of high-profile instances of alleged corruption that garnered media attention in Canada in 2015, including:

  • the ongoing enforcement action in connection with SNC Lavalin’s domestic and international business;
  • Senator Mike Duffy’s trial on 31 criminal charges;
  • the arrests of seven employees of EBR Information Technology firm IBM and Revenu Québec for fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust in relation to a $24-million computer equipment and services contract to the government;
  • the RCMP investigation into the Ontario Provincial Police Association for theft, breach of trust, fraud and money laundering; and
  • allegations against the Ontario government for preferential treatment and generous payoffs to unions in exchange for political support.

The Government of Canada undertook several initiatives in 2015 in response to these corruption scandals. It enacted legislation and rules aimed at strengthening integrity at the federal government level, the most notable of which was the introduction of strengthened federal procurement policies, including a robust debarment regime as well as third party monitoring and verification for suppliers who are accused or found guilty of improper behavior. Public awareness of these initiatives may have contributed to the improvement in Canada’s year-over-year CPI ranking. 

Given this climate of enhanced scrutiny and active enforcement, Canadians and Canadian companies should pay close attention to their obligations under the Criminal Code as well as under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, (“CFPOA”), Canada’s foreign anti-corruption legislation. The CFPOA makes it a criminal offence in Canada for persons or companies to bribe foreign public officials to obtain or retain an advantage in the course of international business.

Transparency International is a leading civil society organisation tackling corruption worldwide. The CPI draws on 12 surveys covering expert assessments and views of businesspeople operating on those countries and territories. The 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index is its 21st annual report.