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The 2021 CPI includes 180 countries ranked on a scale of 0 (high levels of perceived corruption) to 100 (no perceived corruption). The index combines 13 individual indices from 12 independent institutions and is based on data from expert interviews, surveys and other studies.

The current index shows that progress in the fight against corruption cannot be taken for granted. The global average remains unchanged for the tenth year in a row, with a score of 43 out of 100 – highlighting the difficulty many countries have in actively tackling corruption better. Two-thirds of all 180 states and territories surveyed have a serious corruption problem, scoring less than half the possible points.

The complete ranking, FAQs, and details on methodology and sources can be found at the bottom of the page under "Further information".

International trends

Denmark, New Zealand and Finland ranked first with a score of 88. Fragile or authoritarian states such as South Sudan (11 points), Somalia, and Syria (both 13 points) are in the lowest places. Internationally, the trend continues that states that curtail rule-of-law and democratic institutions and violate human rights experience rising corruption perceptions. For example, Hungary (-12 points) as well as Turkey (-11 points) are among the countries that have lost the most points globally over the last decade. These developments are worrying and highlight how closely compliance with the rule of law and democratic principles is linked to the prevention of abuse of power and corruption.

Since 2012, as many as 25 countries have improved their CPI scores, including most significantly the Seychelles (+18), Armenia (+15), and Italy (+14). Over the same period, the scores of 23 countries have fallen, most notably in St. Lucia (-15), Cyprus and Syria (both -13). All other countries remain at a relatively constant level in their assessment, with only slight fluctuations.

No democracy without an effective fight against corruption

Corruption undermines democracy and the rule of law. The lower half of the CPI 2021 therefore includes a large number of countries in which corruption is a means of capturing the state and consolidating authoritarian systems. Notable examples of regressions in the CPI include Turkey and Hungary. Even in more stable democracies, corruption distorts political decision-making, undermines accountability mechanisms and serves to enrich a few.

Transparency International presented a position paper in November 2021 on how to combat corruption as a factor in crumbling democracies worldwide. On International Anti-Corruption Day on 9. December 2021, the U.S. government has chosen fighting corruption as one of three official focus topics of the Democracy Summit it is hosting, sending a good international signal. In an Open Letter, 92 Transparency International chapters urged participating countries to seize this opportunity for real change.

Correlation of corruption and human rights violations

Analysis by Transparency International shows that there is a strong link between fighting corruption and respecting human rights and civil liberties. This is shown by a comparison of the CPI data with the "Civil Liberties" category in the Democracy Index (s. Chart on second page, data source Economist Intelligence Unit 2020).

In most cases, the relationship is causal in both directions: more corruption can lead to restrictions on civil liberties, while fewer civil liberties make it harder to fight corruption. One example is Nicaragua, which has lost nine points since 2012, reaching a low of just 20 points. Longtime President Daniel Ortega responded to corruption allegations with a crackdown on media, civil society and regulators. As a result, Nicaragua’s scores on freedom of expression, association and access to justice have also fallen to record lows.

There are very few countries that simultaneously have a high CPI score and a low "civil liberties" score – that is, where corruption is effectively fought without simultaneously respecting human rights. One of these exceptions is Singapore, which ranks 4th in the CPI. The country has a modernized economy, an efficient bureaucracy and a strong rule of law, which leads to a relatively efficient fight against corruption. At the same time, the country lags behind in human rights such as freedom of expression and association. Thus, any success in the fight against corruption remains tied to the political will of the ruling elite.

The most important results in the video

Video: Dominik Ruhlmann

The situation in Germany

In an international comparison, Germany is in a relatively good position with a score of 80 out of 100, ranking 10th in the world. Still well behind the leaders. Germany’s score has not improved in six years. This shows that we are unfortunately making little progress in the fight against corruption. After the mask affair, pressure was finally high enough last year to introduce the lobby register and tighten the rules on secondary activities of members of parliament. However, there are still massive deficits in all areas of society – in the administration, the principle of official secrecy still applies for the most part, the criminal liability of companies is still not regulated and whistleblowers are still not adequately protected. For example, the arbitrary invocation of trade and business secrets by companies often prevents the investigation of suspected cases of corruption.

A worrying loophole was highlighted last year by the Azerbaijan and Mask affair: Despite the enormous outrage after the cases of personal enrichment came to light, the deputies involved could not ultimately be held criminally accountable. This shows: The law against bribery of members of parliament has been virtually ineffective to date and urgently needs to be tightened up. Transparency Germany welcomes the fact that the coalition agreement between the two parties has announced that the criminal act will be made more effective. Transparency Germany has been pushing for this for years. It cannot be that the rules for civil servants have so far been stricter than for MPs. The offense must be a sharp sword in practice in the future so that convictions actually occur in comparable cases. The current situation unfortunately fuels disenchantment with politics; Federal Minister of Justice Buschmann must therefore deliver quickly.

Proposals to reform Section 108e of the Criminal Code on bribery of elected officials

  1. Transparency Germany demands that in future the actions of a member of parliament should be punishable if he abuses his position as a mandate holder to pursue interests for his own benefit. Criminal liability should therefore already apply to the circumstance of the acceptance of an advantage in the case of mandate-related actions – and not only in the narrower sense in the exercise of the mandate.
  2. In addition, the elements of the crime must also include advantages that are only granted after the fact, as is already the case with public officials. According to prevailing opinion, Section 108e of the German Criminal Code, as it currently stands, only covers benefits that occurred before the bribery made or. If the advantage has been granted by a third party as a result of an omission on the part of the member of parliament.
  3. There is a further need for amendment with regard to the formulation that a member of parliament must have acted "on behalf of or on the instructions of" the person granting the advantage. If the initiative to obtain the advantage comes from the mandate holder, such a mandate is lacking. In addition, corruption is characterized by the existence of a "win-win" situation, since the benefactor and the beneficiary both profit and thus meet on an equal footing. Thus, the existence of a "mandate" or an "instruction" is already logically missing.
  4. In addition, the law on members of parliament should in future also prohibit private commission transactions with the state, as has recently been the case in Bavaria.

Background: Mask and Azerbaijan affair reveal legal loophole

The Munich Higher Regional Court, in its decision of 18. November 2021 in the cases of Nusslein and Sauter, that the behavior of both members of parliament in the mask affair does not currently meet the criteria for bribery of elected officials. The facts of §108e only cover cases in which the intention is to influence a parliamentary decision-making process taking place in plenary or a committee – for example, a vote ("in the exercise of the mandate").

If, on the other hand, the receipt of the benefit is "only" about using the authority of the mandate or the MP’s contacts, such as with ministries, this has not been a punishable offense so far. The court stated that this was the clear intent of the legislature to date. The court had to grudgingly acquiesce (to the notice of the OLG Munich).

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