South Africa seen as more corrupt than ever before

 ·30 Jan 2024

Anti-corruption advocacy group Transparency International has released its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2023, with South Africa receiving its worst score to date.

Ranking 180 countries and territories around the world by their perceived levels of public sector corruption the group creates a Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

This is calculated using 13 different data sources from 12 different institutions that have captured perceptions of corruption within the past two years, and by scores the countries on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

Corruption Perceptions Index for 2023. Map: Transparency International

The CPI measures instances in the public sector involving:

  • Bribery;
  • Diversion of public funds;
  • Officials using their public office for private gain without facing consequences;
  • Ability of governments to contain corruption in the public sector;
  • Excessive red tape in the public sector which may increase opportunities for corruption;
  • Nepotistic appointments in the civil service;
  • Laws ensuring that public officials must disclose their finances and potential conflicts of interest;
  • Legal protection for people who report cases of bribery and corruption;
  • State capture by narrow vested interests;
  • Access to information on public affairs/government activities.

Best and worst perceived

For the sixth year running, Denmark has secured the top spot with a score of 90. Finland and New Zealand completed podium finishes, scoring 87 and 85 respectively. The other countries in the top 10 include Norway (84), Singapore (83), Sweden (82), Switzerland (82), the Netherlands (79), Germany (78), and Luxembourg (78).

Conversely, Somalia (11), Venezuela (13), Syria (13) and South Sudan (13) were marked as the worst performers on the index this year. The next lowest performers were Yemen (16), Nicaragua (17), North Korea (17), Haiti (17), Equatorial Guinea (17), Turkmenistan (18) and Libya (18).

Where does South Africa stand?

In 2023, South Africa dropped to its lowest ranking since the index was created, with the country ranking 83rd in the overall list.

In terms of scoring, the country dropped by two points from 2022, receiving 41/100 – below the global average.

Focusing specifically on the region, the 2023 CPI said that countries in Sub-Saharan Africa “have a long way to go in their fight against corruption.”

“The region’s persistent challenges stem from decades of severe underfunding in public sectors, exacerbated by corruption and illicit financial flows siphoning resources away from basic public services,” said the report.

The biggest movers

Countries like Uzbekistan, Tanzania, and Ukrain have had the biggest increase in clean governance perceptions, whilst Türkiye, Guatemala, Sweden, and Gabon saw the biggest drops over the past decade.

Graph: Transparency International

Accountability issues

Looking globally, the group highlights that conditions are being made easier for corruption to thrive because of impunity for powerful figures.

“The global trend of weakening justice systems is reducing accountability for public officials, which allows corruption to thrive,” said Transparency International.

“Corruption will continue to thrive until justice systems can punish wrongdoing and keep governments in check; When justice is bought or politically interfered with, it is the people that suffer,” said the chair of Transparency International, François Valérian.

“Leaders should fully invest in and guarantee the independence of institutions that uphold the law and tackle corruption,” he added.

Read: The new plan to tackle corruption in South Africa

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