Corruption Perceptions Index: Brunei in 35th spot

Azlan Othman

Brunei Darussalam slipped four spots in an annual ranking of countries deemed to have the least corruption in the public sector by graft watchdog Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) compared to 2018, which ranks countries on a scale from zero (for highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

The Sultanate tied on 35th spots with Israel, Lithunia and Slovenia with a score of 60.

Among the 10 ASEAN member countries, the Sultanate holds the second position after Singapore. Globally, Singapore is in fourth position.

Worldwide, Denmark and New Zealand are in the top spot with 87 points each, while Finland is in third spot with 86 points on the index. Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland share the fourth spot with 85 points each. The countries at the bottom of the list are Syria (178), South Sudan (179) and Somalia (180) with 13, 12 and nine points respectively.

The report by Berlin-based Transparency International noted that a “staggering” number of countries showed little to no improvement in tackling corruption, despite anti-graft movements gaining momentum globally. Two-thirds of the 180 countries scored below 50, with an average score of only 43, similar to 2018. Since 2012, only 22 countries (including Greece, Guyana and Estonia) have significantly increased their scores, while the scores of 21 countries declined considerably.

The Corruption Perceptions Index, started in 1995, ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to experts and business people. It draws on 13 surveys and expert assessments to derive a score for each country. The report said countries in which elections and political party financing are open to undue influence from vested interests are less able to combat corruption, analysis of the results finds.

“Frustration with government corruption and lack of trust in institutions speaks to a need for greater political integrity,” said Chair of Transparency International Delia Ferreira Rubio. “Governments must urgently address the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on our political systems.” Analysis shows that countries that perform well on the CPI also have stronger enforcement of campaign finance regulations and a broader range of political consultation.

Countries where campaign finance regulations are comprehensive and systematically enforced have an average score of 70 on the CPI, whereas countries where such regulations either don’t exist or are poorly enforced score an average of just 34 and 35 respectively. Sixty per cent of the countries that significantly improved their CPI scores since 2012 also strengthened regulations around campaign donations.

“The lack of real progress against corruption in most countries is disappointing and has profound negative effects on citizens around the world,” said Managing Director of Transparency International Patricia Moreira.

“To have any chance of ending corruption and improving people’s lives, we must tackle the relationship between politics and big money. All citizens must be represented in decision-making.”

Countries with broader and more open consultation processes score an average of 61 on the CPI. By contrast, where there is little to no consultation, the average score is just 32. A vast majority of countries that significantly decreased their CPI scores since 2012 do not engage the most relevant political, social and business actors in political decision-making.

To reduce corruption and restore trust in politics, Transparency International recommended that governments reinforce checks and balances and promote separation of powers; tackle preferential treatment to ensure budgets and public services aren’t driven by personal connections or biased towards special interests; control political financing to prevent excessive money and influence in politics; manage conflicts of interest and address “revolving doors”. Other recommendations include, to regulate lobbying activities by promoting open and meaningful access to decision-making; strengthen electoral integrity and prevent and sanction misinformation campaigns; empower citizens and protect activists, whistleblowers and journalists.