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The Corruption League of Shame

The stark drop in Britain’s score is driven by an increased perception of corruption in public office from business executives and experts

Police watching Parliament
A year of PPE and cronyism scandals have seen trust in the UK’s economic and political system freefall. Photo: Ian Shaw/Alamy

UK Plunges to Worst-Ever Position in Global Corruption Rankings

The stark drop in Britain’s score is driven by an increased perception of corruption in public office from business executives and experts

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Britain has slumped to its worst-ever score in a global ranking of perceptions of corruption – and joins Qatar, Myanmar, Oman and Azerbaijan in the group of countries that have experienced the most dramatic drops.

Transparency International’s global Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) show the UK’s score fell sharply this year to 73 out of 100 – its lowest since the Index underwent a major revamp in 2012. It means Britain has tumbled seven places in the global rankings from eleventh to eighteenth after a year of sleaze and cronyism scandals.

The CPI uses impartial surveys from experts and business leaders to score and rank countries by the perceived level of corruption in their public sectors. It uses a scale of zero (perceived as highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived as very clean).

Only five of the 181 countries assessed for the 2022 Index saw their year-on-year scores drop by five or more points: the UK (-5), Qatar (-5), Myanmar (-5), Azerbaijan (-7) and Oman (-8).

The data is based on surveys of experts and business executives on the scale of abuses of public office for private gain, and bribery in the UK.

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Data for this year’s CPI was collected between November 2019 and October 2022, during which time:

More than two-thirds of countries have a serious problem with corruption, scoring below 50. 

Denmark (90) tops the index, with South Sudan (13), Syria (13), and Somalia (12) – all of which are embroiled in protracted conflict – remaining at the bottom. 

But 26 countries – including the UK (73), Qatar (58), and Guatemala (24) – have received historic low scores this year.

Daniel Bruce, chief executive of Transparency International UK, said: “This sharp fall in the UK’s score is a powerful indictment of a recent decline in standards in government and controls over the use of taxpayer money. These findings should set alarm bells ringing in Downing Street.

“The underlying data clearly indicates that business executives and other experts are concerned about insufficient controls on the abuse of public office and increasingly view corruption and bribery as a real issue in Britain. This is the strongest signal yet that slipping standards are being noticed on the world stage.”

Transparency International’s ranking of corruption worldwide. The ranking is out of 181 countries surveyed – meaning the UK still scores well compared to all countries, but poorly compared to the G12 nations

He added that it is possible to reverse the decline but this “demands comprehensive action, as well as words, in order to make good on the Prime Minister’s commitment to lead a government of integrity and accountability”.

To stop the slide in the UK’s score and regain its place in the CPI’s top 10, Transparency International is calling on the Government to:

  1. Restore integrity in public life by supporting the Public Service (Integrity and Ethics) Bill currently in the House of Lords, which would implement a raft of changes to raise and enforce standards in government. 
  2. Show leadership and a genuine commitment to transparency and accountability by appointing an influential Anti-Corruption Champion, publishing an ambitious anti-corruption strategy, and delivering on the UK’s G7 commitments to tackle corruption and kleptocrats.
  3. Protect taxpayers’ money through full and candid disclosure of the COVID-19 ‘VIP lane’ and future-proof public procurement by better addressing conflicts of interest and subjecting all government emergency contracting powers to time limits and tougher scrutiny.

The UK’s 2022 CPI score is based on data from eight sources. Five of these sources saw a drop in the UK’s score with the remaining three staying the same.

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It follows calls on the Government to publish Boris Johnson’s internal register of ministerial interests, after a leaked Cabinet Office document appeared to confirm he was receiving financial advice from the man he was about to appoint as the BBC’s Chairman while he was Prime Minister. 

Richard Sharp has been accused of helping to facilitate an £800,000 loan for Johnson before he was appointed BBC Chairman in February 2021. Sharp and Johnson both deny wrongdoing and there is a BBC investigation into the scandal.  

The scandal is one of several currently engulfing the first months of Rishi Sunak’s administration. The Government’s independent advisor on ethics found on Sunday that former Conservative Party Chair Nadhim Zahawi had initially failed to declare HMRC’s investigation into his finances when he became Boris Johnson’s Chancellor last July, and that he failed to update his declaration of ministerial interests after a multi-million-pound settlement and penalty with HMRC last September.

Ethics advisor Sir Laurie Magnus also found that Zahawi failed to disclose the nature of the HMRC probe and penalty when Sunak was forming his own Government in October 2022 – including to Cabinet Office officials who support that process, as reported by Politico.

Transparency International UK’s Corruption Perceptions Index is a ‘poll of polls’ that measures how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be. The CPI aggregates up to 13 surveys measuring business executives and country experts’ perceptions of public sector corruption into a single country score.

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