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Transparency International report suggests perceived corruption levels remain unchanged worldwide

  • USA
  • Middle East
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Spain
  • Fraud and financial crime


On 25 January 2022, Transparency International published its Corruption Perceptions Index (the “CPI”) for 2021.   The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories around the world by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. The results are given on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). The CPI has been produced since 2012 and is calculated using 13 different data sources from 12 different institutions that capture perceptions of corruption.  

Key findings

No real changes:  According to the CPI, 131 countries (87%) have made no significant progress against corruption over the last decade. The CPI global average score remains unchanged at 43 for the tenth year in a row with two-thirds of countries scoring below 50.   

“Cleanest” countries:  Denmark,  Finland and New Zealand all came top of the CPI with a score of 88. Other countries in the top 10 include Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherland, Luxembourg and Germany. The UK is just outside the top ten with a score of 78 registering a one point increase from 2020.  

“Most corrupt” countries: There were few surprises within the CPI with South Sudan being ranked as the country perceived to be the most corrupt followed by Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, North Korea, Afghanistan, Libya, Equatorial Guinea and Turkmenistan.  As set out in the CPI, countries “experiencing armed conflict or authoritarianism tend to earn the lowest score”.   

Other points to note:  Since 2012, 25 countries significantly improved their scores, but in the same period 23 countries significantly declined. In this year’s CPI, 27 countries are at historic lows in their CPI score. Interestingly, the United States failed to make the top 25 countries on the CPI for the first time after its score dropped from 76 in 2015 to 67 in 2021.  Other developed economies including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Spain all had lower ratings in 2021 compared to 2020. 

Global bribery risks

It is well known that organisations may face increased risks of corruption and misconduct when operating outside of their home jurisdiction. The UK Bribery Act 2010, the US FCPA 1977 and other laws around the world have extra territorial reach. Organisations should keep their systems and controls under review, taking into account any changes to potential anti-bribery and corruption (“ABC”) risks around the globe, such as those flagged by the CPI.  

Anti-bribery risk assessments

Organisations should be undertaking risk assessments on a regular basis to identify any areas where there is a potential risk of bribery and corruption. Such assessments should be well documented and carried out periodically, identifying the perceived risks in the jurisdictions, sectors and markets in which the organisation operates. An organisation should consider the increased risks of operating in countries and sectors and of certain types of transactions or business relationships that have perceived higher levels of corruption.  

If you require assistance with ABC risk assessments or would like to know more about effective ABC compliance programmes, the specialists in our Global Corporate Crime & Investigations team would be happy to help you.

Our Global anti-bribery and corruption guide also provides a snapshot of the key elements of the anti-bribery legislation in various countries across the globe.