2022 Corruption Perceptions Index

Transparency International has released its annual ranking of corruption levels in countries around the world, with Scandinavia and New Zealand leading as usual while the United States place a rather underwhelming 24th.

TI publishes its Corruption Perceptions Index at the start of every year, and the index has become a standard reference work that compliance officers use to understand their companies’ corruption risks at the global level. At this point the rank for individual countries rarely changes that much from one year to the next, and the CPI mostly just confirms the instincts you already have about corruption around the world — but regardless, skimming the report is always a good idea.


Source: Transparency International

You can see this year’s 10 least corrupt countries in Figure 1, at right, along with their rankings one year ago. The only notable change is Ireland moving into the top 10 this year, from the 13th spot last year. 

As we mentioned, this year the United States ranks 24th, up a nudge from 27th place last year. That places us behind some major trading partners such as Canada (14th), the United Kingdom (18th), and Japan (also 18th); but ahead of other trading partners such as China (65th) and Mexico (126th).

The most corrupt countries were Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Libya. No surprises there. 

Ukraine ranked 116th, with a corruption score of 33 on a scale of 0 to 100 (the lower the score, the more corrupt you are). That’s notable because Ukraine is getting billions in Western aid to defend against Russia’s invasion, and because President Volodymyr Zelenskyy just pushed out several senior officials in his government over corruption concerns. (In theory, some day, Western businesses might face FCPA enforcement for corruption in Ukraine, although that strikes me as a far off, remote possibility right now while we help Ukraine to defend itself.)

Meanwhile, Russia placed 137th — and honestly, that now strikes me as too generous, given that Vladimir Putin now treats the whole country as a personal fiefdom to fund his war machine. 

Indeed, Transparency International stressed the connection between corruption and violence in this year’s report. “Global peace has been deteriorating for 15 years,” TI said. “Corruption has been both a key cause and result of this.”

That’s an important point, and one that reminds me of a podcast Tom Fox and I recorded last year with Timur Khasanov-Batirov, a compliance officer and anti-corruption officer in Ukraine. He fled the country just as Russia began its invasion. I wrote the following at the time about how corporate corruption is the first step on a path that leads to madness like Putin’s war:

Corporate corruption encourages political corruption; it provides the sustenance corrupt governments need to flourish. Those corrupt governments then systematically dismantle other institutions that might serve as checks on the government’s predations. Without those checks, the corrupt government descends into despotism and the country itself becomes a failed state. Finally, for lack of any other way to project legitimacy, those corrupt and failed leaders engage in reckless exploits such as Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. 

That horrible sequence of events might take decades to unfold, but it’s all the same sequence; it all exists on the same spectrum. When we — politicians, businesses, governments, countries — take those first steps to tolerate and participate in corruption, we’re taking the first steps on a path that can bring the world to places like where we are today.

That’s why we fight corruption, folks. Use the CPI as you will to plan your anti-corruption efforts, but never forget that the larger picture here is about a lot more than staying on the right side of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or some similar anti-bribery statute. 

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