Despite high-profile cases of alleged political corruption in the Canadian Senate and the highly mediatized public inquiry into municipal corruption related to the construction industry in Quebec, Canada moved up to ninth spot in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index.
Denmark remained at the top of the list of least corrupt countries. It scored 91 points out of a possible 100 while North Korea and Somalia remained at the bottom with unchanged scores of 8.
The index is based on expert opinions of public sector corruption, looking at a range of factors like whether governmental leaders are held to account or go unpunished for corruption, the perceived prevalence of bribery, and whether public institutions respond to citizens’ needs.
Frederic Lapointe, board member of Transparency International Canada, said the index looks at whether ordinary citizens have to resort to corruption for their everyday dealings – whether getting their children to school or getting services from various levels of government.
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“On those levels in Canada we have to acknowledge that we don’t have a lot of corruption,” Lapointe said. “We do have corruption in the form of illegal influence trafficking or collusion but we’re in top ten countries if you consider ordinary corruption.”
“Municipal governments are at risk because they have to take a lot of decisions, which could be related to huge profits in housing construction and the kind,” Lapointe said.
And municipal governments are under less control and less public scrutiny, he said.
“Where the provincial and federal governments are under the eye of the media, it’s not the case with every city, village and First Nation council across the country,” Lapointe said.
Five of the 10 most corrupt countries also rank among the 10 least peaceful places in the world, said the report
In Afghanistan, which is the second most corrupt country according to the index, millions of dollars that should have gone for reconstruction have been reportedly wasted or stolen, seriously undermining efforts to sustain peace, said Transparency International.
Inequality is another serious problem, says the corruption watchdog.
In Angola, the fifth most corrupt country, 70 per cent of the population live on US$2 a day or less. More than 150,000 children die each year. But Africa’s youngest billionaire, Isabel dos Santos, also lives in Angola. She made her US$3.4 billion fortune from the national diamond and telecommunications business, according to the report. She’s also the president’s daughter.
“The 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index clearly shows that corruption remains a blight around the world,” said Transparency head Jose Ugaz. “But 2015 was also a year when people again took to the streets to protest corruption — people across the globe sent a strong signal to those in power: it is time to tackle grand corruption.”
Northern Europe is the least corrupt part of the planet. Four of the five least corrupt countries are in Northern Europe.
But just because a country has a clean public sector at home, doesn’t mean it isn’t linked to corruption elsewhere, the report point out.
“Take Sweden for instance,” says the report. “It comes third in the index, yet the Swedish-Finnish firm TeliaSonera – 37 per cent owned by the Swedish state – is facing allegations that it paid millions of dollars in bribes to secure business in Uzbekistan, which comes in at 153rd in the index.”
Transparency said there was still a lot of room for improvement in Europe and Central Asia, which it grouped as one region, saying “in low-scorers Hungary, Poland and Turkey, politicians and their cronies are increasingly hijacking state institutions to shore up power.”
“It’s even grimmer further down the index,” the organization continued. “In Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and others, governments are restricting, if not totally stifling, civil society and free media.”
Russia sat in 119th place, tied with Azerbaijan, Guyana and Sierra Leone, although its score improved from 27 in 2014 to 29 in 2015, bringing its ranking on the list up from 136th place.
Brazil, in the midst of a massive corruption scandal at the state-owned oil company Petrobras, posted the biggest decline, falling 5 points to a score of 38 and dropping 7 positions to 76th place.
Transparency noted that in places like Guatemala, Sri Lanka and Ghana, citizen activists have “worked hard to drive out the corrupt.”
Overall, two-thirds of the 168 countries studied scored below 50 and the global average was 43.
Still, Transparency said it was a good sign that 64 countries improved their score while only 53 declined. The rest were unchanged.
Lapointe said talking about corruption is the first step in combating it.
“When you talk about corruption, you’re already part of the solution,” he said. “The public might think there is more corruption because they hear more about it, when in fact there is less corruption because they hear about it.”
With files from The Associated Press