Around the world, countries attempting to address their corruption issues are not making much progress, while countries failing to address corruption are worsening the problem, according to nonprofit organization Transparency International (TI).

The 2022 edition of TI’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), released Tuesday, ranked 180 countries and territories by how the public perceives their levels of corruption, using a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). According to the 2022 report, the global average—at a score of 43 out of a possible 100 points—remained unchanged for the 11th year in a row. More than two-thirds of countries (68 percent) scored below 50.

“This year’s [CPI] reveals that 124 countries have stagnant corruption levels, while the number of countries in decline is increasing,” TI stated in a news release. “… Since 2012, 25 countries significantly improved their scores, but in the same period 31 countries significantly declined.”

With a score of 69, the United States improved by two points since the 2021 index, in which it scored a record-low 67 for the second consecutive year.

Democracy vs. corruption

As the findings of the CPI highlight each year, countries with strong democracies—primarily, European countries—consistently rank at the top of the index.

In 2022, the top 10 highest scoring countries were: Denmark (90), Finland and New Zealand (87 each), Norway (84), Singapore and Sweden (83 each), Switzerland (82), Netherlands (80), Germany (79), and Ireland and Luxembourg (77 each).

The United Kingdom (73) was among countries whose scores “dropped significantly,” TI said, plummeting five points from 2021 to a historic low.

The CPI findings remind each year the inextricable link between conflict and corruption.

“[C]ountries experiencing conflict or where basic personal and political freedoms are highly restricted tend to earn the lowest marks,” TI stated. The 10 lowest scoring countries were Somalia, Syria, South Sudan, Venezuela, Yemen, Libya, North Korea, Haiti, Equatorial Guinea, and Burundi.

Compliance lessons

The measures TI recommended governments take to counter corruption apply equally to private-sector companies, which play just as significant a role in fighting systemic corruption.

They include:

  • Reinforcing checks and balances and promoting separation of powers;
  • Sharing information and upholding the right to access it;
  • Limiting private influence by regulating lobbying and promoting open access to decision-making; and
  • Combating transnational forms of corruption by enforcing against corporate secrecy, foreign bribery, and complicit enablers.

“The good news is that leaders can fight corruption and promote peace all at once,” said TI Chief Executive Daniel Eriksson in a press release. “Governments must open up space to include the public in decision-making—from activists and business owners to marginalized communities and young people.”

At a time when environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues continue to gain traction, chief compliance officers can play a critical role by serving as liaisons between their senior executive teams and key stakeholders, including employees, customers, and the communities in which the business operates.

The power of communication, engagement, and transparency should not be underestimated as they are fundamental building blocks for building trust and fostering ethical behavior—efforts that go a long way toward countering corruption on both a local and global scale.