Annual corruption report reveals fifth year of stagnation in the Pacific

Contributing authors Joseph Veramu, Executive Director of CLCT Integrity Fiji and Mariam Mathew Pacific Advisor at TI Secretariat

The 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) reveals another year of little to no meaningful progress towards curbing corruption in the Pacific. For five years in a row, the average CPI score for the region stagnates stubbornly between 55 and 56 out of a possible 100 and at 43 for the five Pacific Island countries in the index other than New Zealand and Australia.

None show sustained turnarounds that indicate significant changes in corruption levels and New Zealand at the top is slowly declining.

These weak scores reflect the lack of delivery by elected officials on anti-corruption agendas, together with crackdowns on organised civil society and attacks on freedoms of press, assembly and association.

New Zealand’s score has slowly declined since 2020. This decrease is attributed, in recent times, to a lack of confidence from the business community in the integrity of public contracting, taxation and trade opportunities.

In 2022, Australia elected a government that prioritised establishing a National Anti-corruption Commission and has embarked on changes to public sector whistleblower protections and political financing, which require a comprehensive reform to ensure they are effective.

Fiji leads Melanesian countries in terms of least corrupt, but fell from 55 to 52 over the past 2 years. Vanuatu is unchanged with a score of 48. The Solomon Islands regained the point lost last year to 43. Papua New Guinea (PNG) again scores lowest and falls 1 point from the previous year to register a score of 29. 

The Pacific continues to grapple with the impact of climate change and remains a focal point for geopolitical tensions between China and the West. While there's a steady influx of economic, military or financial incentives to support its development and climate goals, many Pacific countries have weak governance systems, which some donors overlook, exposing these substantial investments to high risk of corruption.

Mariam Mathew, Pacific Advisor at TI Secretariat said, “Despite political will, implementation of regional anti-corruption commitments has been slow and challenging. The President of Kiribati similarly acknowledged this during his speech at the 10th session of the UNCAC Conference of State Parties. Pacific civil society are important partners and need to be meaningfully engaged to support Pacific governments and regional organisations in their efforts”


Following the 2022 elections, a new government took office in Fiji (CPI score of 52), ending the nearly 16-year rule of the Fiji First Party government headed by Frank Bainimarama. This period was known for the erosion of institutions, weak democratic norms and an accepted disregard for the rule of law.

Some are only cautiously optimistic about the new government, as it may be too soon to tell if it will foster a more democratic state and take up the fight against corruption. However, its 100-day commitment was seen as ambitious and some positive reform efforts have already started. These include the repeal of repressive media laws and investigations into the conduct of previous elections and former leaders’ alleged abuse of office.

Joseph Veramu, Executive Director of CLCT Integrity Fiji said:

"We commend the Coalition Government for ushering in an affirming environment of democracy after 16 years of repression. Although Fiji's score fell by 1 point, there is huge potential for positive CPI scores in the coming years. Fiji's civil society, the public and private sectors and international partners must work together to support our anti corruption agency FICAC to effectively combat corruption. We should also mentor and empower our young people to be integrity champions."

Solomon Islands

Ruth Liloqula, Executive Director of Transparency Solomon Islands noted:

"The 2023 CPI score of Solomon Islands shows that the government's efforts to tackle corruption in the public sector have stagnated. The key Government Institutions that should be leading or providing the leadership, bringing in reforms etc in this fight, are the most corrupt."

Political corruption is the main barrier/stopper of community development. It hinders essential public services delivery to the most vulnerable in communities both rural and urban, people with disability, women, children, men. Political corruption undermines the integrity of Political Leadership, posing a direct threat to national and regional peace and security.

Transparency Solomon Islands prioritises advocacy against political corruption. It deals head on with the detrimental effect of political corruption and corrupt politicians. Skirting around the deleterious effects of corrupt political leadership has not brought about the desired effect, despite the millions poured into the country in the name of good governance, accountability, and transparency. Transparency International’s own CPI and now Global Corruption Barometer Pacific 2021 tell us otherwise.


Holding the lowest score in the Pacific region, Papua New Guinea (29) continues to stagnate. In 2022, the country experienced what sources called the worst elections in its history. It undertook a formal review in 2023 to improve future elections. Strengthening its democracy would significantly improve the country's ability to lower corruption levels. 


Vanuatu (48) continues to grapple with political instability exacerbated by natural disasters hindering proposed legal reforms, including on political integrity.   

Political leadership integrity tested

Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer for the Pacific shows that corruption around election processes is prevalent. Around a quarter of respondents had been offered a bribe for their votes. This has serious consequences for the ability of elections to bring in governments that can be trusted to control and curb corruption. 

Linked directly to the integrity of electoral processes and procedures, political leadership integrity at all levels is key to achieving the Blue Pacific 2050 strategy which was endorsed by Pacific Islands Forum leaders. Political will and concerted efforts are needed to clean up elections and electoral processes and procedures from undue external, and internal influences that has made it so difficult for more women to win elections.

Regional trends

Across the region, the Pacific continues to grapple with the impact of climate change and remains a focal point for geopolitical tensions between China and the West. While there's a steady influx of economic, military or financial incentives to support its development and climate goals, many Pacific countries have weak governance systems which some donors overlook, exposing these substantial investments to high risk of corruption. 

At the regional level, Pacific leaders continue to demonstrate some commitment to the fight against corruption with the gradual implementation of the Teieniwa Vision. This set of collective anti-corruption priorities was endorsed by the Pacific Islands Forum leaders in 2021. Progress has been slow, and there has been limited involvement of regional civil society organisations around this initiative.

Voices from Transparency International Pacific chapters

Pacific civil society, honest politicians and civil servants are working tirelessly to support anti-corruption policies and implement effective advocacy strategies. In most Melanesian nations, governments have made progress through law reform and policy development to meet key global anti-corruption commitments they have signed onto - such as the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), and relevant targets under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16. The key to fighting corruption is to have NGOs, civil society, the States and the private sector all working together.

Integrity Fiji (NGO in the anti-corruption space in Fiji) has recognised the value of collaborating with multiple stakeholders.  Working with the Ministry of Finance in transparent government procurements has helped to ensure that vendors and suppliers are familiar with ethical compliance procedures. Integrity Fiji is also  working closely with Fiji's anti corruption agency FICAC and relevant UN agencies to provide best practices on anti-corruption prevention under the provisions of UNCAC.

Transparency International PNG’s recommendations to its national government in 2023 are very relevant for the other Melanesian nations. Governments need to (i) Strengthen and secure their independent watchdog agencies;(ii) Improve access to public information; (iii) Limit private influence by regulating lobbying; (iv) Promote open access to decision making; and (v) Combat transnational forms of corruption

The Executive Director of Transparency Solomon Islands conveyed the message to Pacific leaders during the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders 2023 Dialogue with Civil Society, “We must continue to work towards protecting democracy through good governance, peace, security, gender equality, disability, and social inclusion in order for all Pacific citizens to lead a free, healthy, and productive life. Corrupt conduct, and practice diminish all of us and the aspirations of the Blue Pacific 2050 vision. To live in a corrupt free region is to live a fulfilling life.”

Transparency International Chapters in Melanesia are constantly evaluating the effectiveness of their anti-corruption strategies. Many are working with multiple stakeholders to develop and implement policies that curb corruption. The battle against corruption is not a futile one. Stakeholders in the Pacific are working together to bring about a culture of integrity. The support of all Pacific Islanders is vital in this worthwhile endeavour. 

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