New Zealand’s score slips in latest Corruption Perceptions Index, now ranked third

New Zealand is now ranked third in the international corruption perceptions ranking prepared annually by Transparency International.

Since the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) was revised in 2012 New Zealand has been ranked first or first equal eight times and this is the first time we have not been in the top two.

In the CPI, the higher the score the lower the perceived corruption. New Zealand’s score for 2023 was 85/100. We now sit five points below Denmark (which has been ranked first for six years) and three below Finland, which is in second place.

The drop in score for New Zealand was primarily due to responses to the Executive Opinion Survey (EOS) undertaken by the World Economic Forum in 2023. This is one of the eight contributing surveys/assessments to the CPI.

The EOS asked respondents how common it was for businesses to make undocumented extra payments or bribes connected with trade, public utilities, tax payments or awarding of public contracts. It also asked how common it was for public funds to be diverted to companies, individuals or groups due to corruption.  While New Zealand is still given a positive tick by most executives, the survey responses in 2023 indicate reduced business leader confidence in government integrity systems.

“While New Zealand remains among the least corrupt countries in the world, the reduction in our points and drop in ranking is a reminder that complacency is not an option in our battle against corruption,” says Anne Tolley, Chair of Transparency International New Zealand.
“The decline in the confidence of the business community is particularly troublesome. Maintaining low levels of corruption is essential for our economy and for our values of fairness and accountability.”

Julie Haggie, CEO of Transparency International New Zealand says there is more to learn about the reasons for this drop:

“There were a number of high-profile prosecutions during the last year in areas such as fraud, tax evasion and COVID subsidy related fraud prosecutions.  This could point both to systems that are working as well as poor integrity systems that are enabling it to occur.
“New Zealanders have also seen a huge rise in scamming without sufficient response. People want to know that integrity systems are holding up against corrupt practices.  And, despite improvement in transparency of public tendering platforms, much more effort is needed in improving the transparency of government spending and the governance of public infrastructure projects if community trust is to be sustained.
“Our economy is under stress due to many factors. When times are tough people are keener to know where revenue is spent, and whether everyone is paying their fair share and having the same opportunities,” Ms Haggie said.

Background to the Corruption Perceptions Index

  • Since its inception in 1995, the Corruption Perceptions Index has become the leading global indicator of public sector corruption. The index scores 180 countries and territories around the world based on perceptions of public sector corruption, using data from 13 external sources, including the World Bank, World Economic Forum, private risk and consulting companies, think tanks and others. The scores reflect the views of experts and business people.
  • The process for calculating the CPI is regularly reviewed to make sure it is as robust and coherent as possible, most recently by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in 2017.
  • All the CPI scores since 2012 are comparable from one year to the next. For more  information, see this article: The ABCs of the CPI: How the Corruption Perceptions Index is calculated. The Corruption Perceptions Index is the leading global indicator of public sector corruption. The index scores 180 countries and territories based on expert perceptions of public sector and judicial corruption. This year’s index reveals that most countries have made little to no progress in tackling corruption in more than a decade.
  • Australia’s score is unchanged at 75 and is now positioned at 14th. While Australia’s new government has prioritised establishing a national anti-corruption commission and embarked on changes to public sector whistleblower protections and political financing, much needs to be done for them to be effective. It will take time for any actions to be reflected in the CPI.
  • In other Pacific countries covered by the CPI, the perception of corruption persists without significant progress, with minor increases or decreases in score.  Fiji sits on 52, Papua New Guinea on 29, Solomon Islands on 43, and Vanuatu on 48.  The 2021 Pacific Global Corruption Barometer showed that 65-70% of Pacific nation citizens think that corruption is a big problem in government.  Many Pacific countries have weak governance systems, and climate change events exacerbate the problem. TINZ’s 2022 research into the linkages between corruption and money laundering also showed weaknesses in integrity systems in several Pacific states, leaving gaps which corrupt people will take advantage of.
  • Seventy-one per cent of the countries across Asia and the Pacific have a CPI score below the regional average score of 45 and the global average of 43 out of 100. 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.
  • Globally the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released by Transparency International reveals that most countries have made little to no progress in tackling public sector corruption in more than a decade. What is more, over two-thirds of countries score below 50 out of 100, which strongly indicates serious corruption problems. On average, democratic countries outperform hybrid or authoritarian regimes in controlling corruption. Full democracies have an average CPI score of 73, flawed democracies have one of 48 and non-democratic regimes average just 32.
  • This year Transparency International globally is focusing on weakened justice systems.   Governments are largely failing to stop corruption – over 80 per cent of the world’s population lives in countries with CPI scores below the global average of 43.  The global trend of weakening justice systems is reducing accountability for public officials, which allows corruption to thrive. Authoritarian and also many democratic leaders undermining justice are increasing impunity for corruption, and even encouraging it by eliminating consequences for criminals.

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