UK falls to its lowest ranking on global corruption index

Britain was ranked 18 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s listing for 2022

The Palace of Westminster, home to the Houses of Parliament, in London. AFP
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The UK has fallen to its lowest ranking in a global corruption index.

Britain was ranked 18 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s listing for 2022, which was published on Tuesday.

That represents a fall of seven positions since 2021, when it was ranked in 11th place.

Its score also fell, from 78 out of 100 in 2021, to 73 last year.

Taken together it means the UK is now in its lowest position since the index was first launched a decade ago.

Transparency International said problems including irregularities in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) and a string of ministerial breaches contributed to the UK’s fall.

The score is based on data compiled from eight independent sources, including the Economist Intelligence Unit and the World Economic Forum.

It was based on data calculated between November 2019 and October 2022, when more details emerged about a fast-track VIP lane used by companies with political links to submit offers to sell PPE during the early period of the pandemic.

An investigation during the period also revealed how donors to the Tory party who gave at least £3 million and took on a temporary role as the party treasurer commonly went on to be given a place in the House of Lords.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took over the post from Liz Truss in late October, promising to bring “integrity and accountability”.

But his leadership has been dogged since by allegations of bullying by some of his senior ministers, as well as serious breaches, including the continuing fallout over former Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs.

It recently came to light that Mr Zahawi came to a multimillion-pound settlement with Revenue and Customs officials over unpaid tax — at a time when he was chancellor.

In another scandal unfolding alongside, a regulator was asked to investigate how Richard Sharp was appointed chairman of the BBC in 2021, following questions over his role in securing a loan for former prime minister Boris Johnson shortly before his selection.

Both Mr Sharp and Mr Johnson have been facing questions after reports emerged that Mr Sharp helped to arrange a guarantee for a loan of up to £800,000 for Mr Johnson.

Mr Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker, claimed he had introduced an old friend who wanted to help Johnson to a government official in late 2020, but his involvement went no further.

Transparency International has called on the government to appoint an influential Anti-Corruption Champion, introduce an ethics in public service bill and future-proof future public procurement to protect taxpayers’ money and regain its place in the top 10.

“The UK’s sharp fall paints a bleak, if not unexpected picture,” said Daniel Bruce, chief executive of Transparency International UK.

“The good news is that changes can be made to reverse the decline. Restoring the confidence of business to begin rebuilding Britain’s CPI score will not be easy — it demands comprehensive action as well as words in order to make good on the Prime Minister’s commitment to lead a government of integrity and accountability.”

The 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index is topped by Denmark, with a score of 90 out of 100.

Fellow European countries Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg all also appear in the top 10.

Ukraine was ranked in 116th place with a score of 33, an improvement of one point compared to 2021.

Its ranking was based on data collected before the recent departure of a senior defence ministry official and five regional prosecutors in a major anti-corruption drive.

The dismissals marked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s biggest personnel shake-up since Russia invaded almost a year ago.

“It is fair, it is needed for our defence and it helps our rapprochement with European institutions,” he said. “We need a strong state and Ukraine will be just that.”

Russia was ranked near the bottom, in 137th place, with a score of 28 — a fall of one point compared to 2021.

Updated: January 31, 2023, 10:37 AM