THE UK has slumped to its lowest-ever score in Transparency International’s global Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

Results published on 31 January show the UK’s score dropped sharply to 73 this year – its lowest since the Index underwent a major revamp in 2012 – resulting in a fall in the global rankings from eleventh to eighteenth.

The CPI uses impartial surveys from experts and business leaders to score and rank countries by the perceived level of corruption in their public sectors. It uses a scale of zero (perceived as highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived as very clean).

Only five of the 180 countries assessed for the 2022 Index saw their year-on-year scores drop by five or more points: the UK (-5), Qatar (-5), Myanmar (-5), Azerbaijan (-7) and Oman (-8).

Daniel Bruce, Chief Executive of Transparency International UK, said: “This sharp fall in the UK’s score is a powerful indictment of a recent decline in standards in government and controls over the use of taxpayer money. These findings should set alarm bells ringing in Downing Street. The underlying data clearly indicate that business executives and other experts are concerned about insufficient controls on the abuse of public office and increasingly view corruption and bribery as a real issue in Britain. This is the strongest signal yet that slipping standards are being noticed on the world stage.”

The UK’s CPI score is based on data from eight independent sources including the Economist Intelligence Unit and the World Economic Forum. All surveyed experts and business executives for their views on abuses of public office for private gain and bribery in the UK.

Data for this year’s CPI was collected between November 2019 and October 2022, during which time:

  • Details continued to emerge of the government’s ‘VIP lane’ for fast-tracking offers of PPE from companies with political links. Transparency International research previously warned this process appeared systemically biased in favour of those with connections to the party of government.
  • A cross-party parliamentary watchdog raised concerns that decisions on how to award money from the £3.6 billion towns fund, designed to boost economic growth in struggling towns, were not impartial and were politically motivated.
  • Transparency International revealed 40 potential breaches of the ministerial code that were not investigated in the past five years. Details of almost all these potential breaches emerged during the CPI data collection period.
  • An investigation revealed wealthy donors to the Conservatives 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.

Globally, the CPI average score remains unchanged at 43 for the eleventh year in a row. More than two-thirds of countries have a serious problem with corruption, scoring below 50. Denmark(90) tops the index, with South Sudan(13),Syria(13) and Somalia(12), all of which are embroiled in protracted conflict, remaining at the bottom.

Twenty-six countries – including the UK(73), Qatar(58), and Guatemala(24) – have received historic low scores this year.

To stop the slide in the UK’s score and regain its place in the CPI’s top 10, we call on the government to:

  1. Restore integrity in public life by supporting the Public Service (Integrity and Ethics) Bill currently in the House of Lords, which would implement a raft of changes to raise and enforce standards in government.
  2. Show leadership and a genuine commitment to transparency and accountability by appointing an influential Anti-Corruption Champion, publishing an ambitious anti-corruption strategy, and delivering on the UK’s G7 commitments to tackle corruption and kleptocrats.
  3. Protect taxpayers’ money through full and candid disclosure of the COVID-19 ‘VIP lane’ and future-proof public procurement by better addressing conflicts of interest and subjecting all government emergency contracting powers to time limits and tougher scrutiny.

* See the Corruption Perceptions Index 2022 here.

* Source: Transparency International UK