Concerns have also been raised over the United States, as it fell outside the top 20 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for the first time since 2011.
The index, released by Transparency International, measures public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories, using 13 expert assessments and surveys of business executives to give each country a score from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).
The 2018 index is topped by Denmark and New Zealand, with 88 and 87 points respectively, while at the bottom is Somalia with 10, and Syria and South Sudan, both with 13.
More than two thirds of countries score below 50 in the index, with an average score of only 43.
This year’s index also showed a drop for the United States, which it said was a key country to watch as it dropped four points to 71, marking the first time since 2011 that it has fallen outside the top 20 countries.
Zoe Reiter, Acting Representative to the US at Transparency International, said: “A four point drop in the CPI score is a red flag and comes at a time when the US is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balances, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.
“If this trend continues, it would indicate a serious corruption problem in a country that has taken a lead on the issue globally. This is a bipartisan issue that requires a bipartisan solution.”
Transparency International said five of the nine sources used to compile the score for the US showed a noteworthy drop in score while the others showed no improvement.
It said since 2012, only 20 countries have significantly improved their scores, including Côte D’Ivoire, and 16 have significantly declined, including, Australia, Chile and Malta.
Transparency International said cross analysis with global democracy data had revealed a link between corruption and the health of democracies.
It said in 2016, the US was downgraded from a full to a flawed democracy in the Democracy Index and in 2018, the US received its lowest Freedom in the World Index score for political rights since 1972, when measurement began.
“Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions, and in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption,” said Patricia Moreira, Managing Director of Transparency International.
“Around the world, we need to do more to strengthen checks and balances and protect citizens’ rights, and the US is no exception.”
A survey published by Transparency International in 2017 showed that nearly six in ten Americans believed the US was more corrupt than the previous year, with the White House considered the most corrupt institution in the US.
“The expert opinion captured by the CPI supports the deep concern over corruption in government reported by Americans in our 2017 survey,” said Reiter.
“Both experts and the public believe the situation is getting worse.”