The 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released by anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International on Tuesday, ranks perceptions of corruption levels amongst officials and authorities in different countries.
The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, using a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
As such, the list does not make any claims as to the actual corruption present in a given country, according to Natascha Linn Felix, head of the organisation’s Danish section.
“This is an index of perception and not an actual index of how much corruption there is,” Felix said.
In the 2017 list, Denmark lost its no. 1 spot on the list after several years at the top, with New Zealand achieving a better points score.
But New Zealand fared slightly worse in 2018’s ranking with 87 points compared to 89 previously, giving Denmark first place with an unchanged score of 88.
The result could be considered surprising, given major corruption-related cases in Denmark last year. These included a money-laundering scandal at the Estonian branch of Danske Bank, Denmark’s biggest lender; and a multi-million kroner embezzlement at Socialstyrelsen, an administrative department of the Ministry for Children and Social Affairs.
“First and foremost, the index does not reflect individual cases. Next, it measures the perceived level of corruption in the public sector,” Felix said.
“That means that what happens in the financial services sector is not reflected in the index,” she added.
Sweden shares the ranking's third place with Finland, Switzerland and Singapore on 85 points; while Norway is in 7th on 84. The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Canada are also in the top 10.
Graphic: Transparency International
Denmark traditionally scores well on the index, as do the other Scandinavian countries. That is due to a number of factors, said Christian Bjørnskov, an economics professor at Aarhus University who has researched corruption.
“This is in part about the very special culture of mutual confidence that we share with Norway and Sweden. Additionally, we have a 150-year-old tradition for a politically independent and very clean legal system,” Bjørnskov said.
“And perhaps this is also due to the fact that we, very early in history, actually eradicated many of the problems that other countries had back then, and still have,” he added.
More than two-thirds of countries scored below 50 on this year’s index, with an average score of just 43, Transparency International writes on its website.
That is related to the continued failure of most countries to significantly control corruption, contributing to a crisis in democracy around the world, the organisation adds.