The 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released by anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International on Thursday, 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.
Denmark is ranked number one on the anti-corruption list for the second year in a row.
Together with New Zealand, Denmark received 87 points, making the two countries the best placed on the list.
The total of 87 points is one less than that given to Denmark last year.
Finland is 3rd on this year’s list, with Nordic neighbours Sweden and Norway in joint 4th and 7th respectively.
The United Kingdom is joint 12th and the United States 23rd.
Despite its high placing, Denmark lost points for the fifth consecutive year relating to how corrupt the public sector is perceived to be.
Denmark can be proud of the results but must also be cautious, said Natascha Linn Felix, head of Transparency International’s Danish section.
“We must note that confidence that things are going well has declined. We can see that there is a correlation between ranking on the list and the level of openness around party support and lobbyism,” Felix said.
“This is an area where we are notoriously criticized both internationally and nationally for the rules on private (political) party support in Denmark,” she said.
Given that the index is based on surveys of experts’ and business leaders’ perception of how corrupt a country's public sector is, it is not a factual measure of the degree of corruption in individual countries.
Controversial fraud cases in the public eye, such as the misappropriation of millions of kroner at the National Board of Social Services (Socialstyrelsen), do not have an immediate impact on the index score, Felix said.
“The index is composed of so many data sets that a single case will not cause a large fluctuation,” the Transparency International country director said.
“We are pleased that it is still 'breaking news' in Denmark when there are cases of abuse of power in the public sector,” she added.
Christian Bjørnskov, an economics professor at Aarhus University who has researched corruption, said it is not surprising that Denmark is at the top of the index.
“We have a special culture of trust that makes people very reluctant to pay and accept bribes. That's how it's been for 150 years,” Bjørnskov said.
The researcher noted out that this Northern European trait can also be seen in countries including Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
“It is related to us becoming wealthy (countries) because we have had well-functioning independent judiciaries,” he said.
“So there are some historical reasons for why we have become rich and thereby stayed clean (of corruption) until today,” Bjørnskov added.
The index measures perceptions of corruption in relation to bribery and the management of public funds in the public sector.
It does not relate to corruption in the private sector, including money laundering and tax fraud.