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Public sector corruption plagues government ‘at all levels’ across Europe

By Dean Carroll

Corruption continues to plague Europe with abuses of power, secret deals and bribery at all levels of government  – warned campaign group Transparency International today. Highlighting the poor performance of a number of European Union member states the annual Corruption Perceptions Index ranked countries on a scale from zero, equating to high levels of maladministration, to 100 – meaning a country was perceived to be ‘very clean’.

Some seven out of the 28 EU member states scored below 50. Greece only achieved a rating of 40, Bulgaria scored 41 and Romania was ranked at 43, as was Italy. Meanwhile Slovakia registered 47 on the index. The Czech Republic and Croatia were both on 48. But three European nations – Denmark on 91, Finland on 89 and Sweden also scoring 89 – were perceived to have the least public sector corruption in the union. They also topped the global rankings for clean states.

“All countries still face the threat of corruption at all levels of government from the issuing of local permits to the enforcement of laws and regulations,” said Huguette Labelle, head of Transparency International. The report acknowledged that certain nations, such as Estonia and Latvia, had improved levels of transparency while others – Spain and Slovenia, for example – had gone backwards. Although, overall, Europe was said to be doing little to tackle the persistently high levels of corruption.

“The persistence of corruption across the EU undermines confidence in government and is a drag on economic recovery,” said Carl Dolan, director of the Transparency International EU Office. “Recurring corruption scandals around political party financing, the lack of adequate protection for whistleblowers and the ease with which dirty money can evade detection are problems that require a collective response from EU and national leaders. We hope that the European Commission’s anti-corruption report – due early next year – will highlight these issues and help put corruption at the top of the political agenda for the next mandate of the European Parliament.”

Looking to the global picture, the index ranked Denmark and New Zealand top in terms ‘clean’ systems of governance. Making up the worst performers were Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia – each scoring just 8 points. “The top performers clearly reveal how transparency supports accountability and can stop corruption,” added Labelle. “Still, the better performers face issues like state capture, campaign finance and the oversight of big public contracts which remain major corruption risks.”

The index was based on opinions from a panel of experts assessing public sector corruption. Scores were helped by strong access to information systems and rules governing the behaviour of those in public positions, while a lack of accountability across the public sector coupled with ineffective public institutions damaged the rankings of those nations evaluated.

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