Australia rates comparatively well on international corruption scales, but it is getting worse.
The annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) from Transparency International rates 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people. It uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
The recently released 2017 edition found that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43. “Unfortunately, compared to recent years, this poor performance is nothing new,” says the report.
The CPI singles out Australia as a country whose performance has steadily decline since 2012. It says most countries, including Australia, are making little or no progress in ending corruption.
Australia’s score this year is 77, which places it at the 16th least corrupt country out of the 190 surveyed. Last year it was 13th. Its score declined from 79 to 77 points, continuing a trend in recent years.
It does better than the US or Japan, but ranks below the UK, Canada and the Nordic countries. Least corrupt country is New Zealand, with a score of 89.
Australia’s declining performance comes as the government cracks down on access to information and amid continued publicity about entitlement rorting by politicians, opaque political donations laws, inappropriate behaviour by lobbyists, and companies’ creative use of Australia’s taxation laws.
Just a month ago Australia’s Public Service Commission released a report that says that 5 percent of APS survey respondents said they had witnessed another employee engaging in behaviour they considered to be corrupt, a number that had doubled in three years.
The report makes a number of recommendations, most of which are relevant to Australia:
- Governments and businesses must do more to encourage free speech, independent media, political dissent and an open and engaged civil society.
- Governments should minimise regulations on media, including traditional and new media, and ensure that journalists can work without fear of repression or violence. In addition, international donors should consider press freedom relevant to development aid or access to international organisations.
- Civil society and governments should promote laws that focus on access to information. This access helps enhance transparency and accountability while reducing opportunities for corruption. It is important, however, for governments to not only invest in an appropriate legal framework for such laws, but also commit to their implementation.
- Activists and governments should take advantage of the momentum generated by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to advocate and push for reforms at the national and global level. Specifically, governments must ensure access to information and the protection of fundamental freedoms and align these to international agreements and best practices.
- Governments and businesses should proactively disclose relevant public interest information in open data formats. Proactive disclosure of relevant data, including government budgets, company ownership, public procurement and political party finances allows journalists, civil society and affected communities to identify patterns of corrupt conduct more efficiently.
The CPI report can be found here.