In this year’s annual ranking of countries based on corruption level, Singapore has been ranked as the fourth country that has the least corruption in the public sector. The country’s score ties with Sweden and Switzerland for the second consecutive year.
The three nations kept their score of 85 on the corruption watchdog Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perception Index. The index uses a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).
Singapore has been the only country in Asia to make it to the top 10 cleanest countries.
In the report, released on Thursday (23 Jan), the consistently clean New Zealand and Denmark tied for the top ranking with indices of 87 points.
In 2018, Finland’s score tied with that of Switzerland, Singapore and Sweden but this year, it managed to secure the third ranking at 86 points, one point ahead.
The report also highlighted there was little to no improvements in combating corruption in a “staggering” number of countries. This is despite the rising tide of anti-graft movements worldwide.
In 2019, the average score was 43, and two-thirds of the 180 nations scored below 50, similar to the previous year.
Since 2012, the scores of 21 nations dropped markedly whereas only 22 nations, such as Estonia, Greece and Guyana have increased their scores.
Canada, a consistent high scorer, lost four points from the previous year to now at 77. According to Transparency International, a former executive of construction company SNC-Lavalin was convicted for bribe activities in Libya in December last year, which is also linked to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
As for the US, it scored the lowest in eight years at 69 points. Transparency International reported that government trust in the US is at a record low at 17 per cent, as found by Pew Research Centre. Other reasons also include the increasing influence of special interests in government and threats to the US system of checks and balances which affected the country’s score last year.
Since its inception in 1995, the Corruption Perception Index has ranked 180 territories and countries by the perceived levels of public sector corruption as perceived by business people and experts. Incorporating expert assessments and 13 surveys, a score is derived for each country.
In last year’s index, Norway was ranked seventh at 84, followed by the Netherlands at 82, Germany and Luxembourg at 80.
“While Singapore has done relatively well in the fight against corruption, as attested to by several international surveys, we must not allow this to lull us into a sense of complacency…In fact, we must work even harder to ensure that incorruptibility remains part of the DNA of every Singaporean,” the director of Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), Denis Tang remarked.
Singapore has always had a good track record as a low corruption country, as evidenced by the ranking by Political and Economic Risk Consultancy‘s 2019 Report on Corruption in Asia of the country as the least corrupt country in the region since 1995.
“Even though we have slipped a place from third to fourth, this is not a significant decline,” Lawyer Wilson Ang, the head of Asia regulatory compliance and investigations practice in global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, remarked.
Mr Ang believed that “what is more important is that Singapore should continue to keep pace with global developments and update our laws to address the corruption risks in doing business.”
Regional nations that ranked lower on the index, such as Thailand, Malaysia and India are on the path of reforming their laws on compliance practices and corporate liability to better match mature jurisdictions such as the UK and the US.
With this, corruption can be proven more easily not only at the individual level, but also the company level.
“I think Singapore ought to review our laws and implement a more consistent and workable test for corporate criminal liability and also to give credit and a legal defence to companies which have, in good faith, implemented anti-corruption compliance programmes,” Mr Ang concluded.