Malta’s position has declined significantly in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) published today, dropping six points since 2015 to a score of 54 among 180 countries.
Malta’s cash for passport scheme, the Panama Papers exposé and the collapse of Pilatus Bank were among a number of scandals that appear to have contributed to a drop in the ranking, the report states.
The index ranks 180 countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts. It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
Malta was listed in the group of countries “to watch” and the report pointed out that, given that it was governed with impunity for decades by two political parties “it’s no wonder that two years after the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed while reporting on corruption, the country is still mired in corruption”.
The low ranking follows a decline registered in The Economist Index where Malta was rated as a “flawed democracy”.
The CPI also highlights calls for justice made on a local and international level to tackle corruption in Malta. “Despite calls from Maltese citizens, Caruana Galizia’s family and the international community to solve the case, the government dragged its feet in the judicial procedures”.
Transparency International notes that more than two-thirds of countries – along with many of the world’s most advanced economies – are “stagnating or showing signs of backsliding in their anti-corruption efforts”.
Countries in which elections and political party financing are open to undue influence from vested interests were also less able to fight corruption.
“Frustration with government corruption and lack of trust in institutions speak of a need for greater political integrity,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International. “Governments must urgently address the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on our political systems.”
Since 2012, only 22 countries have significantly improved their scores, including Estonia, Greece and Guyana. Twenty-one have significantly declined, including Australia, Canada and Nicaragua.
The organisation highlights the fact that “several of the most advanced economies cannot afford to be complacent” if they are to keep up their anti-corruption momentum.
Four G7 countries score lower than last year: Canada (-4), France (-3), the UK (-3) and the US (-2). Germany and Japan have seen no improvement, while Italy gained one point.
The report points out that countries that perform well on the CPI also have stronger enforcement of campaign finance regulations and a broader range of political consultation.
“Countries where campaign finance regulations are comprehensive and systematically enforced have an average score of 70 on the CPI, whereas countries where such regulations either don’t exist or are poorly enforced score an average of just 34 and 35 respectively,” the report states.
In fact, 60% of the countries that significantly improved their CPI scores since 2012 also strengthened regulations around campaign donations.
“The lack of real progress against corruption in most countries is disappointing and has profound negative effects on citizens around the world,” said Patricia Moreira, Managing Director of Transparency International.
“To have any chance of ending corruption and improving peoples’ lives, we must tackle the relationship between politics and big money. All citizens must be represented in decision making,” she added.
Countries with broader and more open consultation processes score an average of 61 while those where there is little to no consultation have an average score of just 32.
The vast majority of countries that significantly decreased their CPI scores since 2012 do not engage the most relevant political, social and business actors in political decision making, according to the report.
In its recommendations to reduce corruption and restore trust in politics, Transparency International has called on governments to reinforce checks and balances and promote separation of powers while controlling political financing to prevent excessive money and influence in politics.
Governments should also tackle preferential treatment to ensure budgets and public services “aren’t driven by personal connections or biased towards special interests” and manage all conflicts of interest. Lobbying activities should also be regulated through promoting open and meaningful access to decision making.
The report also stresses that misinformation campaigns should be sanctioned and citizens should be empowered, while protecting activists, whistleblowers and journalists.