Malta has once again hit a new low in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) published on Thursday dropping another point since last year, to 53, and retaining its place as a country “to watch”.
“Malta faces significant corruption challenges and suffers one of the steepest declines in the rule of law,” the report said of Malta in Western Europe and the European Union’s “to watch” section of the report, in which only Malta and Poland feature.
The incidents of concern highlighted by the organisation include an EU report on the rule of law in Malta, former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s resignation, the arrest of former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri in relation to alleged kickbacks from the controversial passport scheme, and a European Central Bank report which found major failings in BOV “potentially allowing for money laundering and other criminal activities”.
Meanwhile, Poland was listed for being a country where “government leaders exploit the COVID-19 crisis for political gain, undermining democracy, human rights and anti-corruption efforts”.
The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to 13 expert assessments. On the scale, 100 is very clean and 0 is highly corrupt. Malta was a significant decliner on the index, “dropping seven points since 2015 and hitting a new all-time low“.
With 53 points, Malta now shares a score with Saudi Arabia, Italy, Mauritius and Grenada. Denmark and New Zealand top the index with 88 points. Syria, Somalia and South Sudan come last, with 14, 12, and 12 points, respectively.
Malta is one of the 22 countries that have “significantly decreased” their score since 2012, the report notes, while nearly half of the countries “have been stagnant for almost a decade”.
Last year was also fraught with issues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic which is “worsening the democratic backsliding”. Widespread corruption is weakening the COVID-19 response and threatening global recovery, the international organisation said.
The study found that countries that perform well on the index invest more in healthcare, are better able to provide universal health coverage and are less likely to violate democratic norms and institutions or the rule of law.
While Uruguay, for example, which has the highest CPI score in Latin America (71), invests heavily in healthcare and has a robust epidemiological surveillance system, which has aided its response to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, Bangladesh, for example, scores 26 and invests little in healthcare while corruption flourishes during COVID-19, ranging from bribery in health clinics to misappropriated aid.
“COVID-19 is not just a health and economic crisis. It is a corruption crisis. And one that we are currently failing to manage,” the organisation’s Chair Delia Ferreira Rubio said.
“The past year has tested governments like no other in memory, and those with higher levels of corruption have been less able to meet the challenge. But even those at the top of the CPI must urgently address their role in perpetuating corruption at home and abroad.”
The United States also continued to spiral downwards, achieving its worst score since 2012 with 67 points – a result of alleged conflicts of interest and abuse of office at the highest level and a “weak oversight of the $1 trillion COVID-19 relief package (which) raised serious concerns and marked a retreat from longstanding democratic norms promoting accountable government”.
To reduce corruption and better respond to future crises, Transparency International recommended that governments strengthen oversight institutions, ensure open and transparent contracting, defend democracy and promote civic space, and publish relevant data and guarantee access to information.
Since January, the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation has become Transparency International’s official contact point for Malta.