Britain has fallen to its worst-ever ranking on a global corruption index with experts calling for “urgent action” from ministers to restore confidence in political and public life.
Britain, which is now below countries such as Seychelles, Uruguay and Estonia in the ranking, has been rocked by a string of scandals in recent months, from government procurement during the pandemic to a Post Office “cover up” during the Horizon scandal.
Daniel Bruce, chief executive at Transparency International UK, said: “The continued fall in the UK’s score shows a country heading in the wrong direction. It’s clear that business leaders and other experts are more concerned than ever about political corruption and the abuse of public office in the UK.”
The total corruption perceptions index score awarded to Britain was 71 out of 100. It also comes amid increasing concerns over the UK government’s approach to corruption, despite Rishi Sunak’s promise of a government of “integrity and professionalism”.
The UK is still without an anti-corruption champion 15 months into his leadership. The last champion was MP John Penrose.
The index comes days before the Covid-19 inquiry will investigate the alleged scandals over lucrative government contracts to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and the government’s so-called VIP lane.
This month, an inquiry into the Post Office Horizon Scandal heard how the Cameron coalition government knew bosses had covered up mistakes with faulty computer systems in branches.
Last year, Rishi Sunak faced heckling and mockery from the public as he defended the government’s handling of the contaminated blood scandal, which saw thousands of people die and others continue to suffer after being given contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mr Bruce said: “These findings should be a wake-up call for government. We need urgent action from ministers - not just words – to restore much-needed confidence in the integrity of political and public life.”
Transparency International said that while data shows that “perceptions of bribery generally are improving”, there are mounting concerns management of public funds due to “cronyism in politics”.
Globally, the CPI average score remains unchanged at 43 for the twelfth year in a row. More than two-thirds of countries are seen to have a serious corruption problem, scoring below 50. Denmark tops the index with a score of 90. Meanwhile, Somali has is ranked the lowest with a score of 11, while South Sudan and Syria share a score of 13.
A UK government spokesperson said: “Integrity, professionalism and accountability are the core values of this government and we have robust safeguards to protect our institutions from corruption. Our forthcoming anti-corruption strategy will outline the UK response to strengthen resilience against corruption in the UK and internationally.
“Our controls over fighting economic crime, including fraud and corruption remain among the strongest in the world and last year we announced plans to strengthen our ethics and integrity through reforming business appointment rules, increase transparency and accountability in public appointments, and improve the quality and accessibility of departmental transparency releases.”