Picture: 123RF / MYKHAILO POLENOK
Picture: 123RF / MYKHAILO POLENOK

SA is one of the many countries across the world showing little to no improvement in tackling corruption, according to the latest corruption perceptions index by Transparency International.

The ongoing commission of inquiry into state capture has catapulted corruption to the fore in SA amid revelations of grand-scale looting of parastatals. Tackling corruption is seen as crucial in the drive to stabilise SA’s finances and state-owned enterprises (SOEs), as well as attracting much needed investment to kickstart the ailing economy.

The index, considered the leading global indicator of public-sector corruption, ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of corruption in the public sector according to experts and business people. It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

The 2019 index released on Thursday reveals that more than two-thirds of the 180 countries it rated scored below 50, with an average score of just 43. SA improved marginally from a score of 43 in 2018 to 44, which still places it squarely among countries deemed to have a serious corruption problem, and not doing enough in their anti-corruption efforts, the authors of the report said.

The index rates Denmark and New Zealand both at 87 as the least corrupt, closely followed by Finland (86); Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland (all 85)' Norway (84); the Netherlands (82); and Germany and Luxembourg (both 80). The UK and US scored 77 and 69, respectively.  

The bottom end of the scale (countries scoring below 50), includes Cuba (48), Argentina (45), Serbia (39), Thailand (36), Eswatini (34), Malawi (31), Angola (26) and Zimbabwe (24). Syria (13), South Sudan (12), and Somalia (9) are rated the three most corrupt countries in the world.

The report highlights the importance of the relationship between money, political power and corruption.

“Further analysis shows how corruption is more pervasive in countries where big money can flow freely into electoral campaigns. Those better performing countries on the [index] tend to have stronger enforcement of campaign finance regulations, while those countries with lower scores either lack such regulating mechanisms or, where they do exist, are not sufficiently enforced,” local civil society pressure group Corruption Watch said.

Party funding in SA

It noted that parliament passed the Political Party Funding Act in January 2019, but President Cyril Ramaphosa has yet to bring the Act into operation.

“Unless there is a clear, demonstrated political will to enforce key measures and legislation regulating political party funding, as well as to hold internal party members accountable, the perception remains that the country is not doing enough,” Corruption Watch said.

David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch, said the failure, after a year, to bring the Political Party Funding Act into operation does little to inspire confidence in the strength of government’s will to tackle corruption.

Said Lewis, “In addition, the SA public has made it clear that until there is visible progress in prosecuting those responsible for corruption, and until there is visible improvement in the ability of SOEs to deliver their vital services, government’s promises to combat corruption will not be trusted.” 

phakathib@businesslive.co.za