Latest global corruption report (CPI) puts COVID-19 response in the spotlight

28 January 2021

Transparency International’s landmark annual report, the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), is the most widely used indicator of corruption worldwide. It assesses the level of public sector corruption in each of the world’s 180 countries according to data sources from expert independent institutions.

This year’s report finds a link between a nation’s score on the CPI and public perceptions of corruption. Countries that perform well on the index invest more in health care, are better able to provide universal health coverage and are less likely to violate democratic norms and institutions or the rule of law. Countries with higher levels of corruption tend to be the worst perpetrators of rule of law and democratic breaches while managing the COVID-19 crisis.

Global snapshot

‘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’ said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International.

‘Corruption thrives in times of crisis. COVID-19 has highlighted the consequences of weak institutions and poor governance’. Said Serena Lillywhite, CEO of Transparency International Australia.

‘Corruption takes many forms – from bribery and embezzlement, to overpricing, and favouritism. The risk of corruption is also exacerbated with emergency powers that allow decision-makers to fast-track new laws and new spending behind closed doors.

‘This leads to a further erosion of trust in government, wasted public funds, lower quality services, shortages in medical supplies and staff – eventually costing lives.’


This year’s report has put Australia in 11th place, scoring 77 points on the 100-point scale. Australia’s score has dropped 8 points since our peak in 2012. For the past three years, we have remained stubbornly on 77 points. Australia has moved up a notch on the CPI rank, but this is due to the fact that Iceland has dropped down.

‘Australia’s relatively high score compared to other nations must not lead to complacency. The truth is, after a significant drop our score has remained stagnant for far too long’ said Serena Lillywhite.

‘The key lesson from Transparency International’s research is that strong democratic governance is essential to managing an equitable and effective COVID-19 response. This means we cannot put tackling corruption on hold, we must establish a strong, national integrity agency without delay.

‘This past year we have seen our fair share of scandals, questionable public spending and opaque decision-making– such as the lack of accountability and transparency around the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission and the misuse of public funds in the ‘sports rorts’ affair.

‘As Australia continues to invest heavily in economic stimulus this year, especially mining and infrastructure, we must prioritise strong, transparent and accountable decision-making.

‘2021 will require a sharp focus on how we spend public funds, how we manage conflicts of interest and how we conduct proper due diligence on government contracts.

‘Transparency International’s global recommendations – strengthening oversight institutions, ensuring open and transparent contracting, promoting civic space and ensuring access to information – are especially relevant for Australia.’