Analysing The Political Economy

UK Falls To Lowest Ever Score On Global Corruption Index

It is of no surprise to see that the UK, under a government immersed in accusations of corruption, malfeasance and general abuse of office, has fallen on the global corruption perceptions index to its lowest-ever ranking. From illegal lobbying by sitting MPs, and undeclared personal interests to cash-for-favours and VIP lane Covid contracts worth hundreds of millions. The list seems endless. The fact that Nadhim Zahawi, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was sacked over his own tax affairs tells you all you need to know about that malfeasance.

Results published show the UK’s score fell again this year to its lowest since the Index underwent a major revamp in 2012. The UK now sits at 20th in the global ranking, a sharp drop from its position just outside the top ten in 2021.

This year’s score of 71 follows increasing concerns about the UK government’s approach to corruption, despite the Prime Minister’s promise of a government of ‘integrity and professionalism’. The UK is still without an anti-corruption champion 15 months into his premiership.

The CPI came days before the COVID-19 inquiry began to look at the pandemic procurement processes that saw multiple scandals over lucrative government contracts to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and the government’s so-called VIP lane.

The CPI uses impartial surveys from experts and business leaders to score and rank countries by the perceived level of corruption in their public sectors. The result is presented on a scale of zero (perceived as highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived as very clean).

The UK’s 2023 CPI score represents the most significant drop in Western Europe over the past five years (-9) steeper than Poland (-6) and Austria (-5). This decline since 2018 is similar in size to that in countries like Myanmar (-9), Nicaragua (-8), Liberia (-7), and Turkey (-7).

Daniel Bruce, Chief Executive, 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. 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.”


The UK’s latest score is based on data from eight independent sources, including the Economist Intelligence Unit and the World Economic Forum. All surveyed experts and business executives for their views on abuses of public office for private gain and bribery in the UK.

New data for this year’s CPI were collected between January 2022 and October 2023, during which time:

  • both the UK Government’s Anti-Corruption Champion and Independent Advisor on Ministerial Interests resigned – the Anti-Corruption Champion post remains vacant to this day
  • there was a stream of revelations about questionable procurement practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, including news of a criminal investigation by the National Crime Agency into contracts awarded to PPE Medpro
  • court disclosures highlighted that a major political donor to the Conservative Party was a person of importance in an industrial-scale money laundering scheme
  • there were continued concerns about the award of honours and peerages in return for substantial political donations and political loyalty


The data shows that while perceptions of bribery generally are improving, there are growing concerns over cronyism and patronage in politics, and its effect on the management of public funds.

To stop the slide in the UK’s score and regain its place in the CPI’s top 10, Transparency International UK call on the government to:

  1. Raise and enforce standards in government by placing ethics watchdogs and the codes they oversee on a statutory footing, including the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), the Independent Adviser on Minister’ Interests and the House of Lords Appointments Committee (HOLAC).
  2. Put a stop to the corrosive influence of big money in politics by placing £10,000 cap on donations and reducing campaign spending limits and reporting thresholds.
  3. Show leadership and a genuine commitment to transparency and accountability by appointing an influential Anti-Corruption Champion and publishing an ambitious anti-corruption strategy that contends both with international kleptocracy and corruption in British politics.


Corruption around the World

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 (90) tops the index, with South Sudan (13), Syria (13) and Somalia (11), all of which are embroiled in protracted conflict, remaining at the bottom.

Daniel Bruce, Chief Executive, Transparency International UK said:

“Despite repeated warnings, the UK’s score continues to fall. Britain has slid from just outside the top ten countries to barely clinging onto the top twenty in just two years. With the most significant drop in Western Europe we remain an unfortunate outlier, falling behind our peers – a powerful indictment of the recent decline in standards in government that have dominated the headlines in recent years.”


The ten countries for the least corruption in the index are: Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg.



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