Corruption jeopardizes implementation of sustainable policies in OECD and EU countries

Recent findings from the Bertelsmann Stiftung's Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI) show 14 out of 41 OECD and EU countries faltering at corruption prevention. UK ranks 14th in the overall ranking on corruption prevention.

Gütersloh. From 2012 to 2016, the average score for the indicator assessing corruption prevention efforts improved in OECD and EU countries. However, things have taken a turn for the worse since then, with the average score falling from 6.6 in 2017 to 6.3 in 2022. Fourteen states proved unable to establish the institutional arrangements needed to effectively prevent the abuse of office. In two of these states, corrupt officials no longer live in fear of prosecution.

Since 2009, the SGI project has been examining the resilience of OECD and EU countries in terms of the robustness of democracy, the quality of governance and the sustainability of their policies targeting economic, social and environmental issues. The SGI’s corruption prevention indicator draws on expert assessments of policy progress in each surveyed country. “Our findings show that institutional weaknesses in the fight against corruption have far-reaching consequences,” says Christof Schiller, governance expert at the Bertelsmann Stiftung. “Countries with underdeveloped anti-corruption efforts often also have difficulty implementing sustainable policies because confidence in their ability to solve problems has already been undermined.”

In Hungary, which ranks at the bottom along with Turkey, key offices such as the attorney general are held by people close to the ruling Fidesz party. This has stymied investigations into members of the Fidesz party for their involvement in various scandals and the Orbán government’s activities. Public procurement regulations in Turkey are also highly susceptible to corruption.

The fight against corruption has regressed considerably in Poland. Since 2016, Poland, under the right-wing populist PiS, has gradually fallen from the upper midfield to the lower third of the ranking (rank 32). Given that current Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro has also been appointed to serve as the prosecutor general under the PiS government and the fact that Poland’s highest courts, in the wake of new appointments, can no longer be considered to be independent, efforts to battle corruption are effectively weakened. 

Estonia has recently become a leader in corruption prevention. The country’s performance here derives from the variety of instititonal mechanisms the Estonian government has introduced as a response to concerns about corruption and abuses of power. Its monitoring tools include the National Audit Office, the parliamentary Anti-Corruption Select Committee and the Anti-Corruption Act. These efforts have proved successful, as the number of registered corruption offenses has decreased significantly.

These examples show that battling corruption is part of a broader effort to ensure a sustainable democratic polity. “Even top performers such as Denmark, New Zealand (both at rank 1) and Sweden (rank 2) – which have been rocked by various scandals in recent years – must sustain their efforts to curb corruption,” says Schiller. 


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