Cyprus drops down corruption table

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Cyprus received another blow to its tarnished reputation as it dropped one notch to 42nd in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) on Thursday.

The news comes as government and senior politicians are accused of graft in relation to the country’s discredited golden passport scheme with President Nicos Anastasiades to address the nation Thursday to announce a campaign against corruption.

According to Transparency International’s annual report on business leaders’ perceptions of corruption, Cyprus dropped nine places since 2012, one year before the Anastasiades administration came to power.

The corruption index is compiled after business leaders give their perception of public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories, using a scale from 0 (highly corrupted) to 100 (no corruption).

Cyprus’ 2020 score was 57 out of 100, one position behind Cape Verde and two from Sain Vincent and the Grenadines.

Denmark and New Zealand top the index, with 88 points.

Syria, Somalia, and South Sudan come last, with 14, and 12 points, respectively.

Significant changes since 2012, the earliest point of comparison in the current CPI methodology, 26 countries significantly improved their CPI scores, including Ecuador (39), Greece (50), Guyana (41), Myanmar (28) and South Korea (61).

Twenty-two countries significantly decreased their scores, including Bosnia & Herzegovina (35), Guatemala (25), Lebanon (25), Malawi (30), Malta(53) and Poland(56).

Continuing a downward trend, the United States achieved its worst score since 2012, with 67 points.

In addition to alleged conflicts of interest and abuse of office at the highest level, weak oversight of the US$1 trillion COVID-19 relief package raised serious concerns and marked a retreat from longstanding democratic norms promoting accountable government.

This puts the United States behind Bhutan and Uruguay in 25th place, down from 23rd in 2019.

The 2020 CPI report also highlights the impact of corruption on government responses to COVID-19, comparing performance in the index to their investment in health care.

“COVID-19 is not just a health and economic crisis. It is a corruption crisis. And one that we are currently failing to manage.

“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.

“But even those at the top of the CPI must urgently address their role in perpetuating corruption at home and abroad,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International.

The report also noted that 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.

Previous research by Transparency International’s Global Health programme found that corruption deprives the global health sector of $500 bln every year.

Corruption is everywhere

The report notes that the past year highlighted integrity challenges among even the highest-scoring countries, proving that no country is free of corruption.

Transparency International recommends that all governments:

  • Strengthen oversight institutions to ensure resources reach those most in need.
  • Anti-corruption authorities and oversight institutions must have sufficient funds, resources, and independence to perform their duties.
  • Ensure open and transparent contracting to combat wrongdoing, identify conflicts of interest and ensure fair pricing.
  • Defend democracy and promote civic space to create the enabling conditions to hold governments accountable.
  • Publish relevant data and guarantee access to information to ensure the public receives easy, accessible, timely and meaningful information.

In Cyprus, the government has come under fire after damning reports regarding the involvement of high-ranking officials in scandals revolving around the country’s passport scheme after a gotcha video filmed by Al Jazeera exposed corruption.

In the one-hour video, which aired in October, then House Speaker Demetris Syllouris and AKEL MP Christakis Tziovanis were seen offering help to obtain a Cypriot passport, in return for cash, to a Chinese businessman with a criminal record to secure citizenship.

Both politicians have since resigned while the EU launched legal proceedings against Cyprus.

The video also revealed how civil servants assisted in speeding up the passport process while overlooking the applicant’s criminal record.

The investment scheme was ditched last November following the Al Jazeera broadcast.