UK drops down global corruption index after string of scandals

Transparency International warns of UK’s ‘woeful inadequacies’ as Qatar, UAE and Russia slide down list

The UK has fallen sharply down the global corruption league table after a report warned of “woeful inadequacies” in upholding political integrity.

Britain fell seven places to 18th on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, representing the biggest fall among the G7 countries.

The report was published two days after Rishi Sunak sacked the Conservative party chair, Nadhim Zahawi, after revelations over his tax affairs, including that he paid a penalty to HMRC.

Qatar, Russia and United Arab Emirates were among the biggest fallers on the list of 180 nations and territories, which is used as a global benchmark by analysts and investors.

Britain’s reputation has been damaged by a string of political scandals among the Conservative party. The country had three prime ministers in 2022, with Boris Johnson departing after Partygate, as well as scandals including the conduct of Tory MP Chris Pincher.

The report said there was a “growing list of problems” in the UK. It cited the awarding of lucrative contracts for protective equipment to people with connections to the Conservatives, including Tory peer Michelle Mone. It also highlighted the appointment of politically connected people to public sector roles during the pandemic.

Transparency International noted the government’s attempts to help the Tory MP Owen Paterson avoid an ethics inquiry in late 2021. But the global anti-corruption organisation said there had been some “steps in the right direction” such as Sunak appointing a new ethics adviser in December.

“If the government is truly committed to restoring trust in politics, it needs to overhaul how the standards and conduct of elected representatives are regulated to stop the slide,” the study said.

Qatar, which faced criticism over its treatment of workers in the run-up to the World Cup, dropped nine spots to 40th place. Denmark, Finland and New Zealand remained at the top of the list, while Somalia, Syria and South Sudan were at the bottom.

Russia, which invaded Ukraine last February, ranked 137th and the report said a system of “kleptocrats” receiving fortunes in exchange for loyalty to Vladimir Putin meant there was little oversight of the Russian leader’s actions.

The action of the former president Jair Bolsonaro and his followers have damaged Brazil’s reputation. Transparency International said he was responsible for the “dismantling of anti-corruption frameworks” and built a system of “corrupt schemes” to shore up support.

Supporters of Bolsanaro, who was succeeded by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, stormed government buildings earlier this month. It emerged on Monday that Bolsanaro had filed a request for a six-month visitor visa to stay in the US.

Hungary replaced Bulgaria as the lowest-ranked EU member state, falling four places to 77th.

• This article was amended on 31 January 2023 to remove references to Brazil having fallen places on the Transparency International list. Brazil has in fact remained 94th for the past three years.


Alex Lawson

The GuardianTramp

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