Greece has emerged as the most corrupt among 27 European Union nations, according to anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI), in a report that will be a major embarrassment to the country that is already suffering from its worst financial crisis in generations.
In TI's Corruption Perceptions Index, a global league table of perceived graft, Greece took 94th place below Bulgaria and Romania, which are comparatively poorer and new democracies.
Greece, which is criticised for tax evasion among the rich, went down from 80thrank in 2011, while Bulgaria, which was the worst among the EU nations in 86th place last year, was ranked at 75th.
Also struggling due to the Eurozone debt crisis, Italy was placed 72nd in the index, ahead of Bulgaria but behind Romania on 66th.
In the scorecard indicating 0 as "highly corrupt" and 100 as "very clean", Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece recorded the lowest scores in western Europe. Greece scored a 36, Italy 42, Portugal 63 and Spain 65.
TI said in a statement that it has "consistently warned Europe to address corruption risks in the public sector to tackle the financial crisis, calling for strengthened efforts to corruption-proof public institutions."
TI's EU analyst Jana Mittermaier cited "weak or inefficient judicial systems, poor public audit services and cosy ties between government and business" as the reasons for perceptions of corruption in the region, Reuters reported.
Denmark, Finland and New Zealand were ranked at No. 1 with scores of 90, followed by Sweden and Singapore, which scored 88 and 87, respectively.
Among major economies, Germany scored 79 to reach at the 13th rank and the US was at the 19th position with a score of 73. France was at 22, with a score of 71.
The UK scored 74, sharing the 17th spot with Japan.
Two-thirds of the 176 countries ranked scores below 50 in the index. Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan, all scoring 8, were the most corrupt countries in the world. The countries are suffering from the repression of human rights, social inequality and poverty.
"Governments need to integrate anti-corruption actions into all public decision-making. Priorities include better rules on lobbying and political financing, making public spending and contracting more transparent and making public bodies more accountable to people," said Huguette Labelle, the Chair of TI.
The report released at 6 a.m. Wednesday, Nigeria scored 27 out of a maximum 100 marks to clinch the 139th position out of the 176 countries surveyed for the report. It shared that position with Azerbaijan, Kenya, Nepal and Pakistan. Countries such as Togo, Mali, Niger and Benin fared better than Nigeria.
It will be recalled that Nigeria placed 143rd in the 2011 ranking, making it the 37th most corrupt country. However, when compared with this year’s result, It is difficult to say whether Nigeria has recorded any improvement because 182, six more than this year’s, were ranked in 2011.
According to the report, this year’s index ranks 176 countries/territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. The index draws on 13 surveys covering expert assessments and surveys of business people.
The Corruption Perceptions Index is the leading indicator of public sector corruption, offering a yearly snapshot of the relative degree of the corruption problem by ranking countries from all over the globe.
TI described this year’s report as an indication that “corruption is a major threat facing humanity. Corruption destroys lives and communities, and undermines countries and institutions. It generates popular anger that threatens to further destabilise societies and exacerbate violent conflicts.”
The organization added, “Corruption translates into human suffering, with poor families being extorted for bribes to see doctors or to get access to clean drinking water. It leads to failure in the delivery of basic services like education or healthcare. It derails the building of essential infrastructure, as corrupt leaders skim funds.”
It however, encouraged governments to integrate anti-corruption actions into all aspects of decision-making. “They must prioritise better rules on lobbying and political financing, make public spending and contracting more transparent, and make public bodies more accountable.”