The Port of Bossaso in Somalia

Countries with the highest rates of public-sector corruption

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November 30, 2022
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Countries with the highest rates of public-sector corruption

Public-sector corruption is often felt before it is seen. It is carried out in private agreements and manifests publicly at polling stations, jails, hospitals, banks, and government buildings—places not all people have direct or consistent familiarity with.

While there are certainly exceptions to this position—perhaps the most egregious, recent example being the wide-reaching attempted malfeasance surrounding the 2020 U.S. presidential election—most public-sector corruption is systemic and, as such, is equal parts obsequious and insidious.

Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index quantifies how corruption varies in frequency and type from country to country worldwide. It uses 13 public data sets exploring bribery, nepotism, state capture, embezzlement, prosecution of corrupt leaders, legal protections for journalists and whistleblowers, enforcement of integrity mechanisms, and other factors. Stacker leveraged that index to identify the countries most corrupt in their public-sector systems and operations. The full methodology, which ranks countries on a score between 1 and 100, is available on Transparency International's website.

COVID-19 exacerbated existing corruption in many areas. The pandemic widened the windows for increasing abuses of power by law enforcement in many regions, especially in Latin America and certain parts of Africa. Countries that are already home to significant disparities in quality of life between high- and low-income communities often see higher rates of public sector corruption, as vulnerable, marginalized communities serve as scapegoats, bearing the disproportionate brunt of financial and institutional inequalities without the means to hold officials accountable. Especially in developing countries, this often means ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ communities, and low-income populations effectively become targets.

On the other end of the spectrum, the index found that the least corrupt countries—among them New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Singapore—tend to rank highly in practicing transparency within elections, financial institutions, and government affairs.

Some countries are beginning to take a turn for the better. Nations such as Armenia, Angola, and Uzbekistan, among other Middle Eastern and central African countries, have seen significant jumps in their respective CPI rankings since 2017. Other nations, such as Afghanistan, Brazil, and Somalia, have begun implementing systems of checks and balances meant to block corruption from becoming institutionalized in public infrastructure. Although such developments would seem to be in direct conflict with the regime controlling some of these countries—such as Afghanistan, which continues to sit rather low on the CPI—signs of progress can be seen in these countries' financial systems and government contracting processes, according to a 2020 World Bank report.

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World map of countries based on public sector corruption score
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Stacker

The US ranks #154

The United States has a relatively low level of public-sector corruption on a global scale. Nevertheless, as exemplified by Finland, which, along with Denmark, is the least corrupt country in the world, "corruption-free countries do not exist."

Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, and Los Angeles see some of the highest rates of corruption nationwide. Unsurprisingly, Washington D.C.—with its disproportionate density of government agencies—eclipses all other areas of the nation in corruption incidents. The contestation of the results of the 2020 presidential election was an all-time low for corruption in the country, with at least 253 politicians supporting baseless claims undermining a free and fair election.

In December 2021, the Biden administration introduced the U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption, the first of its kind in the country. The plan focuses on countering illicit transnational financial activity through international cooperation. Along with Switzerland, the U.S. is one of only two countries worldwide that are "active enforcers" taking quantifiable steps to investigate and charge officials with corrupt activities.

Saint Basil's Cathedral in Russia
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#45. Russia (tie)

- Score: 29 (based on 9 sources)
- Region: Eastern Europe and Central Asia

View of Bamako and the Niger River in Mali
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Thomas Dutour // Shutterstock

#45. Mali (tie)

- Score: 29 (based on 8 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

An aerial landscape view of the seaside in Robertsport, Liberia, West Africa
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Wirestock Creators // Shutterstock

#45. Liberia (tie)

- Score: 29 (based on 8 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

Skyline of capital city Luanda, Angola
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Fabian Plock // Shutterstock

#45. Angola (tie)

- Score: 29 (based on 7 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

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An aerial view of Tashkent TV Tower in Uzbekistan
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#41. Uzbekistan (tie)

- Score: 28 (based on 7 sources)
- Region: Eastern Europe and Central Asia

The Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan
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SAKhanPhotography // Shutterstock

#41. Pakistan (tie)

- Score: 28 (based on 8 sources)
- Region: Asia and The Pacific

The skyline of Yangon, Myanmar
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#41. Myanmar (tie)

- Score: 28 (based on 7 sources)
- Region: Asia and The Pacific

The skyline of Nouakchott, Mauritania
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#41. Mauritania (tie)

- Score: 28 (based on 7 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

Kampala, Uganda, by night
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Arnold Mugasha // Shutterstock

#37. Uganda (tie)

- Score: 27 (based on 9 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

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Osh, Kyrgyzstan
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#37. Kyrgyzstan (tie)

- Score: 27 (based on 7 sources)
- Region: Eastern Europe and Central Asia

An aerial view of Yaoundé, Cameroon
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#37. Cameroon (tie)

- Score: 27 (based on 9 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

An aerial view of Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, Africa
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Sopotnicki // Shutterstock

#34. Mozambique (tie)

- Score: 26 (based on 8 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

The old town of Fianarantsoa, Madagascar
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Pierre-Yves Babelon // Shutterstock

#34. Madagascar (tie)

- Score: 26 (based on 7 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

Lalbagh Fort or Fort Aurangabad, an incomplete Mughal palace landmark fortress at Dhaka City, Bangladesh
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Social Media Hub // Shutterstock

#34. Bangladesh (tie)

- Score: 26 (based on 8 sources)
- Region: Asia and The Pacific

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Cityscape of Dushanbe. Tajikistan
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Vershinin89 // Shutterstock

#31. Tajikistan (tie)

- Score: 25 (based on 6 sources)
- Region: Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Yazd, Iran
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Jakob Fischer // Shutterstock

#31. Iran (tie)

- Score: 25 (based on 7 sources)
- Region: Middle East and North Africa

An aerieal view of Conakry, Guinea
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#31. Guinea (tie)

- Score: 25 (based on 8 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

Antigua, Guatemala
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#31. Guatemala (tie)

- Score: 25 (based on 7 sources)
- Region: The Americas

A fisherman rowing a boat on the Ubangi River, fishing in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic
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#27. Central African Republic (tie)

- Score: 24 (based on 5 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

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A view of the Lagos Lagoon at night in Lagos, Nigeria
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Alucardion // Shutterstock

#27. Nigeria (tie)

- Score: 24 (based on 8 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

An aerial view of Beirut, Lebanon
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diplomedia // Shutterstock

#27. Lebanon (tie)

- Score: 24 (based on 7 sources)
- Region: Middle East and North Africa

Harare, Zimbabwe
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Tawanda Kapikinyu // Shutterstock

#24. Zimbabwe (tie)

- Score: 23 (based on 8 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

An aerial view of Baghdad, Iraq
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Rasool Ali // Shutterstock

#24. Iraq (tie)

- Score: 23 (based on 5 sources)
- Region: Middle East and North Africa

The flag of Honduras flying over Tegucigalpa
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Manuel Chinchilla // Shutterstock

#24. Honduras (tie)

- Score: 23 (based on 8 sources)
- Region: The Americas

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The Independence Monument in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia
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#24. Cambodia (tie)

- Score: 23 (based on 8 sources)
- Region: Asia and The Pacific

An aerial view of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea
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Homo Cosmicos // Shutterstock

#20. Eritrea

- Score: 22 (based on 5 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

A street scene in the city of Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, outside the Praca dos Herois Nacionais
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#19. Guinea Bissau (tie)

- Score: 21 (based on 6 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

Brazzaville. Congo
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#19. Congo (tie)

- Score: 21 (based on 7 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

Khartoum, Sudan
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Claudiovidri // Shutterstock

#17. Sudan (tie)

- Score: 20 (based on 8 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

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An aerial view of Managua, Nicaragua at dusk
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PixieMe // Shutterstock

#17. Nicaragua (tie)

- Score: 20 (based on 8 sources)
- Region: The Americas

The brightly colored buildings, plentiful balconies, and narrow streets of Cap-Haitien, Haiti
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Rotorhead 30A Productions // Shutterstock

#17. Haiti (tie)

- Score: 20 (based on 6 sources)
- Region: The Americas

Moroni, Comoros
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#17. Comoros (tie)

- Score: 20 (based on 4 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

An aerial view of N'Djamena, the capital of Chad
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Homo Cosmicos // Shutterstock

#17. Chad (tie)

- Score: 20 (based on 6 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
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gonetothemoon // Shutterstock

#12. Turkmenistan (tie)

- Score: 19 (based on 5 sources)
- Region: Eastern Europe and Central Asia

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Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, with buildings and the buildings near Kivu Lake
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Katja Tsvetkova // Shutterstock

#12. Democratic Republic of the Congo (tie)

- Score: 19 (based on 9 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

Bujumbura, Burundi, as viewed from a hilltop
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cindysayuti // Shutterstock

#12. Burundi (tie)

- Score: 19 (based on 6 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

The skyline of Tripoli, Libya
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#9. Libya (tie)

- Score: 17 (based on 5 sources)
- Region: Middle East and North Africa

Bata, Equatorial Guinea
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alarico // Shutterstock

#9. Equatorial Guinea (tie)

- Score: 17 (based on 4 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

Beautiful architecture in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen
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Mohannad Khatib // Shutterstock

#7. Yemen (tie)

- Score: 16 (based on 7 sources)
- Region: Middle East and North Africa

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The government building at the central square of Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea
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Maxim Tupikov // Shutterstock

#7. Korea, North (tie)

- Score: 16 (based on 4 sources)
- Region: Asia and The Pacific

Kabul, Afghanistan
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Torsten Pursche // Shutterstock

#7. Afghanistan (tie)

- Score: 16 (based on 5 sources)
- Region: Asia and The Pacific

Caracas, Venezuela
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Alejandro Solo // Shutterstock

#4. Venezuela

- Score: 14 (based on 8 sources)
- Region: The Americas

The shrine of Sayyida Zainab bint Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib in Damascus, Syria
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CameraAction // Shutterstock

#3. Syria (tie)

- Score: 13 (based on 5 sources)
- Region: Middle East and North Africa

Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia
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Abdulhafid // Shutterstock

#3. Somalia (tie)

- Score: 13 (based on 6 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

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An aerial view of Juba, the capital of South Sudan, with the Nile River on the right
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Frontpage // Shutterstock

#1. South Sudan

- Score: 11 (based on 5 sources)
- Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

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