February, 22, 2018
Sri Lanka has failed to show significant improvement in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2017, released by Transparency International, the global movement against corruption. The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. Sri Lanka has moved up 4 places from 95th to 91st, far more importantly its CPI score has only risen by two points from 36 to 38, representing the slow rate of progress.
Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), the local chapter of the global movement, is concerned by the fact that Sri Lanka’s current CPI score of 38 is the same score that prevailed in 2014. Speaking on the country’s performance in CPI 2017, TISL Executive Director Asoka Obeyesekere said, “A close analysis of Sri Lanka’s positioning in the CPI from 2012 to 2017 shows that despite the institutional strengthening of anti-corruption agencies following the 19th amendment, consistent failure in implementation has led to very limited progress”.
Sri Lanka has failed to show any significant progress in its CPI score year on year for the past 5 years – an increase or decrease of 6 points or more represents a significant change. Obeyesekere added, “it would seem that the anti-corruption drive has limited momentum. Citizens still face corruption when trying to avail of essential public services, ranging from waste collection to school enrollment. Therefore, the limited change in the perception of public sector corruption (CPI) reflects the limited change experienced by people in their everyday encounters with the state.”
Progressive legal reforms such as giving citizens the right to freely access asset declarations of public representatives and the passage of the essential National Audit Bill have also been stalled in Cabinet, which is indicative of a lack of bureaucratic and political will.
Globally, New Zealand and Denmark have been ranked first and second, with CPI scores of 89 and 88 respectively. The index uses a points scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. This year, the index found that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43. Sri Lanka’s CPI score of 38 is well below the average score of 44 for the Asia-Pacific region. Among the SAARC member states Bhutan leads with a score of 67, followed by India (40), Sri Lanka (38), Maldives (33), Pakistan (32), Nepal (31), Bangladesh (28) and Afghanistan (15).
In its global press release on the launch of CPI 2017, Transparency International noted that an analysis of the results highlighted the relationship between corruption levels, the protection of journalistic freedoms and engagement of civil society. It found that almost all journalists killed since 2012 were killed in countries with high levels of perceived corruption. The analysis shows that in the last six years, more than 9 out of 10 journalists were killed in countries that score 45 or less on the Corruption Perceptions Index. This means that, on average, every week at least one journalist is killed in a country that is highly corrupt. In addition, one in five journalists that died were covering a story about corruption. Sadly, justice was never served in the majority of these cases.