Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index Indicates Corruption is Affecting COVID-19 Response

On January 28, 2021, Transparency International released its 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (“CPI”)Transparency International is an organization focused on stopping global corruption and promoting transparency, accountability, and integrity. Its CPI scores are used by companies and individuals worldwide as an indicator of the public’s perception of corruption in a given country. A CPI score ranges from 0-100 with zero indicating that a country is viewed as highly corrupt and one hundred indicating a country is viewed as not corrupt.

As part of its rollout of the 2020 CPI, Transparency International released its analysis of the data and changes it saw over the past year. Importantly, it notes a correlation between countries with high CPI scores and greater investment in healthcare. It points to Uruguay with a high CPI score of 71 and its heavy investment in healthcare as an example of a country that has handled COVID-19 well. By contrast, Bangladesh, with a CPI score of 26 and little investment in healthcare, has seen corruption grow during COVID-19. Interestingly, the United States received a score of 67 - its lowest in eight years. Transparency International attributes the downward trend to things such as alleged conflicts of interest and lack of oversight of the COVID relief package.

Based on its analysis, Transparency International concludes that “persistent corruption is undermining health care systems and contributing to democratic backsliding amid the COVID-19 pandemic.” It recommends that all governments strengthen oversight institutions, ensure open and transparent contracting, defend democracy and promote civic space, publish relevant data, and guarantee access to information.

Further data related to the COVID-19 pandemic will be necessary to determine the long-term effects of corruption in the healthcare sector. However, the information available to date demonstrates the importance of a government’s commitment to address corruption in all sectors. 

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