Transparency International says Colombia’s fight against corruption is stagnating, after the country was ranked 78th of 178 countries in the organization’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index, a drop of three places from 2009.
The NGO’s index brings together a number of surveys of country experts and business leaders to provide a measure the perception of public sector corruption in each country, focusing on bribery, the payment of kickbacks, and embezzlement.
Colombia scores 3.5 in this year’s index, where 10 is “highly clean” and 0 is “highly corrupt,” a drop from its score of 3.7 in 2009. This is the lowest level since 2000, when the country scored 3.2.
In the last ten years the corruption perception score has hovered between 3.6 and 4.0, according to Transparencia por Colombia (TPC), the organization’s Colombia chapter.
TPC director Elisabeth Ungar said in a statement following the release of the report that the level of corruption in the country is critical; “It’s like having a permanent fever and not doing anything about it.”
Ungar referred to recent revelations about the alleged misallocation of government subsidies as the latest example of Colombia’s struggle with corruption.
The index “suggests that respondents perceive a high incidence of corruption in the country and a clear stagnation of efforts to combat it,” according to TPC. The branch calls on the Colombian government “to promote a public agenda to fight corruption, where social organizations, unions, political parties, media and public authorities assume their responsibility to prevent and tackle this problem.”
An anti-corruption bill proposed by President Juan Manuel Santos should only be considered as one part of the fight against corruption, according to Ungar. A more comprehensive government policy is needed, and should include instructions for civil society groups and the private sector as well as public bodies, the director says.
The 2010 index puts Barbados as the highest-ranking country in Latin America and the Caribbean, at 17th place on the overall list with a score of 7.8, followed by Chile with 7.2. Venezuela is the region’s lowest-ranked country, lower even than earthquake-hit Haiti, at 164th place on the list with a score of 2.
Colombia scored the same as neighboring Peru, but was ranked higher than neighboring Ecuador, which scored 2.5.
Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore jointly topped the list as the world’s least-corrupt countries, with a score of 9.3.
In last place was Somalia, with a score of 1.1.
Transparency International’s 2009 Global Corruption report concluded that the country’s “the collective reluctance to implement public and private anti-corruption measures is hurting business. In its 2007–2008 Global Competitiveness Report, the World Economic Forum found corruption to be the second most significant factor, after taxes, hampering business in Colombia.”
This year’s index is however a dramatic improvement from 1998, when Colombia scored only 2.2.