The Malta Independent 2 April 2020, Thursday

Transparency International report says corruption ‘undermining’ Malta

Thursday, 23 January 2020, 07:55 Last update: about 3 months ago

Malta’s rule of law received another blow on Thursday when Transparency International warned that corruption is "undermining" it and "weakening democracy".

A day after The Economic Intelligence Unit report described Malta as a flawed democracy for the first time, Transparency International’s report accuses the Maltese government of "dragging its feet" in investigations into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

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Watchdog group Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index measures perceived public-sector corruption in 180 nations. It uses a scale on which 100 is very clean and zero is very corrupt.

"In Malta, corruption is undermining the rule of law. A significant lack of political integrity contributes to politicians and others hiding illicit wealth behind secret companies," the report says.

"Malta is a significant decliner on the CPI, dropping six points since 2015," down to 54, and is now in 50th place. 

The photo used in the report which deals with Western European countries and the EU is one taken in Malta. It shows posters affixed to the law courts during one of the protests calling for justice. You can see it here. Malta is, according to the index, the country to watch along with Estonia.

"Given the “pair of political machines [that] have [for decades] operated with impunity on the island” it’s no wonder that two years after the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed while reporting on corruption, the country is still mired in corruption," the report adds.

"Despite calls from Maltese citizens, Caruana Galizia’s family and the international community to solve the case, the government dragged its feet in the judicial procedures. Several scandals involving the Panama Papers, the collapse of a Maltese bank and the “golden visa” scheme that sells Maltese citizenship to wealthy overseas investors may also contribute to Malta’s decline on the CPI."  

Denmark and New Zealand remained at the top of the list, which ranks 180 nations based on aggregated survey and assessment data from 13 different global institutions. 

The U.S. and several other leading industrial powers are struggling to keep up the momentum in the fight against corruption, according to the report.

The United States' score of 69 was two points lower than a year earlier and its worst score for eight years, Transparency International said. The U.S. was ranked 23rd, a one-place drop from last year.

The report cited challenges including “threats to its system of checks and balances” and “the ever-increasing influence of special interests in government.” It also noted the launching of impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald Trump.

Denmark, last year's top performer, was joined in a tie for first place this time by New Zealand. Both had 87 points. They were followed closely by Finland. Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland tied for fourth. Norway, the Netherlands, and Germany and Luxembourg — tied for ninth — completed the top 10.

Canada lost four points to 77, placing 12th. It tied with Britain, which lost three points — as did France, which tied with the U.S.

Of the other countries in the Group of Seven leading industrial powers, Germany and Japan, which ranked 20th, were static, while only Italy gained one point to 53, putting it in 51st place.

More than two-thirds of countries around the world scored below 50 and the average score was only 43, Transparency International said. It said countries that perform well on the index have stronger enforcement of campaign-finance regulations.

“Frustration with government corruption and lack of trust in institutions speaks to a need for greater political integrity,” said the group's head, Delia Ferreira Rubio. “Governments must urgently address the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on our political systems.”

The report also noted that “integrity at home does not always translate into integrity abroad, and multiple scandals in 2019 demonstrated that transnational corruption is often facilitated, enabled and perpetuated by seemingly clean Nordic countries.”

Notable gains were made this year by Armenia and Angola, which each gained seven points — to 42 (77th place) and 26 (146th) respectively.

Bottom place again went to Somalia, with just nine points. South Sudan, Syria and Yemen finished above it, behind a group of countries sharing 173rd place that included Afghanistan and Venezuela.

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