The Malta Independent 18 October 2021, Monday

Malta hits ‘new all-time low’ in Corruption Perceptions Index

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 28 January 2021, 06:39 Last update: about 10 months ago

With a score of 53, Malta is considered to be a ‘significant decliner’ in the 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), dropping seven points since 2015 and hitting ‘a new all-time low,’ Transparency International has said.

The index, published by Transparency International, ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople. It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. Like previous years, more than two-thirds of countries score below 50 on this year’s CPI, with an average score of just 43. The data shows that despite some progress, most countries still fail to tackle corruption effectively.

Malta, which is one of the ‘countries to watch’ (and not for good reasons) in the 2020 report section dedicated to Western Europe and the EU, had a score of 54 in the 2019 index and was ranked 50th. 

In the 2020 report, Malta’s score dropped to 53 and the country is tied for 52nd with Italy, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia and Grenada.

The 2020 CPI report mentions a few things about Malta: “According to an EU report about the rule of law in Malta, ‘deep corruption patterns have been unveiled and have raised a strong public demand for a significantly strengthened capacity to tackle corruption and wider rule of law reforms’.”

The CPI report mentions another point, that “In 2019, a public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia highlighted high-level corruption and led to the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.” Muscat had resigned after protestors took to the street demanding he step down after shocking developments in the Caruana Galizia murder investigation at the time became public towards the end of 2019.

The report also mentions Keith Schembri’s arrest. “The PM’s former chief of staff was arrested in September 2020 for an alleged kickback scheme to help three Russians obtain Maltese passports as part of the controversial golden passports programme in 2015,” the CPI report reads. Schembri has denied that there was any such kickback scheme, arguing that the money transferred to him by Brian Tonna were repayment of a personal loan he had given him a few years back.

Lastly, the report also mentions that a European Central Bank report found “major failings in Malta’s biggest bank, potentially allowing for money laundering and other criminal activities.” This was in reference to a November 2019 article by Reuters.

The Reuters report had read: “A confidential ECB report seen by Reuters said Bank of Valletta had not dealt with a litany of risk management failings despite repeated warnings from the Frankfurt-based regulator stretching back to 2015.”It read that the bank failed for years to detect or address risks involving thousands of payments. BOV had reacted to this article when it was released in 2019, arguing that the report was based on the situation as it was a year prior to when the article came out. BOV had also argued at the time that it had worked on a number of issues by that point, including the bank’s de-risking exercise taking on a much wider dimension. “The Bank is today engaged in a priority process - agreed with, and monitored by, its regulators - to deal with the legacy issues highlighted by the report. The Bank made strong progress in addressing the specific issues within the relevant timelines, and is confident that its processes will be substantially enhanced as a result,” it said back in 2019 in reaction to the Reuters report.

Global picture

Denmark and New Zealand top the index, with 88 points. Syria, Somalia and South Sudan come last, with 14, 12 and 12 points, respectively.

“Since 2012, the earliest point of comparison in the current CPI methodology, 26 countries significantly improved their CPI scores, including Ecuador (39), Greece (50), Guyana (41), Myanmar (28) and South Korea (61). Twenty-two countries significantly decreased their scores, including Bosnia & Herzegovina (35), Guatemala (25), Lebanon (25), Malawi (30), Malta (53) and Poland (56). Nearly half of countries have been stagnant on the index for almost a decade, indicating stalled government efforts to tackle the root causes of corruption. More than two-thirds score below 50,” the report reads.

Covid-19

Corruption poses a critical threat to citizens’ lives and livelihoods, especially when combined with a public health emergency, Transparency International said in its report. “Clean public sectors correlate with greater investment in health care. Uruguay, for example, has the highest CPI score in Latin America (71), invests heavily in health care and has a robust epidemiological surveillance system, which has aided its response to Covid-19 and other infectious diseases, like yellow fever and Zika. In contrast, Bangladesh scores just 26 and invests little in health care while corruption flourishes during Covid-19, ranging from bribery in health clinics to misappropriated aid. Corruption is also pervasive in the procurement of medical supplies.”

“Countries with higher corruption levels also tend to be the worst violators of rule of law and democratic institutions during the Covid-19 crisis. These include Philippines (34), where the response to Covid-19 has been characterised by major attacks on human rights and media freedom. Continuing a downward trend, the United States achieves its worst score since 2012, with 67 points. In addition to alleged conflicts of interest and abuse of office at the highest level, in 2020 weak oversight of the US$1 trillion Covid-19 relief package raised serious concerns and marked a retreat from longstanding democratic norms promoting accountable government.”

The CPI report highlights a number of recommendations for all countries.

Transparency International recommends that all governments strengthen oversight institutions to ensure resources reach those most in need. “Anti-corruption authorities and oversight institutions must have sufficient funds, resources and independence to perform their duties.”

Governments should also ensure open and transparent contracting to combat wrongdoing, identify conflicts of interest and ensure fair pricing.

Another recommendation is that governments defend democracy and promote civic space to create the enabling conditions to hold governments accountable.

Lastly, Transparency International recommends that governments publish relevant data and guarantee access to information to ensure the public receives easy, accessible, timely and meaningful information.

'This is the legacy of the Labour government' – Bernard Grech

“This is the legacy of the Labour government,” PN and opposition leader Bernard Grech said as a reaction to these findings, highlighting that even though there was a change in Prime Minister, Malta is still crawling in corruption. 

“This is the result of eight years during which they seized the institutions and created impunity that led to a political assassination.”

“Financial operators, investors, small and medium-sized businesses, workers, professionals, students, the elderly all know that without a good name our country will not move foreward. Our country deserves better, you deserve better.”

 

  • don't miss