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Countries with the highest rates of public-sector corruption


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Countries with the highest rates of public-sector corruption

The Port of Bossaso in Somalia

Public-sector corruption is often felt before it is seen. It is carried out in private agreements and manifests publicly at polling stations, jails, hospitals, banks, and government buildings—places not all people have direct or consistent familiarity with.

While there are certainly exceptions to this position—perhaps the most egregious, recent example being the wide-reaching attempted malfeasance surrounding the 2020 U.S. presidential election—most public-sector corruption is systemic and, as such, is equal parts obsequious and insidious.

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index quantifies how corruption varies in frequency and type from country to country worldwide. It uses 13 public data sets exploring bribery, nepotism, state capture, embezzlement, prosecution of corrupt leaders, legal protections for journalists and whistleblowers, enforcement of integrity mechanisms, and other factors. Stacker leveraged that index to identify the countries most corrupt in their public-sector systems and operations. The full methodology, which ranks countries on a score between 1 and 100, is available on Transparency International’s website.

COVID-19 exacerbated existing corruption in many areas. The pandemic widened the windows for increasing abuses of power by law enforcement in many regions, especially in Latin America and certain parts of Africa. Countries that are already home to significant disparities in quality of life between high- and low-income communities often see higher rates of public sector corruption, as vulnerable, marginalized communities serve as scapegoats, bearing the disproportionate brunt of financial and institutional inequalities without the means to hold officials accountable. Especially in developing countries, this often means ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ communities, and low-income populations effectively become targets.

On the other end of the spectrum, the index found that the least corrupt countries—among them New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Singapore—tend to rank highly in practicing transparency within elections, financial institutions, and government affairs.

Some countries are beginning to take a turn for the better. Nations such as Armenia, Angola, and Uzbekistan, among other Middle Eastern and central African countries, have seen significant jumps in their respective CPI rankings since 2017. Other nations, such as Afghanistan, Brazil, and Somalia, have begun implementing systems of checks and balances meant to block corruption from becoming institutionalized in public infrastructure. Although such developments would seem to be in direct conflict with the regime controlling some of these countries—such as Afghanistan, which continues to sit rather low on the CPI—signs of progress can be seen in these countries’ financial systems and government contracting processes, according to a 2020 World Bank report.

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The US ranks #154

World map of countries based on public sector corruption score

The United States has a relatively low level of public-sector corruption on a global scale. Nevertheless, as exemplified by Finland, which, along with Denmark, is the least corrupt country in the world, “corruption-free countries do not exist.”

Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, and Los Angeles see some of the highest rates of corruption nationwide. Unsurprisingly, Washington D.C.—with its disproportionate density of government agencies—eclipses all other areas of the nation in corruption incidents. The contestation of the results of the 2020 presidential election was an all-time low for corruption in the country, with at least 253 politicians supporting baseless claims undermining a free and fair election.

In December 2021, the Biden administration introduced the U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption, the first of its kind in the country. The plan focuses on countering illicit transnational financial activity through international cooperation. Along with Switzerland, the U.S. is one of only two countries worldwide that are “active enforcers” taking quantifiable steps to investigate and charge officials with corrupt activities.



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#45. Russia (tie)

Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Russia

– Score: 29 (based on 9 sources)
– Region: Eastern Europe and Central Asia



Thomas Dutour // Shutterstock

#45. Mali (tie)

View of Bamako and the Niger River in Mali

– Score: 29 (based on 8 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



Wirestock Creators // Shutterstock

#45. Liberia (tie)

An aerial landscape view of the seaside in Robertsport, Liberia, West Africa

– Score: 29 (based on 8 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



Fabian Plock // Shutterstock

#45. Angola (tie)

Skyline of capital city Luanda, Angola

– Score: 29 (based on 7 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

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#41. Uzbekistan (tie)

An aerial view of Tashkent TV Tower in Uzbekistan

– Score: 28 (based on 7 sources)
– Region: Eastern Europe and Central Asia



SAKhanPhotography // Shutterstock

#41. Pakistan (tie)

The Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan

– Score: 28 (based on 8 sources)
– Region: Asia and The Pacific



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#41. Myanmar (tie)

The skyline of Yangon, Myanmar

– Score: 28 (based on 7 sources)
– Region: Asia and The Pacific



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#41. Mauritania (tie)

The skyline of Nouakchott, Mauritania

– Score: 28 (based on 7 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



Arnold Mugasha // Shutterstock

#37. Uganda (tie)

Kampala, Uganda, by night

– Score: 27 (based on 9 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

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#37. Kyrgyzstan (tie)

Osh, Kyrgyzstan

– Score: 27 (based on 7 sources)
– Region: Eastern Europe and Central Asia



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#37. Cameroon (tie)

An aerial view of Yaoundé, Cameroon

– Score: 27 (based on 9 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



Sopotnicki // Shutterstock

#34. Mozambique (tie)

An aerial view of Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, Africa

– Score: 26 (based on 8 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



Pierre-Yves Babelon // Shutterstock

#34. Madagascar (tie)

The old town of Fianarantsoa, Madagascar

– Score: 26 (based on 7 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



Social Media Hub // Shutterstock

#34. Bangladesh (tie)

Lalbagh Fort or Fort Aurangabad, an incomplete Mughal palace landmark fortress at Dhaka City, Bangladesh

– Score: 26 (based on 8 sources)
– Region: Asia and The Pacific

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Vershinin89 // Shutterstock

#31. Tajikistan (tie)

Cityscape of Dushanbe. Tajikistan

– Score: 25 (based on 6 sources)
– Region: Eastern Europe and Central Asia



Jakob Fischer // Shutterstock

#31. Iran (tie)

Yazd, Iran

– Score: 25 (based on 7 sources)
– Region: Middle East and North Africa



Flightseeing-Germany // Shutterstock

#31. Guinea (tie)

An aerieal view of Conakry, Guinea

– Score: 25 (based on 8 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



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#31. Guatemala (tie)

Antigua, Guatemala

– Score: 25 (based on 7 sources)
– Region: The Americas



mbrand85 // Shutterstock

#27. Central African Republic (tie)

A fisherman rowing a boat on the Ubangi River, fishing in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic

– Score: 24 (based on 5 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

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Alucardion // Shutterstock

#27. Nigeria (tie)

A view of the Lagos Lagoon at night in Lagos, Nigeria

– Score: 24 (based on 8 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



diplomedia // Shutterstock

#27. Lebanon (tie)

An aerial view of Beirut, Lebanon

– Score: 24 (based on 7 sources)
– Region: Middle East and North Africa



Tawanda Kapikinyu // Shutterstock

#24. Zimbabwe (tie)

Harare, Zimbabwe

– Score: 23 (based on 8 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



Rasool Ali // Shutterstock

#24. Iraq (tie)

An aerial view of Baghdad, Iraq

– Score: 23 (based on 5 sources)
– Region: Middle East and North Africa



Manuel Chinchilla // Shutterstock

#24. Honduras (tie)

The flag of Honduras flying over Tegucigalpa

– Score: 23 (based on 8 sources)
– Region: The Americas

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#24. Cambodia (tie)

The Independence Monument in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia

– Score: 23 (based on 8 sources)
– Region: Asia and The Pacific



Homo Cosmicos // Shutterstock

#20. Eritrea

An aerial view of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea

– Score: 22 (based on 5 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



TLF Images // Shutterstock

#19. Guinea Bissau (tie)

A street scene in the city of Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, outside the Praca dos Herois Nacionais

– Score: 21 (based on 6 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



Highflierdolapo // Shutterstock

#19. Congo (tie)

Brazzaville. Congo

– Score: 21 (based on 7 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



Claudiovidri // Shutterstock

#17. Sudan (tie)

Khartoum, Sudan

– Score: 20 (based on 8 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

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PixieMe // Shutterstock

#17. Nicaragua (tie)

An aerial view of Managua, Nicaragua at dusk

– Score: 20 (based on 8 sources)
– Region: The Americas



Rotorhead 30A Productions // Shutterstock

#17. Haiti (tie)

The brightly colored buildings, plentiful balconies, and narrow streets of Cap-Haitien, Haiti

– Score: 20 (based on 6 sources)
– Region: The Americas



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#17. Comoros (tie)

Moroni, Comoros

– Score: 20 (based on 4 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



Homo Cosmicos // Shutterstock

#17. Chad (tie)

An aerial view of N’Djamena, the capital of Chad

– Score: 20 (based on 6 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



gonetothemoon // Shutterstock

#12. Turkmenistan (tie)

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

– Score: 19 (based on 5 sources)
– Region: Eastern Europe and Central Asia

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Katja Tsvetkova // Shutterstock

#12. Democratic Republic of the Congo (tie)

Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, with buildings and the buildings near Kivu Lake

– Score: 19 (based on 9 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



cindysayuti // Shutterstock

#12. Burundi (tie)

Bujumbura, Burundi, as viewed from a hilltop

– Score: 19 (based on 6 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



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#9. Libya (tie)

The skyline of Tripoli, Libya

– Score: 17 (based on 5 sources)
– Region: Middle East and North Africa



alarico // Shutterstock

#9. Equatorial Guinea (tie)

Bata, Equatorial Guinea

– Score: 17 (based on 4 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa



Mohannad Khatib // Shutterstock

#7. Yemen (tie)

Beautiful architecture in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen

– Score: 16 (based on 7 sources)
– Region: Middle East and North Africa

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Maxim Tupikov // Shutterstock

#7. Korea, North (tie)

The government building at the central square of Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea

– Score: 16 (based on 4 sources)
– Region: Asia and The Pacific



Torsten Pursche // Shutterstock

#7. Afghanistan (tie)

Kabul, Afghanistan

– Score: 16 (based on 5 sources)
– Region: Asia and The Pacific



Alejandro Solo // Shutterstock

#4. Venezuela

Caracas, Venezuela

– Score: 14 (based on 8 sources)
– Region: The Americas



CameraAction // Shutterstock

#3. Syria (tie)

The shrine of Sayyida Zainab bint Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib in Damascus, Syria

– Score: 13 (based on 5 sources)
– Region: Middle East and North Africa



Abdulhafid // Shutterstock

#3. Somalia (tie)

Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia

– Score: 13 (based on 6 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

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Frontpage // Shutterstock

#1. South Sudan

An aerial view of Juba, the capital of South Sudan, with the Nile River on the right

– Score: 11 (based on 5 sources)
– Region: Sub-Saharan Africa


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