New Transparency International Corruption Index Shows Liberia’s Decline in the Fight against Corruption

CENTAL, through its Executive Director, Anderson Miamen said Liberia’s dismal performance, in part, speaks to the Liberian Government’s inability to address entrenched culture of impunity and fully enforce existing anti-corruption laws and policies

Monrovia – Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) has ranked Liberia among the poor performing countries in the fight against corruption. Out of 180 countries captured, Liberia ranked 136, with score of 29, climbing just one step above the 2020 ranking of 28.

The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption on a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

Unveiling the report on behalf of Transparency International (TI) in Liberia, the organization’s national chapter, the Center for Transparency and Accountability (CENTAL), said although Liberia’s score is 29, compared to 28 in 2019 and 2020 respectively, it remains an under performer and one of the biggest decliners worldwide, since 2012.

The country now ranks 136/180 and remains further down the table, joining the list of countries significantly declining on the CPI. With the exception of Saint Lucia that has 15 points and Syria, 13 points globally, only Liberia has fallen 12 points since 2012, the report indicated.

CENTAL said since the country attained her highest score of 41 in 2012, it has failed to perform any better; indicating that Liberia’s improved performance then was largely due to passage of key laws and establishment of public integrity institutions.

However, it pointed out that the Country has since failed to make these institutions and laws work, as the laws are not enforced and public integrity institutions are not fully supported morally and financially to satisfactorily deliver. 

“CENTAL is deeply worried over Liberia’s continuous poor performance, especially her place among the Worst Decliners worldwide. In part, this speaks to the Liberian Government’s inability to address entrenched culture of impunity and fully enforce existing anti-corruption laws and policies,” the group said in a statement through its Executive Director, Anderson Miamen.

It continued: “Liberians have heard more words and promises from the President and other public officials than concerted genuine efforts/actions in the fight against Corruption in the country.  There can be no successful fight against Corruption if the rule of law is not upheld; if the Legislature and the Judiciary are weak; if infrastructure projects are prioritized over governance and anti-corruption issues; if the President remains silent on numerous allegations of corruption against his officials; if the laws are meant for others and not senior government officials and their friends and relatives; and if, among other things, the national budget is used as a tool for political corruption, and investigations into major scandals and allegations of corruption are stalled or seemingly endless.”

CENTAL’s Recommendations

To help improve Liberia’s rating and performance on the CPI, regionally and globally, and reverse the growing negative trend and public perception about Government’s fight against corruption in the country, CENTAL called on President Weah lead by example and pursue a sincere and holistic fight against Corruption that does not protect certain individuals and groups accused of corruption, especially those who appear to be very close to the Presidency.

CENTAL also called on the “President to pay equal and even greater attention to anti-corruption and governance issues, just as he is keen about roads, market buildings, and other infrastructure projects; that President makes timely and appropriate appointments to fill existing multiple leadership gaps at public integrity institutions; that Government provides adequate funding and space for anti-corruption institutions to effectively perform.

“Continuous limited funding to integrity institutions including the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), General Auditing Commission, Public Procurement and Concession Commission PPCC) and other public integrity institutions do not show true political will and commitment to national effort against Corruption,” CENTAL added.

It called on the Legislature be robust and independent in playing its role, ensuring that priority is given to anti-corruption and governance issues. Anti-corruption bills currently before the Legislature should be timely passed to somehow strengthen the fight against corruption in the country; and that civil society, media, ordinary citizens, and other actors remain constructively engaged with national efforts against corruption.

The Global Perspectives

Since 1995, the Corruption Perception Index has been scoring and ranking countries based on how corrupt their public sectors are perceived, according to experts and business executives. The score ranges from zero to 100, where zero equals the highest level of perceived public sector corruption and 100 equals the lowest level of perceived public sector corruption.

180 Countries were targeted in 2021 as in 2020 and 2019. The CPI draws upon 13 data sources, which captured the assessment of experts and business executives on several corrupt behaviors in the public sector, including bribery, diversion of public funds and supplies, use of public office for private gain, procurement irregularities, and nepotism in the civil service.

Some of the sources also looked at frameworks/mechanisms available to prevent and address corruption in a country, such as the government’s ability to enforce integrity mechanisms; independence of anti-graft institutions; the effective prosecution of corrupt officials; conflict of interest prevention; access to information; freedom of speech and the media, and legal protection for whistleblowers, witnesses, journalists, and investigators.

Global Highlights

CPI 2021 reveals that the fight against corruption has stagnated worldwide at a time when human rights and democracy are also under attack. “This is no coincidence. Corruption enables human rights abuses. Conversely, ensuring basic rights and freedoms means there is less space for corruption to go unchallenged,” TI said in the report.

The report shows that the global average remains unchanged at a score of 43 out of 100 for the tenth year running. The top countries are Denmark (88), Finland (88) and New Zealand (88), Norway (85), and Sweden (85). The bottom countries are Somalia (13), Syria (13), and South Sudan (11).

The highest-scoring region, the report noted, is Western Europe with an average score of 66. The lowest scoring regions are Sub-Saharan Africa (33), Eastern Europe, and Central Asia (36).

The 33 average score of Sub-Saharan Africa shows a bleak picture of inaction against corruption in the region, as governments are doing very little to convincingly deal with the culture of impunity.

Regional Highlights and Trends

In 2021, the Corruption Perception Index shows a decade of stagnating Corruption levels amid human rights abuses and democratic decline in Sub-Saharan Africa. Progress is stalled, while over 90 percent of countries score below 50. The Sub-Saharan Africa average is 33, the lowest in the world. In the last decade, 43 countries in the region have either declined or made no significant progress, the report outlined. Since 2012, Botswana (55), Liberia (29), Mali (29), and South Sudan (11) have significantly declined on the CPI.  With a score of 70, Seychelles earns the highest mark in the region, followed by Botswana (55) and Cape Verde (58) as distant runners-up. Only six countries in the region have significantly improved their scores over that period: Seychelles (70), Senegal (43), Ethiopia (39), Tanzania (39), Côte d’Ivoire (36), and Angola (29).

Open Secrets in Fighting Corruption

The report noted that although no country is free of corruption, countries topping the CPI share characteristics of open government, press freedom, strong parliament or legislature, civil liberties, and independent judiciary. Meanwhile, countries at the bottom are characterized by widespread impunity for corruption; poor governance; and weak institutions, including but not limited to parliament or legislature and anti-corruption and integrity.