Dublin, 30 January 2024
Transparency International (TI) Ireland has called on both the government and opposition parties to commit to address corruption, public ethics and money laundering risks, as TI publishes the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) today.
Ireland’s CPI score in the latest index remains at 77 out of 100, ranking it in 11th place out of 180 countries. This is the same score that Ireland received in last year’s index. Although it has slipped from 10th place in the country rankings, this is seen as statistically insignificant. Ireland’s CPI score has steadily improved over the past decade, from 72 (21st place) in 2013 to 73 (18th place) in 2018, to 74 (13th place) in 2021.
The CPI ranks 180 countries based on perceived levels of corruption. Ireland’s score is drawn from the findings of eight separate surveys and studies, which are conducted by international think-tanks and political risk agencies. The higher a country’s score, the less it is perceived to be affected by public-sector corruption. Neither TI nor TI Ireland conduct the surveys used to compile the index.
‘Over recent years, Ireland has seen relatively few high-profile corruption-related scandals of the scale or global impact as those exposed by the various Tribunals of Inquiry between 1997 and 2012. International perceptions of Ireland have remained comparatively positive but there has been a continuing stream of controversies over politicians’ personal interests, concerns over public procurement, planning, land development and so on. All of these weaken public confidence in the processes and institutions that underpin our democracy’, said John Devitt, Chief Executive of TI Ireland.
Ireland’s CPI score has improved steadily since 2012, when it received 69 points and was ranked in 25th place out of 176 countries. That year marked the conclusion and publication of the Mahon Tribunal, which found that ‘corruption in Irish political life was both endemic and systemic’ and attracted significant international attention. Since then, the Oireachtas has made some progress in terms of passing important new laws on whistleblowing, lobbying regulation and anti-corruption.
However, Ireland continues to lag behind some of its Northern European counterparts on the Index, with the Scandinavian countries and Finland all scoring over 82 points. At the top of this year’s CPI, Denmark is perceived to be the least corrupt country in the world with a score of 90 out of 100, Finland is ranked second with a score of 87, and Finland third with 85. At the bottom of the Index, Yemen scores 16, South Sudan, Syria and Venezuela all score 13, and Somalia scores 11.
A number of previously high-scoring European countries have this year seen their CPI score fall to a historic low, including Iceland, which scores 72, and Austria and the United Kingdom, which both score 71. In contrast, a number of low-scoring countries have seen a marked improvement in their score, including Moldova and Ukraine, which score 42 and 36 respectively – in both cases representing a three point rise from last year’s CPI and a record score for each country.
‘The CPI shows that no country is corruption-free, and that international perceptions can change quite rapidly in the wake of scandals or failures to address corruption. Equally, concerted action to prevent, detect and prosecute corruption can pay off in terms of a country’s improving reputation’, said Dr Alexander Chance, TI Ireland’s Head of Policy and Research.
‘Despite the high score we cannot afford to be complacent. Nor can there be any suggestion that we are somehow immune from corruption, or that we demonstrate the highest standards of probity in public life. Many people in Ireland will be aware of investigations into corruption within crucial state bodies such as An Garda Síochána, or of controversies around politicians and parties failing to comply with their obligations to disclose personal or party finances’, Mr Devitt added.
TI Ireland has repeatedly called for an overhaul of ethics laws in order to provide for a more robust and coherent framework to govern standards in public life. The need for comprehensive reform has consistently been recognised by various expert reviews across a number of years, including the Council of Europe’s most recent peer evaluations of corruption prevention in Irish public institutions, the 2021 Hamilton review of structures and strategies to tackle corruption and economic crime, and the government’s own 2022 Review of Ireland’s Statutory Framework for Ethics in Public Office. Many of the recommendations of these reviews echo provisions contained in the Public Sector Standards Bill 2015, which was allowed to lapse at the last election. The Bill would have modernised the disclosure of elected officials’ financial interests, required TDs and office holders to disclose large loans and liabilities, and strengthened the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).
‘Corruption, particularly high-level corruption, is not only a national-level issue, and in this respect Ireland also needs to examine its role in facilitating corruption overseas,’ added Dr Chance.
‘More affluent countries such as Ireland – which tend to score higher on the CPI – can bear significant responsibility for the misery inflicted by corruption in lower and middle-income countries. It is typically through banks and financial institutions in richer, more stable jurisdictions, that corrupt officials launder their ill-gotten assets, enabled by accountants, company service providers, lawyers and wealth managers. States that effectively turn a blind eye to illicit flows by preventing reasonable financial transparency are in no position to trumpet their achievements,’ said Dr Chance.
‘In Ireland’s case, there are a number of legislative loopholes and regulatory deficiencies that make Irish financial vehicles particularly attractive for laundering the proceeds of corruption and organised crime. Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) – including those that avail of Ireland’s controversial Section 110 tax neutral status – offer opaque and highly complex ownership structures, and have previously been categorised as posing the highest level risk of money laundering, notably from overseas actors. Limited Partnerships (LPs) are not required to register their beneficial owners or to have an address in Ireland, with two thirds of Irish LPs’ general partners previously found to be based in offshore locations such as Belize, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Panama and the Seychelles.
‘Yet despite knowing about these risks, the State’s response is insufficient: the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau – which includes Ireland’s Financial Intelligence Unit – remains under-resourced, anti-money laundering supervision is fragmented and regulators appear driven by a ‘light-touch’ approach. Moreover, last June the government introduced a law that effectively precludes media and civil society access to information on the beneficial owners of companies.
‘Much remains to be done to make Ireland a truly hostile environment for corruption. In particular, we urgently need to overhaul the statutory framework for standards in public office and to close loopholes that enable illicit finance from overseas. Strengthening such safeguards is vital, both to improve our international reputation and to build public trust in our institutions’, said Dr Chance.
About Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI):
- The CPI scores 180 countries and territories around the world based on perceptions of public sector corruption. The scores reflect the views of experts and surveys from businesspeople; not the public. (See methodology page here.)
- The CPI is calculated using data from 13 external sources, including the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, private risk and consulting companies, think tanks and others.
- The CPI uses a scale from 0 to 100, with 100 representing very clean and 0 highly corrupt.
- Types of public sector corruption captured in the CPI include bribery, diversion of public funds, effective prosecution of corruption cases, adequate legal frameworks, access to information, and legal protections for whistleblowers, journalists and investigators.
- The CPI does not measure activities such as tax fraud, money laundering, financial secrecy, illicit flows of dirty money or other forms of private sector corruption.
For the avoidance of doubt, neither Transparency International (TI) nor TI Ireland directly attributes a country's rise or fall on the CPI to any individual.
In addition to the annual CPI, TI also periodically conducts the Global Corruption Barometer for different region of the world. The Global Corruption Barometer surveys the experiences of everyday people confronting corruption around the world and is the only worldwide public opinion survey on corruption. The most recent Global Corruption Barometer for EU countries was conducted in 2021, and included public experiences and perceptions of corruption in Ireland. The findings suggested that Irish respondents perceive that undue influence over public policy is a problem, but that the public are less exposed to corruption in their daily lives than in most other European countries.
See the CPI Source Description for more information on the methodology and questions used for each survey: