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Countries with the highest rates of public-sector corruption

Stacker used the Corruption Perceptions Index from Transparency International to look at the most public-sector corrupt countries in the world.

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The Port of Bossaso in Somalia

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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

Stacker

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.

#45. Russia (tie)

Saint Basil

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

#45. Mali (tie)

View of Bamako and the Niger River in Mali

Thomas Dutour // Shutterstock

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

#45. Liberia (tie)

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

Wirestock Creators // Shutterstock

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

#45. Angola (tie)

Skyline of capital city Luanda, Angola

Fabian Plock // Shutterstock

- 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

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

#41. Pakistan (tie)

The Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan

SAKhanPhotography // Shutterstock

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

#41. Myanmar (tie)

The skyline of Yangon, Myanmar

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

#41. Mauritania (tie)

The skyline of Nouakchott, Mauritania

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

#37. Uganda (tie)

Kampala, Uganda, by night

Arnold Mugasha // Shutterstock

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

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#37. Kyrgyzstan (tie)

Osh, Kyrgyzstan

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

#37. Cameroon (tie)

An aerial view of Yaoundé, Cameroon

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

#34. Mozambique (tie)

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

Sopotnicki // Shutterstock

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

#34. Madagascar (tie)

The old town of Fianarantsoa, Madagascar

Pierre-Yves Babelon // Shutterstock

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

#34. Bangladesh (tie)

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

Social Media Hub // Shutterstock

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

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#31. Tajikistan (tie)

Cityscape of Dushanbe. Tajikistan

Vershinin89 // Shutterstock

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

#31. Iran (tie)

Yazd, Iran

Jakob Fischer // Shutterstock

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

#31. Guinea (tie)

An aerieal view of Conakry, Guinea

Flightseeing-Germany // Shutterstock

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

#31. Guatemala (tie)

Antigua, Guatemala

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

#27. Central African Republic (tie)

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

mbrand85 // Shutterstock

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

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#27. Nigeria (tie)

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

Alucardion // Shutterstock

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

#27. Lebanon (tie)

An aerial view of Beirut, Lebanon

diplomedia // Shutterstock

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

#24. Zimbabwe (tie)

Harare, Zimbabwe

Tawanda Kapikinyu // Shutterstock

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

#24. Iraq (tie)

An aerial view of Baghdad, Iraq

Rasool Ali // Shutterstock

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

#24. Honduras (tie)

The flag of Honduras flying over Tegucigalpa

Manuel Chinchilla // Shutterstock

- 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

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

#20. Eritrea

An aerial view of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea

Homo Cosmicos // Shutterstock

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

#19. Guinea Bissau (tie)

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

TLF Images // Shutterstock

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

#19. Congo (tie)

Brazzaville. Congo

Highflierdolapo // Shutterstock

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

#17. Sudan (tie)

Khartoum, Sudan

Claudiovidri // Shutterstock

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

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#17. Nicaragua (tie)

An aerial view of Managua, Nicaragua at dusk

PixieMe // Shutterstock

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

#17. Haiti (tie)

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

Rotorhead 30A Productions // Shutterstock

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

#17. Comoros (tie)

Moroni, Comoros

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

#17. Chad (tie)

An aerial view of N

Homo Cosmicos // Shutterstock

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

#12. Turkmenistan (tie)

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

gonetothemoon // Shutterstock

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

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#12. Democratic Republic of the Congo (tie)

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

Katja Tsvetkova // Shutterstock

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

#12. Burundi (tie)

Bujumbura, Burundi, as viewed from a hilltop

cindysayuti // Shutterstock

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

#9. Libya (tie)

The skyline of Tripoli, Libya

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

#9. Equatorial Guinea (tie)

Bata, Equatorial Guinea

alarico // Shutterstock

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

#7. Yemen (tie)

Beautiful architecture in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen

Mohannad Khatib // Shutterstock

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

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#7. Korea, North (tie)

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

Maxim Tupikov // Shutterstock

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

#7. Afghanistan (tie)

Kabul, Afghanistan

Torsten Pursche // Shutterstock

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

#4. Venezuela

Caracas, Venezuela

Alejandro Solo // Shutterstock

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

#3. Syria (tie)

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

CameraAction // Shutterstock

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

#3. Somalia (tie)

Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia

Abdulhafid // Shutterstock

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

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#1. South Sudan

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

Frontpage // Shutterstock

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