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Serbia is falling behind on the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index list

Transparency Serbia (a member of the international organization Transparency International) has presented today the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2020. The CPI is the most famous global ranking of countries by the perception of corruption in the public sector. Serbia is still considered the country with the high level of corruption with a score of 38 out of 100 points (one point less than in the CPI 2019). With this score Serbia ranks 94th out of 180 countries and for the second year in a row finds itself in the lower half of the world’s list. Serbia also has five points less than the global average (43). Although the fight against corruption has been known as one of the state priorities all this time, the assessment of Serbia is the worst in the last 8 years.

zoom cpi 2020 1According to TI, Serbia's backsliding in surveys about corruption is expected given that the long-standing "lack of political will" to replace anti-corruption laws in many areas has been replaced by a clear "political will" not to apply the laws. This is especially reflected in the illegal management of the most valuable public companies and in the open promotion of direct agreements for obtaining the most valuable jobs with the state, instead of selecting contractors through bidding. At the same time, perceptions of corruption are strongly influenced by the fact that the public prosecutor's office does not provide clear answers to publicly expressed and documented suspicions of corruption.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the situation, exposing pre-existing weaknesses in anti-corruption institutions and mechanisms. This is especially visible in the area of public procurement, where all data have been declared secret. Citizens and journalists, instead of having opportunities to inspect these documents, only receive unverifiable statements from the officials, most often from the incompetent ones.

Concentrated political power and citizens’ support for the fight against corruption have not been used in recent years to strengthen institutions and the rule of law, which would ensure a functioning of the accountability system regardless of the existence of "political will", and especially without a "political order". Earlier anti-corruption plans remained unfulfilled, and the implementation of the current revised Action Plan for Chapter 23 EU Integration of July 2020 is already significantly delayed.

Similarly, the support of international organizations for anti-corruption reforms has not been used either. A clear signal of dissatisfaction from the EU provoqued by the lack of progress in the fight against corruption was sent by the fact that no new negotiation chapter was opened in 2020. Likewise, the ODIHR recommendations (from 2016 and 2017) regarding election rules and many of the 2015 GRECO recommendations have remained unfulfilled.

Transparency Serbia has highlighted anit-corruption priorities for the period of next four years[1], as well as key recommendations based on a recently published research on conditions for doing business with integrity in Serbia. [2]


More details on the Corruption Perceptions Index and results

For the twenty-sixth year in a row, the Corruption Perceptions Index has been created by the leading global anti-corruption organization Transparency International. This year, 180 countries and territories were ranked, the same as a year earlier. Countries are scored on a scale from 100 (very clean) to 0 (very corrupt). This year, Serbia is ranked 94th (last year 91st), with a score of 38, one point less than the previous year. We share this place with 7 more countries (Brasil, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Peru, Sri Lanka, Suriname and Tanzania). The score for 2020 is the worst in the last 8 years. For the second year in a row, Serbia is placed in the "worse half of the world", and the current place on the list is the worst since the 2005 CPI.

Changes in Serbia's score have been minimal for twelve years. With a current score of 38, Serbia is in the group of countries with widespread corruption (below 50). This score places Serbia five points below the world average (43), 19 points below the average of our continent and even 26 points behind the average of the part of Europe of which we want to become a part.

At the top of the list are New Zealand and Denmark with 88 points, and at the bottom Somalia and South Sudan with 12 points. Among the former socialist countries of Europe, Estonia is the best with almost 75, and of those that are not members of the EU, Georgia (56). Within the former SFRY, the best place achieved Slovenia with 60. In our immediate neighborhood, Croatia (47), Montenegro (45), Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania (44) have better results on the CPI list, while Albania (36) is slightly worse than Serbia, then Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia (35), as well as Kosovo, which is a subject of special research and its evaluation is 37 (36).

The CPI considers 13 relevant surveys that measure the perception of corruption in the public sector. These researches represent the opinion or impression about the corruption of government officials and public servants by those who do business with them or who advise business people, government and international institutions. Researches capture perceptions of corruption within the past two years and there must be at least three such sources of data for any country / territory to be ranked.

This year, Serbia is included in a total of eight relevant surveys (same as for 2019), which guarantees an even higher degree of reliability of the findings, as well as comparability of data with those from previous years. Global Insight Country Risk Ratings, Bertelsmann Foundation, World Economic Forum, Economist Intelligence Unit, Freedom House, International Country Risk Guide, World Justice Project Rule of Law Index and Varieties of Democracy Project were used for this purpose.

Of the surveys relevant to Serbia, in five cases data were collected in 2019, in one case during 2019 and 2020, while in two cases the researches were fully conducted in 2020. In two cases the same source was used as for CPI 2019, because no new data were published, in four cases the researchers rated the state of affairs as the same as in previous year, and in two researches conducted during 2020, the ratings were worse.

Ratings from individual surveys range from 35.28 to 40.72. The standard deviation is (1.66).

In this year's report, Transparency International highlighted the impact of the COVID pandemic on corruption risks. Corruption itself can endanger people's lives, and the danger increases significantly when corruption is "associated" with other health risks, such as corona virus. The less corruption in the public sector, the more money there will be to invest in health care, noted Transparency International, citing Uruguay as a good example. Uruguay has the highest CPI Index in Latin America (71) and invests huge funds in health care, and as a result a system of epidemiological surveillance in that country responded excellently to the appearance of the corona virus.

Bangladesh is on the flip side of the coin (CPI 26), with corruption flourishing during the pandemic - from bribery in health facilities to corruption in the distribution of aid and procurement of medical supplies. TI points out, however, that the United States also has the worst score since 2012 (67) and that the focus was, among other, on the weak control over distribution of a $1,000 billion pandemic aid package.

Transparency Serbia


28 January 2021.