Skip to main content

Political parties are most corrupt institution worldwide according to TI Global Corruption Barometer 2004

In six out of 10 countries, political parties are given the worst assessment. Governments must enhance efforts to fight graft, starting with ratification of UN Convention against Corruption

The public around the world perceive political parties as the institution most affected by corruption, according to a new public opinion survey published today by Transparency International (TI) to mark UN International Anti-Corruption Day. TI is the leading global non-governmental organisation devoted to combating corruption worldwide.

In 36 out of 62 countries surveyed, political parties were rated by the general public as the institution most affected by corruption. On a scale from a corrupt-free 1 to an extremely corrupt score of 5, parties ranked worst worldwide, with a score of 4.0, faring most poorly in Ecuador, followed by Argentina, India and Peru. At the same time, the public rated political or grand corruption as a very grave problem, and reported that in most countries surveyed corruption affected political life more than business and private life.

After political parties, the next most corrupt institutions worldwide were perceived to be parliaments followed equally by the police and the judiciary, according to the TI Global Corruption Barometer 2004. The survey included more than 50,000 respondents from the general public in a total of 64 countries and was conducted for TI by Gallup International as part of its Voice of the People Survey between June and September 2004 .

“It is time to use international co-operation to enforce a policy of zero tolerance of political corruption and to put an end to practices whereby politicians put themselves above the law - stealing from ordinary citizens and hiding behind parliamentary immunity,” said TI Board member and President of TI Cameroon, Akere Muna, speaking in Paris today. “Political parties and the politicians they nominate for election are entrusted with great power and great hopes by the people who vote for them. Political leaders must not abuse that trust by serving corrupt or selfish interests once they are in power,” said Akere Muna.

Across the globe today, the first UN International Anti-Corruption Day, TI’s national chapters will be applying pressure on governments and parliaments to ratify the UN Convention against Corruption, which requires 30 ratifications before coming into force and has 12 so far. The UN Convention will make it easier both to seize assets stolen by politicians and to return them to their rightful beneficiaries. It will also facilitate the extradition of corrupt leaders who have sought asylum abroad.

In five of the countries surveyed (Cameroon, Kenya, Lithuania, Moldova and Nigeria), at least one in three people said that they or members of their household had paid a bribe in the past 12 months. The TI Global Corruption Barometer 2004 also indicates that the poor are most affected by corruption. Half of respondents on a low income believed that petty corruption was a very big problem, while 38 per cent of high-income respondents felt the same. The poor also reported the biggest impact of corruption on their personal and family lives.

This year’s TI Global Corruption Barometer reveals that people around the world remain pessimistic – one in five believes that corruption will increase a lot in the coming three years. “We still have reason to be encouraged – the public obviously is aware of the problem, and concerned to see a change," said Akere Muna. "Anti-Corruption Day offers an opportunity and a challenge to those in political power to break corruption’s hold, and to engage with the public to solicit support for anti-corruption measures that can demonstrably clean up political life,” he underlined.

Institutions at risk

The public’s choice of political parties as the most corrupt institution also confirms the findings of last year’s TI Global Corruption Barometer. Commenting on this result, Cobus de Swardt, Global Programmes Director at the TI International Secretariat, stated: “Political parties are the training ground for most government leaders and parliamentarians. National laws should prohibit political parties and candidates for elected office from accepting donations designed to extract personal or policy favours, and require them to disclose their funding sources. Political parties must themselves take internal measures to stamp out corruption and increase transparency, through fair candidate selection procedures, by running clean election campaigns, rejecting corrupt sources of funding and disclosing the sources of donations."

Sectors and institutions most affected by corruption

But political parties were not the institutions regarded as most corrupt in all countries. According to the TI Global Corruption Barometer 2004, respondents in Argentina, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and Ukraine rated parliaments/legislatures as being at least as corrupt as political parties, if not more.

In Cameroon, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine, the police were fingered as the most corrupt institution. In Afghanistan, Croatia, (the former Yugoslav Republic of) Macedonia and Venezuela, the judiciary/legal system was identified as the institution most affected by corruption.

In Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Norway and Singapore, the private sector/business was identified as most affected by corruption. In Portugal and Turkey, tax revenue authorities were deemed the most corrupt, and in Albania, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Kosovo, Lithuania, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine, customs authorities were singled out as most affected by corruption, although sometimes scoring equally poorly to other institutions and sectors.

Grand and petty corruption: which is the bigger problem?

Across the world, grand or political corruption – corruption at the highest levels of society, by leading elites and major companies – was identified as a very big problem by 57 per cent of respondents. Fewer (45 per cent) cited petty or administrative corruption – corruption in ordinary people’s daily lives, such as bribes paid for licences or traffic violations – as a very big problem. Nevertheless, both grand and petty corruption were judged as significant obstacles, with about 8 out of 10 of those surveyed citing them as a very big or fairly big problem in their country.

Cobus de Swardt commented: “Political corruption is an insidious crime, with both a supply and demand component. The international business community, as well as elected officials, must accept responsibility for the grave concern expressed around the globe about the scope of, and damage caused by, grand corruption.”

Petty or administrative corruption was not considered to be an issue in the majority of industrialised countries surveyed, but was especially discounted in Nordic countries and Singapore. Exceptions – where petty corruption was regarded as significant – included France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, where grand corruption was also considered as grave a problem as in developing countries.

In Brazil, 99 per cent of respondents regarded both petty and grand corruption as very or fairly big problems. The public in Ecuador and Turkey also rated both as significant problems.

What impact does corruption have on me and my country?

The impact of corruption on political life was viewed as a bigger concern than corruption’s impact on personal/family life or on the business environment. In Western Europe, more than five out of 10 in France, Greece, Ireland and Italy felt that corruption had a large impact on political life in their country. In the Netherlands, however, the result was only one in 10.

In Central and Eastern Europe, half or more than half of those surveyed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Ukraine believed that corruption had a large impact on political life. Among the African countries surveyed, Nigerians expressed the strongest belief that corruption affected political life to a large extent, with six out of 10 sharing this opinion. In Bolivia, Brazil and Peru, nearly eight out of 10 were very concerned at corruption’s impact on political life, compared with six out of 10 in Argentina and Mexico, and just three out of 10 in Guatemala and Venezuela. Elsewhere in the world, nearly two out of three Israelis, South Koreans and Taiwanese shared the view that corruption affected political life to a large extent.

Effect of corruption on spheres of life in a country

The general public in Japan, Singapore and most Western European countries showed dramatically little concern about the impact of corruption on the business environment, with the exception of Italy and Greece, where nearly five out of 10 respondents believed that corruption affected business to a large extent. Among Central and East Europeans, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia expressed the most concern about the influence of corruption on the business environment. In Cameroon, Ghana and Kenya, as well as in Turkey, South Korea and Taiwan, about one in two respondents indicated that corruption affected business to a large extent. In Brazil and Peru, close to six out of 10 said that corruption had a large impact on business.

Differences emerged between developed and developing countries when respondents were asked about the impact of corruption on personal and family life. Corruption’s impact was seen to be very low in most developed countries, with the exceptions of Canada, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Taiwan and the United States, where four out of 10 said that corruption affected their personal life to a moderate or large extent. A large negative personal impact was reported by more than one in three in Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Ecuador, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines and Turkey.

Who pays bribes?

Worldwide, 10 per cent of respondents said that they or members of their household had paid a bribe in the previous 12 months. In Cameroon, a majority of those surveyed admitted to one of their household paying a bribe during the past year. In European Union countries, 11 per cent of Greeks also reported this experience. South Africans, in contrast, admitted paying bribes at similarly low levels to most developed countries.

Does the public think corruption is getting better or worse?

Turning to expectations of the future, 45 per cent of respondents worldwide expected the level of corruption to increase in the next three years, compared with only 17 per cent who expected it to decrease. These findings mean that the hopes of people around the world have not improved since the TI Global Corruption Barometer was carried out in 2003.

The most pessimistic countries were Costa Rica and Ecuador, with three out of four anticipating a rise. Indonesia was the most optimistic country, with two out of three respondents forecasting a reduction in corruption in the coming years. Many Central and Eastern European countries/territories expressed more modest optimism, with those in Georgia and Kosovo particularly optimistic.

In five Latin American countries, above-average percentages of respondents indicated that they felt corruption would increase a lot in the coming three years. Of the African countries surveyed, Nigerians were the most pessimistic, and Ghanaians most optimistic. Indians were very pessimistic, with eight out of 10 predicting a rise in corruption over the next three years, compared with less than six out of 10 in Pakistan. Seven out of 10 Filipinos also replied that they thought corruption would increase. Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Switzerland were the countries in Western Europe where the general public expected levels of corruption to increase in years to come. Greece and Ireland were the most optimistic.

For any press enquiries please contact

Jessica Berns/Jesse Garcia
Tel : +49-30-3438 2045/60
Fax: +49-30-3470 3912
Email: [email protected]

Marie Wolkers/Jana Kotalik
Tel: +33-1-5377 37 87