The annual index, released on Wednesday, shows that South Africa scored 44 out of 100 and ranked 67 of the 175 surveyed countries and territories.
South Africa’s corruption watchdog, Corruption Watch, raised “great concern” that the country has for the past three years scored below 50. Transparency International said this indicated a significant corruption problem, and Corruption Watch stressed a dismal performance for a third year in a row “places South Africa in precarious territory”.
The index scores countries and territories on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). In 2012 and 2013, South Africa scored 43 and 42 respectively, with rankings of 69 out of 174, and 72 out of 177.
Corruption Watch said this year’s index “highlights again the gradual erosion of trust in South Africa’s public sector”. The index surveyed experts on public sector corruption and it is the most widely used indicator of corruption worldwide.
Corruption Watch Executive Director David Lewis said though South Africa’s score and position on the index had not deteriorated further, this was nothing to take comfort from.
“Not far below us on the index are countries where corruption is endemic, where little can be done to turn around corruption,” he said.
“Some of our key institutions already exhibit many of the characteristics of endemic corruption. Think of our criminal justice institutions.
“And think of the impunity enjoyed by leading public sector and private sector individuals, with the continuing Nkandla fiasco the clearest example of impunity enjoyed by the politically powerful”.
Lewis was referring to the controversial upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s private homestead in Nkandla, which cost the taxpayer R246-million.
“Indeed, given the growing controversy surrounding Nkandla and given the contempt displayed by the political and public sector leadership for a resolute anti-corruption fighter like the public protector, had the survey been conducted today, we may well have landed up with a significantly lower score,” said Lewis.
Loss of faith
The ANC-led government has for the past few elections listed fighting corruption as one of its top priorities, but little progress has been made to convince citizens that the war will be won soon. The implication of the politically connected in corruption has also added to the loss of faith in government’s will to stop dishonesty and theft of public funds.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the Transparency International index puts South Africa in ninth position, only doing better than Swaziland. Botswana remains the top scorer in Africa at 63 points, while Somalia is at the bottom of the list with a score of eight out of 100. Other Southern African countries that scored better than South Africa were Mauritius, Seychelles and Cape Verde.