What Is the Corruption Perception Index?

Amanda R. Bell

The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) is a global project that ranks countries based on the public’s observation of corruption in the government. Data is derived from several different sources and then compiled and interpreted by the organization Transparency International. Hundreds of countries, although not all, are ranked with a number each year on a scale of one to ten that indicates how corrupt or clean the country is. The index is generally used by Transparency International to bring awareness to the corruption, although it is considered by many to have little social value due to the way that data is compiled and the ranking system itself.

According to the Corruption Perception Index, a government can be considered corrupt for a number of reasons.
According to the Corruption Perception Index, a government can be considered corrupt for a number of reasons.

A government can be considered corrupt for any number of reasons, according to the Corruption Perception Index. In general, any public official who accepts bribes, embezzles money, or in any way uses his or her power for personal gain is considered corrupt, making the government itself corrupt whether the entity as a whole supports the actions or not. Typically, the amount of laws or statutes that a country has in place to prevent corruption is also factored into the Corruption Perception Index ranking.

Transparency International, a worldwide organization, primarily uses surveys and assessments conducted by outside institutions or organizations that are believed to be reputable. Surveys typically include questions regarding the public’s perception of the trustworthiness of the government. This information is combined with assessments that are conducted to determine how transparent a government is and how seriously it seems to take corruption in general. In most cases, the incidences of corruption that are brought to light are not factored into a specific country’s ranking. This is because the laws regarding journalism, freedom of speech, and the access that citizens have to information vary greatly by location.

As of 2011, Transparency International requires that three separate sources of information be available for a country in order for it to be included in the ranking. Compiled annually, the countries incorporated on the Corruption Perception Index vary every year depending on the available information. Although the report is generated every year, a single country’s ranking cannot typically be compared to previous years to indicate whether there has been a change in actual corruption. Typically, only the public’s perception of corruption can be compared.

A scale of one to ten is used to rank each country in the Corruption Perception Index. A ranking of one indicates that the public believes that the government is highly corrupt, and a ranking of 10 indicates that a government is believed to be “highly clean,” or not at all corrupt. When there is not enough data available for a ranking to be assigned, a country is give a zero or left off of the Corruption Perception Index entirely.

The primary purpose of this index is to bring global awareness to the matter of government corruption. Despite this, many researchers believe that there is little value in the index outside of increasing awareness, as the sources used to reach a ranking change each year, eliminating the possibility that rankings for a single country can be compared to past rankings, or even that two countries can be compared to each other. The system itself is also slightly controversial, as the Corruption Perception Index does not provide any actionable information that a country, or the global community, could use to reduce corruption in specific countries.

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