The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, using a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
In the 2018 ranking, Denmark placed first with a score of 88/100, followed by New Zealand (87/100), and Finland (85/100). Finland's score was matched by Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland.
No perfect scores
While no country gets full marks on the index, Transparency International says that top performing countries have several democratic attributes in common that contribute to their high scores. Those mentioned include strong institutions, rule of law and high levels of economic development.
As a measure of public sector corruption, the index gives higher rankings to countries where rates of bribery, diversion of public funds, conflicts of interest and other forms of corruption are perceived to be lowest within government. Yet, as Transparency International notes, that doesn’t mean that these countries are corruption-free.
As an example, part of this year's review of results notes that the 50.1% state-owned Finnish defence company Patria has been embroiled in corruption scandals in Slovenia and Croatia.
In 2017, Finland slipped from second place in the ranking to third due to several corruption cases and scandals. Among those were the conviction of a high-ranking Helsinki narcotics cop on bribery, corruption and drug crimes as well as corruption cases involving Nokian Tyres, defence company Patria and several asphalt firms. In politics later that year, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä was cleared of wrongdoing in two cases where he was suspected of favouring companies owned by his family members.