SOUTH Africa has moved from 67th to 61st place on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index 2015, indicating perceptions of the extent of corruption in the country are stabilising.
But, while SA’s ranking improved, the country’s score was unchanged at 44, Corruption Watch said on Wednesday.
A country’s score refers to the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 to 100. Zero means a country is perceived to be highly corrupt and 100 that it is seen as clean.
There were 168 countries on the 2015 index.
"The good news is that, for the second year in succession, our score … has remained the same and our ranking has improved slightly," Corruption Watch’s executive director, David Lewis, said.
"The bad news is that we are still ranked among those countries perceived to have a serious corruption problem, with our ranking perilously close to those countries suffering from endemic corruption."
Mr Lewis said SA had to turn the situation around and it could not afford to fall any further.
The corruption perceptions index is compiled from a composite of surveys conducted during the year by organisations such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The individuals surveyed are largely public and private sector leaders and academics, Corruption Watch says.
Government’s ‘poor job’
Corruption Watch said the stability in perceived corruption revealed by the corruption perceptions index was at odds with another important Transparency International survey, the African edition of the global corruption barometer, released in December last year.
The barometer showed 83% of South Africans polled believed corruption was increasing and 79% believed the government was doing a poor job of combating corruption.
"The difference between the two important surveys is explained by the different character of the respondents," Mr Lewis said.
"The opinion makers surveyed for the corruption perceptions index see evidence that key pockets of government are deeply concerned about corruption."
He said this was particularly true of important opinion shapers such as the National Treasury.
‘Getting away with it’
However, the "ordinary" South Africans surveyed for the barometer saw prominent political and public and private sector leaders at all levels continuing to loot their towns, provinces and national government on a grand scale and getting away with it.
"Their perceptions are equally valid. The good work of those serious about combating corruption is overshadowed by those who continue to behave with impunity," Mr Lewis said.
Corruption Watch believed the way forward was to demonstrate that no one was above the law.
"As long as people with wealth and political power are perceived to be above the law, our public and private sectors — as well as our political institutions — will be seen to be riddled with corruption."