Malta is stuck in a rut when it comes to perceived corruption in the world.
Transparency International's latest rankings in its global list of perceived corruption show that Malta's score has remained virtually unchanged, while scores in 25 other countries have improved.
It assigns a score to each country ranging from zero (highly corrupt) to one hundred (very clean), based on the opinions of experts and businesspeople.
In total, 25 countries saw an increase in their CPI score, while 23 saw a decrease, and 132 countries saw no change.
Armenia saw the greatest increase in CPI score, rising 14 points while the biggest drop was in Canada by 8 points.
Malta received a score of 54 this year, one point higher than last year, and is ranked 131st out of 180 countries.
According to the Times of Malta, the island's worst-ever score was 53 in 2021, marking a long-term decline of seven points since 2015.
It also quoted a spokesperson for The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, Transparency International's Malta contact point, as saying that the country's marginal improvement in the index score was no cause for celebration, and that true progress would be demonstrated by Malta making and maintaining a larger shift in the score.
"The one-point increase is not a reliable indicator of an improving situation on the ground. " The spokesperson explained that "a change in any one of the data sources that feed into the Corruption Perceptions Index could result in a slightly higher score while the situation on the ground remains unchanged."
"To reliably conclude that things are improving, we would need to see a higher shift in Malta's score sustained for two or more consecutive years."
The apparent lack of change in the CPI, on the other hand, appears to be part of a worldwide trend.
In the wake of the COVID pandemic, Transparency International reported that corruption levels had "stagnated worldwide," noting that 131 countries had made no significant progress over the last decade and 27 countries had achieved a "historic low" CPI score.
In a statement, it said that Respecting human rights is essential for controlling corruption because empowered citizens have the space to challenge injustice."
"The global COVID-19 pandemic has also been used in many countries as an excuse to curtail basic freedoms and side-step important checks and balances. And, despite the increasing international momentum to end the abuse of anonymous shell companies, many high-scoring countries with relatively ‘clean' public sectors continue to enable transnational corruption."
The index, according to the foundation, assesses perceptions of corruption based on direct and indirect experience.
"However, it is not an opinion poll that shows a simple snapshot at any one moment. The CPI is a composite indicator based on 13 external data sources and uses a methodology that has been adjusted and refined to allow comparison over time.", the foundation said.
"Malta's stagnating country score indicates that not enough is being done to fight corruption."
Malta must take action to address identified failures in order to implement effective change, according to the report.
"The country needs to address the findings of the FATF assessment which led to the country's greylisting and to urgently address state failures and gaps in the systems that should protect fundamental rights," it continued.
"The public inquiry into the circumstances of Daphne's assassination documented multiple institutional failures and identified the need to effectively address impunity, corruption and abuses of power and to create an enabling environment for journalism as key areas for reform," the report said.
"Pressure on the right to free speech, free assembly, free participation, and so on - whether this impacts activism, journalism or other ‘public watchdog' functions - limits the ability of groups to demand accountability and clears the way for abuse of power."
With 88 points each, Denmark, Finland, and New Zealand topped the list, while South Sudan came in last with 11 points.
By fLEXI tEAM