Danske Bank has won the “2018 Corrupt Actor of the Year Award” from the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. Photo: Reuters

INTERNATIONAL – Denmark ranks number one as the least corrupt in the Transparency International 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index published last month.

But note this: Denmark’s leading bank, Danske Bank, has won the “2018 Corrupt Actor of the Year award” from the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. This is convincing proof that corruption, in its many manifestations, is universal.

Some of the countries that do best in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index – such as Singapore and Switzerland, ranked in third place, Luxembourg in ninth, the UK in 11th, and the US 22nd – are where kleptocrats and leaders of organised crime that dominate other countries and depress those countries’ social and economic development end up placing their dirty cash in banks, real estate, financial management firms, jewellery, gold and valuable art.

The CPI, from its inception in 1995, has been a poll of polls, drawing its rankings from diverse surveys that look, above all, at corruption by governments.

This means that the prime focus is on public procurement, largely because that is where the money is – annual public contracting is estimated to be more than $9.5 trillion (R127.1trln).

As its worst performers, the new Corruption Perceptions Index features countries at war and “failed states”, from Libya and Afghanistan to Somalia, Syria and South Sudan.

These are indeed countries where corruption is so rampant that it features in virtually every aspect of daily life. Law enforcement in these countries has failed.

These are also the countries where one finds the gravest humanitarian situations, involving many millions of people. The combination of overwhelming corruption, extreme violence and massive poverty, characterises so many of the worst performers in the CPI.

Lest we want to go on and on with this predictable charade, the – basically unchanging – data calls for a major international response. It must address the multiple acute ills in a comprehensive manner – a response that involves the UN, the leading Western governments and the many dedicated charitable organisations that are determined to assist. Such a co-ordinated response is absent today.

Can we really tolerate a situation where, predictably enough, next year’s CPI will almost certainly tell a similar story to that of the just-issued 2019 edition – except that the scale of human suffering in the most corrupt nations will have intensified?

Thankfully, at least a modicum of change is underfoot. Rarely before have we seen as many citizen-driven public protests against corrupt regimes as we see today – from Zimbabwe (ranked 160 out of 180 countries in the CPI) to the Democratic Republic of Congo (161), to Sudan (172), and to Venezuela (ranked 168). We have seen anti-government protests, for example in Hungary and Romania, ranked respectively at 64 and 61.

The international community faces difficult challenges as it seeks to side with the citizen protests against the kleptocrats. There is the constant risk that pressure assists in forcing out a viciously corrupt government, only to see sometime later that a new and corrupt government takes office. Zimbabwe seems a case in point.

Frank Vogl is co-founder of Transparency International and author of Waging War on Corruption: Inside the Movement Fighting the Abuse of Power. This article initially appeared on The Globalist. Follow The Globalist on Twitter: @theglobalist