The 10 Most Corrupt Countries in the World, Ranked By Perception

Casey Leins


Transparency International, the nongovernmental organization based in Germany, defines corruption as the misuse of public power for private benefit. The organization's most recent version of its Corruption Perceptions Index also states that the failure to significantly control corruption is fueling a global crisis in democracy.

Colombia is perceived to be the most corrupt country in the world, according to U.S. News' 2020 Best Countries rankings, a characterization of 73 countries based on a survey of more than 20,000 global citizens.

In the survey, respondents answered how closely they related each of the countries to the term "corrupt," the exact meaning of which was left to their own interpretation. The attribute is factored into the Best Countries rankings for transparency, as well as the best countries to invest in and headquarter a corporation.

Colombia, which sees an estimated $14 billion a year in corruption-related costs, experienced a wave of anti-government protests starting at the end of November. A new set of strikes could ensue after protest leaders meet with government officials later this month.

[READ: U.S. Trustworthiness Rating Dives in 2020 Best Countries Report]

While the country is known for its decades of political scandals, voters recently elected Claudia López, a member of Colombia's green party and a prominent activist, as the mayor of Bogota. López is the first woman and openly gay individual to become mayor of Colombia's capital city.

Mexico, known for its deadly drug cartels, follows Colombia as the No. 2 most corrupt country in the 2020 ranking. Ghana, Myanmar, Guatemala, Saudia Arabia, Brazil, Kenya and Bolivia also made the top 10. Bolivia's interim government announced in January that it will investigate nearly 600 former officials who worked under Evo Morales, who resigned from his presidency in November.

Russia, which has been accused of election meddling and Olympic doping, joins the top 10 list this year after placing No. 12 in 2019.

Below are the 10 countries perceived to be the most corrupt, and more country-related rankings can be found here.

Country Corrupt Rank Best Countries Overall Rank
Colombia 1 51
Mexico 2 33
Ghana 3 67
Myanmar 4 57
Guatemala 5 65
Saudi Arabia 6 31
Brazil 7 28
Kenya 8 53
Bolivia 9 60
Russia 10 23


Casey Leins is a staff writer for the Best States section of U.S. News & World Report, where she writes about innovative solutions to problems plaguing the states. She came to U.S. News as an intern in 2014, joined the News team as a web producer in 2015, and was part of the team that launched the first Best States ranking in 2017. She was selected to attend the McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute workshop held by the Poynter Institute in 2017, and previously worked as a writer for the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and the Howard County Times. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park. Follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at cleins@usnews.com.