Though Germany moved up two spots in corruption rankings to number 14 on the list of 180, Transparency International has urged the government to do more to fight corruption.
Less oversight often means greater corruption, according to the report
Global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International praised Germany's "increased efforts" to root out corruption sparked by the massive Siemens scandal but pointed out that smaller German firms were slower in their commitment to counter graft.
“The sparks of corruption prevention must spread to the middle class,” head of the TI's German chapter Sylvia Schenk said in a statement on Tuesday. “Whoever thinks that morality is separable put his business at risk and sends a ruinous signal to his personnel. The awareness of personal responsibility must increase.”
The group urged the German government to take concerted measures to tackle corruption in politics.
It said the world's view of Germany has been damaged by the country's unwillingness to ratify UN initiatives against corruption, Schenk said. Mid-level companies are also hesitant to engage in anti-corruption strategies, she added.
The 2008 report lists 180 nations on a scale from zero (highly corrupt) to 10 (highly clean) based on expert assessments and opinion surveys of public sector corruption.
Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden share the highest score at 9.3, followed immediately by Singapore at 9.2. Bringing up the rear is Somalia at 1.0, slightly trailing Iraq and Myanmar at 1.3 and Haiti at 1.4.
The report noted significant declines in the scores of Bulgaria, Burundi, Norway and Britain, while strong improvements over last year were identified in Cyprus, Georgia, Nigeria, Qatar, South Korea and Turkey.
Whether in high or low-income countries, the challenge of reigning in corruption requires functioning institutions in government and other sections of society, Transparency said.
"A humanitarian disaster"
Poorer countries are often plagued by corrupt judiciaries and ineffective parliamentary oversight, the group said.
"In the poorest countries, corruption levels can mean the difference between life and death, when money for hospitals or clean water is in play," the organization's chairperson, Huguette Labelle said.
"The continuing high levels of corruption and poverty plaguing many of the world's societies amount to an ongoing humanitarian disaster and cannot be tolerated," she said in presenting the organization's annual corruption perceptions index in Berlin on Monday, Sept. 22.
Germany had less corporate corruption
'Strong oversight required'
Wealthy countries, on the other hand, show evidence of insufficient regulation of the private sector in terms of addressing overseas bribery by their companies, and weak oversight of financial institutions and transactions, it added.
"Stemming corruption requires strong oversight through parliaments, law enforcement, independent media and a vibrant civil society," said Labelle.
"When these institutions are weak, corruption spirals out of control with horrendous consequences for ordinary people, and for justice and equality in societies," she said.
The anti-corruption guardian also referred to corporate bribery and the questionable methods of companies in acquiring and managing overseas business.
"The continuing emergence of foreign bribery scandals indicates a broader failure by the world's wealthiest countries to live up to the promise of mutual accountability in the fight against corruption, it said.
"This sort of double standard is unacceptable and disregards international legal standards," said Labelle. "Beyond its corrosive effects on the rule of law and public confidence ... it undermines the credibility of the wealthiest nations in calling for greater action to fight corruption by low-income countries."