New Zealand has once again been ranked as the least-corrupt country in the world.
The 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index was released on Thursday and ranks Aotearoa first-equal with Denmark, with a score of 88 out of 100. This is a one-point improvement from last year.
The index, which is released annually by global anti-corruption organisation Transparency International, ranks countries around the world by their perceived levels of public sector corruption.
Over the past nine years, New Zealand has contended with Denmark and Finland to be the first-ranked country with the least corrupt public sector, the organisation says.
"It is great to see that the integrity of New Zealand public service has again kept us at the top of the Corruption Perceptions Index. This is a formidable achievement," chairperson of Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) Anne Tolley says.
"Doing the things that make it possible to maintain this position over time has been good for our economy and good for our democracy. It is hard-won but easily lost, as can be seen from the ranking of other countries. We can't be complacent."
Transparency International says the coronavirus pandemic was not just a health and economic crisis, but a corruption crisis too. It says over the past year, reports of corruption during COVID-19 have spread across the globe.
It adds that corruption undermines an equitable response to the virus and other crises, which shows the importance of transparency and anti-corruption measures in emergencies.
"This is where New Zealand government agencies need to improve transparency," TINZ executive director Julie Haggie says.
"Public trust in the Government's response has been built on a high level of transparency, for example on the causes of change in rates of infection and of operational practices. This is being undermined by inadequate reporting on COVID-19 procurement."
She adds the full impact of the pandemic on the Corruption Perceptions Index won't be seen for another year or two, however, the "firm but open" response shown by the Government strengthens New Zealand's reputation as a fair and safe country to trade with and visit.
"At the same time, crisis breeds corruption and we must stay vigilant."
In 2019, New Zealand was first-equal with Denmark in the index but slipped to second place in 2018.