Ireland is now ranked number 17 out of 175 countries on the annual corruption index published by Transparency International, up from a ranking of 21 last year.

The organisation’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2014 scores countries and territories on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). More than two thirds of the countries in the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index scored below 50.

Ireland had a rating this year of 74, slightly ahead of last year’s rating of 72 and up from 69 in 2012.

It shares 17th place with Barbados, Hong Kong and the US. Denmark was ranked in 1st place in the index with a score of 92, followed by New Zealand, Finland and Sweden with Norway and Switzerland sharing 5th place. North Korea and Somalia share last place, scoring just eight.

In 2012 Ireland was positioned in 25th place on in the index, in the wake of the publication of the Moriarty and Mahon Tribunal reports.

Transparency International Ireland’s chief executive welcomed the improvement in Ireland’s ranking but warned against complacency.

‘The improvement may be explained by few ‘big-ticket’ corruption stories over the past couple of years. The tribunals may also be fading from memory but there are still significant corruption risks to be addressed’, said John Devitt.

The Corruption Perceptions Index is based on expert opinions of public sector corruption. Countries’ scores can be helped by open government where the public can hold leaders to account, while a poor score is a sign of prevalent bribery, lack of punishment for corruption and public institutions that don’t respond to citizens’ needs.

In the 20th edition of the index, scores for China (with a score of 36 out of 100), Turkey (45) and Angola (19) were among the biggest fallers with a drop of 4 or 5 points, despite average economic growth of more than 4 per cent over the last four years. The biggest improvers over the last year, according to the index were Côte d´Ivoire, Egypt, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (+5), Afghanistan, Jordan, Mali and Swaziland (+4).

“The 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index shows that economic growth is undermined and efforts to stop corruption fade when leaders and high level officials abuse power to appropriate public funds for personal gain,” said José Ugaz, the chair of Transparency International.

“Corrupt officials smuggle ill-gotten assets into safe havens through offshore companies with absolute impunity,” Mr Ugaz added. “Countries at the bottom need to adopt radical anti-corruption measures in favour of their people. Countries at the top of the index should make sure they don’t export corrupt practices to underdeveloped countries.”

10 most corrupt nations

Somalia (8)

North Korea (8)

Sudan (11)

Afghanistan (12)

South Sudan (15)

Iraq (16)

Turkmenistan (17)

Uzbekistan (18)

Libya (18)

Eritrea (18)

10 least corrupt nations

Denmark (92)

New Zealand (91)

Finland (89)

Sweden (87)

Norway (86)

Switzerland (86)

Singapore (84)

Netherlands (83)

Luxembourg (82)

Canada (81)

Source: Transparency International