Companies from Russia, followed closely by those from China, are seen as most likely to use bribery to secure foreign contracts, according to a new survey released Wednesday by Transparency International.
The watchdog group's Bribe Payers Index showed the two countries at the bottom of a list of 28 of the world's leading economies, meaning that their companies are seen as the most likely to engage in bribery.
Firms from the Netherlands and Switzerland were tied with scores of 8.8 on a scale of 10 as those seen as the least likely to use bribes, followed closely by Belgium with 8.7, and Germany and Japan tied in fourth place with scores of 8.6.
The survey asked 3,000 business executives how often firms they deal with from different countries engage in bribery, with answers ranging from 0 meaning "always" to 10, meaning "never."
Australia and Canada tied for sixth place with scores of 8.5, Singapore and Britain shared eighth place with scores of 8.3, followed by the U.S. in place 10 with a score of 8.1.
No country was seen as wholly clean, and the survey found companies were almost as likely to pay bribes to other businesses as to public officials in order to win public tenders, avoid regulations, speed up government processes or influence policy.
Agriculture and light manufacturing were seen as the sectors where firms were least engaged in bribery, while the public works and construction sector was seen as the one where most bribes were paid.
Russia finished last in the group's previous Bribe Payers Index, which was published in 2008. While Russia's score rose slightly since then _ from 5.9 to 6.1 this year _ researchers said there has been no real improvement in anti-corruption enforcement.
China was the only other country that scored below 7, with a 6.5 ranking.
"Anti-corruption mechanisms which are supposed to target businesses are not really working," Yelena Panfilova, director of Transparency International in Russia, said at a Moscow news conference. "So the situation did not really change much in the last three years. Practices and behavior of Russian businesses, both domestically and internationally, didn't change."
Outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev made the fight against corruption a focal point of his presidency following his election in 2008.
But in 2010, Medvedev admitted that his anti-corruption campaign had produced few significant results. Panfilova said anti-corruption legislation is a step in the right direction, but a lack of enforcement undercut the efforts.
"Yes, there are good laws now," Panfilova said. "It's now time to start using them."
Of the 28 countries included in the 2011 survey, 22 were also ranked in the 2008 edition. There were few signs of improvement, however, with the average score in 2008 of 7.8 rising only slightly to 7.9 for the same 22 countries.
The G-20 group of leading economies last year launched an anti-corruption plan, and Transparency International said they are expected to approve a progress report with further anti-corruption measures when they meet in Cannes, France, on Thursday.
Associated Press writer Sofia Javed in Moscow contributed to this report.