A landmark set of measures to support international efforts in tackling corruption has been launched by the Commonwealth Secretariat.
The Commonwealth Anti-Corruption Benchmarks are designed to help governments and public sector organisations assess laws, procedures and actions against international good practice and make improvements if needed. United Nations figures indicate that corruption costs the global economy $3.6 trillion each year. Global proceeds from criminal activities are estimated at between $1 trillion and $1.6 trillion per year.
The amount of money lost globally through corruption is equal to the total amount needed to successfully implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In development since 2018, the new benchmarks offer a comprehensive roadmap to reduce corruption across 25 areas of public and commercial life.
Among the wide range of topics covered are corruption offences, investigation and prosecution, the court system, parliament, political elections and funding, public officials, procurement, management controls, and transparency to the public. The benchmarks also include mechanisms for engaging and mobilising the public and private sectors in educating, reporting and providing independent support and oversight.
The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, said: “Throughout the world, including in member countries of the Commonwealth, corruption continues to undermine social and economic development and have immensely damaging consequences, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable of people and communities.
“Our Commonwealth Anti-Corruption Benchmarks are a robust set of recommendations and good practices brought together as an interlocking identification, prevention and reporting system designed significantly to reduce the risk of corruption in the public and private sectors.
“The Commonwealth Anti-Corruption Benchmarks package is a landmark initiative, unrivalled in scope and ambition, which I firmly believe provides a basis for transformational action in the Commonwealth and more widely towards ending the destructive scourge of corruption in all its forms.” Designed to be achievable, practical and auditable, this set of measures provides a holistic system that aims to reduce and deal with the risk of corruption.
The benchmarks promote honesty, impartiality, accountability, and transparency and provide for specific anti-corruption measures. In cases where there may be no recognised international good practice, the benchmarks propose good practice measures.
The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Office of Civil and Criminal Justice Reform has worked in partnership with the Global Infrastructure Anti-Corruption Centre (GIACC) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to develop the benchmarks. There has also been wide consultation with the African Union, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Commonwealth law ministries, anti-corruption agencies and Commonwealth partner organisations.
Neill Stansbury, Director of GIACC, and one of the authors of the benchmarks, said: “Corruption causes enormous damage in developed and developing countries, and primarily impacts on the poor.
“While preventive action must be taken by both the public and private sectors, it is incumbent on governments and the public sector to provide the legal, regulatory and enforcement environment which enables and ensures a corruption-free society. The benchmarks are designed to assist governments and the public sector achieve this objective.”
Christopher Alder, Global Director of Regulation at RICS, said: “These benchmarks represent a step-change in the co-ordination and integration of anti-corruption mechanisms - mechanisms which connect public, commercial, professional and legal enforcement expertise.
“Taken together the mechanisms provide a framework for these ‘communities’ to co-ordinate their activities to support proactive and, if necessary, punitive action. Creating a framework through which these communities, their interests and responsibilities integrate leverages their collective power to transform the way that international and Commonwealth countries fight corruption.
“Ultimately, this collective power can protect the poorest and most vulnerable in our societies whilst building a future free of corruption.”