The Secretary-General has expressed optimism that Africa is turning the tide against corruption, but warned the fight must continue with renewed vigour.
Patricia Scotland made her remarks at the ninth Commonwealth Africa Anti-Corruption Agencies Conference in Uganda.
She applauded the fact that no Commonwealth African countries currently sit among the Corruption Perception Index’s top 10 most corrupt nations.
However she added there is a global tidal wave of corruption with this type of crime estimated to cost over $148 billion per annum in Africa alone.
The Secretary-General urged Commonwealth member countries to make tackling corruption a "priority of the highest order" if Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved.
She said: “Eliminating corruption brings multiple benefits; poverty is reduced, economic stability and growth are increased, and standards of living raised.
“We all need to take action to improve transparency and accountability and to build confidence that our institutions and systems are corruption-free.
“That is why the Commonwealth has been active in providing practical technical assistance and development support for national anti-corruption agencies to build their effectiveness in dealing with corruption.”
Following a consultative process with member countries, the Commonwealth has developed a package of anti-corruption benchmarks covering topics from sanctions for corruption offences to investigating and prosecuting authorities, and from political lobbying to disclosure of asset ownership.
The Secretary-General added: “Next year we will be one third of the way through the implementation period for the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
"As we move on towards the halfway mark in that period there is an urgent need for all governments to put in place effective execution, monitoring and evaluation structures for SDG implementation.”
The Commonwealth SDG Implementation Toolkit supports countries with policy gap analysis, and with integrating SDG planning into national development agendas, and tracking and monitoring results.
In a keynote speech to the conference, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said his country had taken a tough stance on corruption, but stressed that institutions must remain vigilant.
He said: “When we noticed the dangers corruption posed, we created new laws and new institutions, like the Inspectorate of Government, to fight the vice.
“But over time, the fire in them burnt out. Most likely they were infiltrated. I have to stoke the fire with new watchmen like the Anti-Corruption Unit.”
The president also announced the publication of a book by the Commonwealth Secretariat, ‘Tackling corruption in Commonwealth Africa: The case studies of Botswana, Mauritius, Seychelles, Lesotho and Rwanda’ .