GIZ GmbH has entrusted Annette Parsch, a solicitor specialising in criminal law and a partner in Parsch Sauer Nuzinger, with the responsibility of being its external ombudswoman with effect from 1 June 2012.
The main duty of the ombudswoman is to receive in confidence information regarding economic crimes such as corruption, fraudulent breach of trust and fraud but also other crimes and/or rule violations in the corporate environment.
The effects of such crimes include not only the economic damage they often cause but also, more significantly, substantial damage to a company's reputation. These actions are often discovered merely by chance and almost always after the company or a third party has suffered a financial disadvantage.
However, in some cases a company's own employees or persons in business relationships with the company are aware of indications of potentially criminal behaviour, but do not report their suspicions to the company representatives designated to receive such information, often for fear of reprisals or even bullying. For this reason, GIZ GmbH decided some years ago to appoint not only an internal integrity officer but also an external ombudsperson for employees and externals as an additional trustworthy contact person outside of the company who is sworn to a lawyer's professional secrecy, i.e. under a confidentiality obligation.
Calling on her many years of professional experience, our ombudswoman independently researches the information she receives as to its relevance for the company. If she comes to the conclusion that the suspicion justifies further investigation, she forwards the case to the responsible person in GIZ, but only with the informant's consent and without divulging the informant's name if so desired.
Because the identity of the informant is only divulged with his/her express permission, there is no reason to contact the ombudswoman anonymously. While the ombudswoman also accepts anonymous information, anonymous complaints are investigated more cautiously as a rule – not least to protect the subject from defamation.
The success of GIZ GmbH depends not only on the price and quality of its services, but also on its good reputation and its integrity. Corruption damages GIZ GmbH's reputation and that of its employees. This is why the company is combating it resolutely.
Frequently asked questions for the external ombudswoman
What are the ombudsperson's duties?
The main duty of an ombudsperson is to receive in confidence information regarding com-pany-related crimes as well as illicit business practices and/or rule violations that are detri-mental to the company. For informants who do not wish to contact the internal staff who are responsible in such situations, the external ombudsperson is an additional contact person outside the company who is sworn to a lawyer's professional secrecy and therefore under a confidentiality obligation. Calling on her many years of professional experience, the om-budswoman independently researches the information she receives as to its relevance for the company. If she comes to the conclusion that the suspicion justifies further investigation, she forwards the case to the responsible person in GIZ, without divulging the informant's name, if so desired. But the consent of the informant is always necessary for this.
Along with the GIZ's gender equality officers and integrity advisors, the ombudswoman is an additional contact person for information in connection with sexual harassment at work.
Who can contact the ombudswoman?
The ombudswoman is available as a contact person for all employees of GIZ but also for externals such as contractors, suppliers or tender participants.
What kind of information does the ombudswoman accept?
The ombudswoman's central role is in investigating and preventing economic crime such as corruption, fraud and fraudulent breach of trust, but also other company-related crimes that could cause particular damage to GIZ.
What kind of information does not lie in the ombudswoman's area of responsibility?
Concerning information on topics other than those mentioned under No. 3, in-company persons of trust are available as contact persons for you within GIZ for confidential dis-cussions. For information regarding personal conflict situations such as contractual violations, bullying or discrimination, please contact Mrs Carola Faller or Mr Hans-Joachim Gante directly.
Can I contact the ombudswoman anonymously?
Yes. However, since open and trusting communication with the informant is important to me as the ombudswoman, it would be desirable if all informants would trust me when I say that this precautionary measure is not necessary. I will only pass along to the company the infor-mation I have received and, if appropriate, divulge your name if and to the extent that you have expressly allowed me to do so. I would also ask you to consider the fact that communi-cation with informants whose identity I do not know would be more difficult in the event that I need to ask further questions to clarify the situation; also, anonymous complaints will be in-vestigated more cautiously as a rule – not least to protect the subject from defamation.
What measures are taken to ensure that the ombudswoman does not divulge the information and the informant's name without his/her consent?
GIZ has expressly and irrevocably waived any right to demand information from the om-budswoman. The only exceptions to this agreement between GIZ and the ombudswoman are cases in which, according to the ombudswoman's expert opinion, the information constitutes a crime against GIZ; one such case would be a threat against the company. Thus, if infor-mants do not expressly permit the ombudswoman to pass along information or divulge their names, this information falls under the attorney’s obligation to confidentiality. This means that the ombudswoman is bound by her secrecy obligation as a solicitor, an obligation that exists even toward courts, prosecutors and other authorities.
Does an attorney-client relationship arise between the informant and the om-budswoman?
No, because the ombudswoman is appointed by GIZ. However, an agreement exists between the ombudswoman and the company that enables me to informally advise informants in practical, individual questions regarding a specific situation. But it is not possible for me to directly represent their legal interests.
Who bears the costs when an informant contacts the ombudswoman?
GIZ bears the costs of the ombudswoman's work. Telephone calls to the ombudswoman are also free of charge for the informant.
How can I contact the external ombudswoman?
You can contact me:
by telephone at: 0800 - GIZOMBU or 449 6628
by e-mail at: email@example.com
by mail at: Rechtsanwältin Annette Parsch, Ombudsfrau, Q 2, 5, 68161 Mannheim, Germany
Phone: +49 800 4496628