Ombudsman

Dr. Edgar Joussen, Lawyer

Dr. Edgar Joussen

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has entrusted lawyer Dr Edgar Joussen with the responsibility of being its external ombudsman with effect from 1 July 2017.

The main duty of the ombudsman 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 internal integrity officers 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.

The ombudsman applies his many years of professional experience to independently research the information he receives as to its relevance for the company. If he concludes that the suspicion requires further investigation, he forwards the matter to the responsible person in GIZ, but only if the informant has explicitly provided his or her consent. As a rule, the ombudsman does not divulge the informant’s identity. Because the identity of the informant is only divulged with his/her express permission, there is no reason to contact the ombudsman anonymously. While the ombudsman 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

Who may contact the ombudsman?

Anyone who suspects corruption or related criminal offences at GIZ. The principal forms of corruption-related crimes include:

  • taking bribes and giving bribes (Sections 331 and 333 of the German Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch, StGB),
  • taking and giving bribes meant as an incentive to violating official duties (Sec-tions 332 and 334 StGB),
  • taking and giving bribes in commercial practice (Section 299 StGB).

You may also contact the ombudsman if you have a suspicion of other forms of white-collar crime damaging to GIZ or of situations in which GIZ has incurred, or could incur, loss or dam-age. This includes related crimes, such as:

  • theft (Section 242 StGB), unlawful appropriation (Section 246 StGB), fraud and abuse of trust (Sections 263 and 266 StGB),
  • agreements restricting competition (Section 298 StGB),
  • forgery (Section 267 StGB),
  • disclosure of trade and industrial secrets (Section 17 UWG).

If you are unsure, you can ask for a personal consultation to clarify the details of the situation. This service is explicitly offered to all GIZ personnel and all business partners, suppliers, par-ticipants in tendering processes and other persons with relevant knowledge.

What types of information do not fall within the ombudsman’s remit?

The tasks of the ombudsman do not include receiving information or complaints about personal conflicts such as breaches of contract, mobbing or discrimination. In such cases please contact directly the integrity advisors Ms Carola Faller (t: +49 6196 763529) or Hans-Joachim Gante (t: +49 228 44601557) or write to them at: integrity-mailbox@giz.de.

Can I contact the ombudsman even if I have become involved in criminal offences?

Absolutely. Any employee, client or business partner of GIZ may contact the ombudsman. The service is therefore also open to people who are themselves involved in cases of corruption or other criminal offences damaging to GIZ, including people who benefit or have benefited from them. GIZ is aware that it is very difficult to ‘withdraw’ from such situations. The ombudsman will provide comprehensive and detailed advice about this to the persons concerned. It is also important to note that legal assessments generally take a positive view when people voluntarily withdraw from such situations with legal support.

How do I make (initial) contact?

As a rule, initial contact can be made by telephone, letter, fax or email. In cases of doubt a subsequent personal consultation may be necessary, depending on what is agreed with the ombudsman. As a matter of principle, this meeting should not take place on GIZ premises. Depending on the individual case, a meeting may be held at the place of residence of the employee, client or business partner, or at some other location. Details should be agreed directly with the ombudsman.

Can I contact the ombudsman anonymously?

Yes. But getting in touch anonymously makes little sense and is unnecessary, as the ombudsman has an existing contractual and legal obligation to maintain secrecy.

On the other hand, anonymous contact often prevents information from being investigated thoroughly enough, because it is not possible to discuss the matter with the informant. Furthermore, an informant’s credibility is an important factor when it comes to resolving cases of corruption or other criminal offences. Your credibility can only be assessed if you have had personal contact with the ombudsman

Will GIZ discover my name if I contact the ombudsman?

No. The central task of an ombudsman is to handle information about cases of suspected corruption confidentially, and to protect the informants. This is guaranteed through the lawyers’ professional obligation to maintain secrecy, and in addition GIZ has waived its rights to information in order to protect informants.

GIZ will only learn about the contact with the ombudsman and the informant’s identity if the informant has explicitly given his or her consent in writing. The ombudsman’s obligation to maintain secrecy also applies under current legislation and in dealings with the law enforcement authorities (the police and the public prosecutors). This is particularly important if criminal proceedings are launched based on information passed to the ombudsman.

Can I be sure that the ombudsman will keep the information confidential?

Absolutely. The ombudsman is an independent external lawyer with a professional obligation to maintain secrecy. In addition, he has also pledged explicitly to GIZ to pass information disclosed to him to GIZ or third parties (such as the law enforcement authorities) only if the informant who contacted him has declared his or her consent. For its part, GIZ has waived all its rights to information from the ombudsman.

The ombudsman’s confidentiality also means that without the informant’s agreement he is not even permitted to tell GIZ that a conversation has taken place with that informant.

How will the ombudsman handle my information?

If the employee, client or contractual partner is willing to disclose information, the ombudsman will discuss and determine details of the further procedure with the informant. Without the consent of the informant, GIZ will never hear anything about the matter. If the informant agrees, information is passed to GIZ but only in an anonymous form — unless the informant has explicitly consented to a different procedure. Cases of suspicion are then investigated internally at GIZ exclusively by specially trained GIZ employees or by the law enforcement authorities.

What happens after the ombudsman receives the information?

Information that has been divulged and which the ombudsman regards as worth reporting is forwarded either to GIZ or to the law enforcement authorities, who then process it. At GIZ this is carried out by specially trained employees. The ombudsman examines the matter only in exceptional cases. However, he is kept informed throughout the entire process and remains the contact person for the informant.

We wish to point out, however, that further investigation of alleged corruption is usually very time-consuming. It therefore often takes a long time before there is any communication on the progress of proceedings.

Does my information result in a client-lawyer relationship with the ombudsman?

No. It does not result in a client-lawyer relationship between the informant and the ombudsman. This type of relationship exists solely between the ombudsman and GIZ. Furthermore, the ombudsman may not represent you in his capacity as a lawyer. But his contract with GIZ provides protection for you as an informant. Primarily this applies to safeguarding the informant’s anonymity. The ombudsman may also advise you in this regard, if you have knowledge of corruption or other white-collar crime damaging to GIZ. This also applies if you yourself are involved in or benefit – or have benefited – from such corruption or other white-collar crime.

What will it cost me to contact the ombudsman?

It does not cost anything to contact the ombudsman.

How can I contact the ombudsman?

You can contact the ombudsman in several ways:

  • by telephone, on +49 30 3151870,
  • by emailing ombudsmann​@ra-js.de,
  • by post, to Dr Edgar Joussen, Bleibtreustr. 1, D-10623 Berlin,
  • Internet: www.ra-js.de.