Pearman: public deserve answers over DCFS
An Opposition MP has questioned why audit experts were ordered to carry out an investigation into the Department of Child and Family Services.
Scott Pearman, the Shadow Attorney-General, claimed it made “no sense” to have the Department of Internal Audit look into allegations that Alfred Maybury, the director of the DCFS, ignored allegations that his staff mistreated vulnerable children.
Mr Maybury was suspended last August, but returned to work in January after the Government said a “thorough investigation” had found the claims against him were “not substantiated”.
Mr Pearman asked: “Why Internal Audit? It’s such an odd choice. Internal Audit looks into financial irregularities, not allegations of abuse and neglect of children. Was someone intentionally using Internal Audit to ensure the ... report does not become public?.”
An inquiry into Mr Maybury’s conduct was started by the Ministry of Social Development and Sport, then under former minister Michael Weeks, which had responsibility for the DCFS.
Mr Weeks was later removed from the Cabinet in a reshuffle and Child and Family Services was moved to the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
The Government revealed last November that the Department of Internal Audit was conducting a review into the Department of Child and Family Services.
However, the Government has since refused to release the findings of the internal audit inquiry to The Royal Gazette under public access to information legislation on the basis that records it obtained or created as part of its remit were exempt from Pati.
It has also refused to say if a full report into allegations of misconduct against Mr Maybury existed.
A government spokeswoman said on Monday that the internal audit department was asked, in 2018, to carry out the review by the now-retired Wayne Carey, who was the permanent secretary for the social development and sports ministry, which had responsibility for DCFS.
The Royal Gazette asked the Government on January 30 this year under Pati for the “full report into allegations of misconduct against Alfred Maybury, which was conducted by the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Department of Internal Audit”.
Legal Affairs refused to disclose if the record existed because the ministry claimed it would “add unnecessary confusion to misinformation which is already present in the media and public domain”.
The ministry added investigations of that kind had to remain confidential so as not to prejudice or undermine future investigations.
Marva O’Brien, the permanent secretary at the ministry, did not respond to a request for a review of the decision in the six-week time frame required by the Pati Act.
She issued a decision on June 21 that upheld the refusal from the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
The Department of Internal Audit said it would withhold the report because “all audit and compliance reports produced by the Internal Audit Department are exempted from disclosure under Pati”.
Marc Telemaque, the Cabinet Secretary, confirmed the decision after an internal review.
Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez is now reviewing the refusals from the Ministry of Legal Affairs and the Department of Internal Audit at the request of The Royal Gazette.
Mr Pearman quizzed David Burt about the DCFS inquiries in the House of Assembly last Friday, when the Premier told MPs he “would only assume either the Secretary to the Cabinet or the head of the public service” would have asked the Department of Internal Audit to get involved.
Mr Pearman asked if the House could conclude that Mr Burt had no involvement in the decision.
Mr Burt said: “Not to my recollection.”
He added: “The Department of Internal Audit does not fall under the remit of the Premier.”
Mr Pearman said on Monday: “You would think someone would know whether or not they were involved in such a strange decision involving this serious issue. And what a botched decision it was.
“We are told internal audit did not even interview the complainants. The public deserves answers. And the children involved deserve a full and proper investigation.”
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