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Kempe seeks clarity on DCFS investigation

Nick Kempe, the Opposition Senate Leader (File photograph)

Questions were raised yesterday by a senator who claimed that an investigation into the Department of Child and Family Services was carried out under legislation that was geared towards financial matters.

Nick Kempe, the Opposition leader in the Senate, responded to comments made by Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, in the Upper House during its last sitting two weeks earlier.

The Royal Gazette had reported that it asked the Government under public access to information for the “full report” into allegations against Alfred Maybury, the DCFS director.

Mr Maybury was suspended last August after being accused of ignoring allegations about DCFS staff mistreatment of children in care.

He returned to work in January after the Government announced that a “thorough investigation” had found the claims against him were “not substantiated”.

Ms Simmons said in the Senate on June 12: “The Internal Audit Act 2010 prohibits release of the report pertaining to the investigation into child and family services. From a legal perspective we are not allowed to disclose the report.”

During the motion to adjourn yesterday, Mr Kempe revealed that he later looked up the legislation, which was introduced to set up an Internal Audit Department.

The Act stated that the department would “provide an independent, objective assessment of the stewardship, performance and cost of Government policies, programmes and operations, and to provide reasonable assurance that persons entrusted with public funds carry out their functions effectively, efficiently, economically, ethically, equitably and in accordance with the law”.

Mr Kempe said: “You go through the Act and in various places it’s clear that, from not only the composition of the board but the establishment of the department, that this is an audit department in the financial sense.

“So my next question came down to, why was the Internal Audit Act chosen as the instrument to investigate allegations of child abuse?

“This isn’t allegations of defrauding the public purse or misappropriation of funds, so it seems like a curious instrument to use to do an investigation.

“Also, the Department of Internal Audit falls under the Premier, so I’m curious as to who decided that the Internal Audit Act be chosen to do this investigation.”

The senator also raised queries about which “outside entity” took on an inquiry originally started by Michael Weeks, the former Minister of Social Development and Sport who previously had responsibility for DCFS but was later removed from the Cabinet in a reshuffle.

He asked: “Under what legislation, if any, was that investigation started, and if there’s no restrictions as to its release why hasn’t that been done so?

“I’m also curious as to ... whoever launched the investigation under the Internal Audit Act, whether they were aware that the results would not be publicly disclosable prior to the start of that investigation.”

Mr Kempe confirmed — on request from Joan Dillas-Wright, the president of the Senate — that his questions were directed towards Ms Simmons, who did not tackle the questions during the motion to adjourn.

Mr Kempe added later: “I was disappointed that the Attorney-General did not use the time afforded her to provide clarity to any of the questions raised today relating to the DCFS investigations.”