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Silence as senator demands answers on DCFS

Nick Kempe, the One Bermuda Alliance Senate Leader (File photograph).

An opposition senator said he had still to get answers to questions he asked last month about an investigation into the Government’s child protection agency.

Nick Kempe, the One Bermuda Alliance leader in the Upper House, said he had questioned why a law he claimed was geared towards financial affairs was used to probe the Department of Child and Family Services. He repeated his questions in the Senate on Wednesday and said they had been directed to Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, three weeks earlier.

Mr Kempe said during the senate motion to adjourn: “I would just like to take advantage of my time allotted to restate some questions that were raised three weeks ago that we have yet to get answers to.”

He added: “Under what Act or other instrument was the first investigation started under Minister Weeks carried out, and which outside entity performed the investigation? Two, was that investigation completed after former minister Weeks was removed and DCFS moved under the Attorney-General’s charge?”

Mr Kempe said an answer to his third question, about who decided to use the Internal Audit Act to carry out a second investigation, had been provided.

He added: “The fourth question was, did the Attorney-General know that the results of investigations under the Internal Audit Act 2010 could not be publicly disclosed prior to the start of the investigation.”

Ms Simmons did not reply to the questions and no other senator spoke during the motion to adjourn. Alfred Maybury, the DCFS director, was suspended last August after it was alleged he ignored complaints about the mistreatment of children by department staff.

An inquiry into his conduct was started by the Ministry of Social Development and Sports, then under former minister Michael Weeks, which had responsibility for the DCFS at the time.

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 DCFS.

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

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 now-retired Wayne Carey, who was the permanent secretary for the social development and sport ministry. Mr Kempe said in the Senate last month that he had looked up the legislation, which was introduced to set up an internal audit department.

The Act outlined 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 then: “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?”