Ministry of Public Works Response to Allegations Surrounding DCFS Office Relocation
“It is appalling and grossly hypocritical that without the benefit of the full facts, both an Opposition MP and anonymous realtors would launch such an attack on a decision which has added to the safeguarding of Bermuda’s children."
"The facts are that the consolidation of the DCFS into one location will better serve the children of Bermuda. After years of being ill-housed and unable to meet basic international standards for core functions, 131 Front Street is ideal as it provides adequate space for the entire Department, including the security of underground access, a suitably modern technological interface, and vitally, a secure space for the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) to conduct investigations to international standards. The site presents value for money and demonstrates the priority of this Government when it comes to addressing the needs of the Island’s most vulnerable.”
For many years, sections from the Department of Child and Family Services (Department) were spread across 5 different buildings within the City of Hamilton. This led to operational inefficiencies within the Department and, considering the nature and confidentiality needed by the Department, was not optimal for its clients. As a result, the Department sought to relocate under one roof in order to enhance the service, safety, and security levels for clients and sought assistance from the Ministry of Public Works' Estates Department to locate a suitable property.
Two years ago, the House of Assembly and the public were advised as follows regarding the ownership of this property:
In a Ministerial Statement delivered in the House of Assembly on March 16th, 2018 by the Minister of Public Works, Lt. Col. the Hon. David A. Burch, titled “Public Service Reform – Government Office Space Standards the following was stated,
“Mr. Speaker, I have also ordered a complete review of all private sector rental accommodations presently occupied, with a view to reducing those costs dramatically, either by moves into government owned accommodation or alternatively, more economical private sector rentals. That review has started with some of the legacy private sector rentals, and, so far, HM Customs departments, presently located in three private sector locations at Hamilton Hall, Magnolia House, and L. F. Wade International Airport, will relocate to offices at 131 Front Street.”
“Now, before I am asked, it is owned by the Silver Wood Trust, in which MP Zane De Silva and his family are beneficiaries. It is likely that other government departments will relocate there, as well. The Estates Department have already looked at other available space in the building with a view to other potential moves there. Mr. Speaker, I can report that the Collector of Customs and her leadership team are excited about the move and have already identified benefits to their operational efficiency by combining these three areas under one roof.”
Numerous properties were considered before the decision was made to move the DCFS to 131 Front Street. The previous two leases for the sites which housed elements of the DCFS together amounted to $589,175 a year but did not include the separate Government owned office space utilized by the Department. The new lease, valued at $788,079 a year, incorporates all of the sections of the Department under one roof and has been endorsed as fit for purpose by a UK Government team that participated in on-Island meetings on child safeguarding in Bermuda. This decision has been guided by and evolved from the Government’s child safeguarding initiative.
“The chorus of disapproval that has been stirred by such unsurprisingly biased reporting neglects to mention the millions of dollars paid over decades by taxpayers to trusts and companies whose ownership never received press scrutiny based purely on their political affiliation. The irony is that this report is based solely on that fact. Make no mistake, more moves will be undertaken and historic wealth that relied on such revenue can expect to be further disappointed as better management of the government estate is applied fairly and evenly.”