13/03/2020

Errors & Omissions Behind Botched RHI Scheme

Multiple errors and omissions were behind the botched cash for ash renewable energy scandal, a public inquiry has found.

Published on Friday, the RHI Inquiry found that the scheme was a "project too far".

While it had the aim of encouraging the use of renewables rather than fossil fuels in heat production, the Northern Ireland stand-alone scheme should never have been adopted, according to Sir Patrick Coghlin's inquiry.

The RHI scheme, which opened in 2012, offered a financial incentive for businesses to switch from oil and gas to green energy sources.

Run by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), it was suspended in February 2016 over spiralling costs and later contributed to the collapse of the Stormont Executive in January 2017.

The Inquiry investigated the original design and implementation of the RHI scheme; its operation; the circumstances relating to the imposition of cost controls in late 2015, as well as the circumstances relating to the suspension of the scheme to new applicants in early 2016.

The document runs to 56 chapters and covers 656 pages. It makes 44 recommendations following 319 findings which are critical of the actions, or inactions, of a significant number of people and organisations in respect of the scheme.

A total of 63 witnesses gave oral evidence, while more than 1.2 million pages of evidence and almost 11,000 spreadsheets were given consideration.
News Image
The report found "repeated missed opportunities to identify and correct, or seek to have others correct, the flaws in the scheme".

An extract from the review reads: "The NI RHI scheme was novel, technically complex and potentially volatile, especially because of its demand-led nature and the wide range of variables – such as fluctuating fuel costs – which could affect its operation.

"These features together made the scheme highly risky, yet the risks were not sufficiently understood by all those who should have understood them within the Northern Ireland Government, either at the outset or any time during the life of the scheme."

The Department, ran by the now First Minister Arlene Foster, should never have embarked on such a "novel and complicated, demand-led scheme", the inquiry found.

"Responsibility for what went wrong lay not just with one individual or group, but with a broad range of persons and organisations involved, across a variety of areas relating to the design, approval, management and administration of the NI RHI scheme throughout its life.

"The sad reality is that, in addition to a significant number of individual shortcomings, the very governance, management and communication systems, which in these circumstances should have provided early warning of impending problems and fail-safes against such problems, proved inadequate."

The Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland Kieran Donnelly will now monitor and, as necessary, pursue the effective implementation of the Inquiry's recommendations.



(JG/CM)


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

16 March 2020
Covid-19: Seven Further Cases Confirmed
Seven further cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Northern Ireland, bringing totals to 52. It comes amid continued controversy over whether schools should follow suit with the Republic of Ireland and close their doors. Several local schools have taken the option to close along with bars and restaurants across the region.
12 March 2020
Budget: Extra £210m For NI Public Services
Business and political leaders have been giving their reactions to the Budget, with an extra £210 million allocated for public services in Northern Ireland. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, yesterday pledged a £12 billion package of measures aimed at tackling the spread of coronavirus across the UK.
10 March 2020
Coronavirus Closes Schools & Belfast Call Centre
The coronavirus outbreak has caused the temporary closure of two schools and a Halifax call centre. The business in the Belfast Gasworks area closed for deep cleaning today, Tuesday 10 March, after a colleague was diagnosed with Covid-19. It's understood employees have been told not to attend work at the south Belfast site.
19 March 2020
Head Teachers Union Welcomes School Closures
The National Association of Head Teachers has welcomed the news that all schools in Northern Ireland will close from Friday.
11 March 2020
Flybe Workers To Rally At Stormont
Flybe workers will today hold a rally at Stormont to demand government intervention to secure their jobs. A trade union has called on the Northern Ireland Executive to defend the long-term connectivity of Belfast, including the now under-threat roles at Belfast City Airport.