Public Accounts Committee Seeks Inquiry Into RHI

In a recent statement, the Public Accounts Committee said that it was determined that an inquiry will get to the bottom of the Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) scheme.  The RHI has left a £400million black hole in the Assembly finances with questions now being asked.

As the Assembly is set for a debate on the RHI scheme at Stormont later on this morning (10.30am) – with the First Minister speaking for 20 minutes on her remedies and the SDLP presenting a motion of no confidence in the First Minister with a debate to last an hour – the political temperature in the Assembly is set to rise dramatically. Sinn Féin has called for the First Minister to step aside until all is cleared up.

The handling of RHI scheme with a £400million loss has caused a major political row in the Assembly. Will it survive?
The handling of RHI scheme with a £400million loss has caused a major political row in the Assembly. Will it survive?

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Public Accounts Committee has reiterated its determination to get to the bottom of the issues in its inquiry into the non-domestic renewable heat incentive scheme.

The Committee received a Report from the Comptroller and Auditor General on the scheme in July 2016 which established very serious concerns relating to its governance.

The investigations conducted by the PAC to date have borne out the alarming implications of the original C&AG report.

Chairperson of the Committee Robin Swann said: “The Public Accounts Committee is fully committed to upholding the highest standards of public accountability in the public interest.

“Our Committee has been instrumental in uncovering a number of serious errors in the way that this scheme was designed, implemented and overseen with a complete lack of control or understanding of the cost implications to the public purse. Not withstanding recent media commentary, we welcome the BBC programme which drew heavily on our work and would encourage them to share any new information.

“Our role as an oversight Committee is to consider accounts and reports on accounts laid before the Assembly (Standing Order 56) and to examine, retrospectively, value for money, governance and implementation of programmes overseen by the Department in question. It is also part of our role to make recommendations which we demand that the Department implements without delay.

“It is normal practice that Committee members do not comment on an ongoing inquiry. However, without prejudicing this investigation, as a Committee we have been shocked by the evidence we have seen and heard. Consistent with our obligations and responsibilities, the PAC recognises that the public interest demands maximum accountability.”

Executive Asks Speaker For Meeting To Discuss RHI

Also, a statement was released from the Executive on 14 December by the First Minister, the Rt. Hon. Arlene Foster and the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, on the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

The Ministers said: “We have today asked the Speaker to convene a special sitting of the Assembly early next week to address issues surrounding the Renewable Heat Incentive.

“This will facilitate a full statement to be made by the First Minister to Members on the matters of public concern relating to RHI.

“RHI was discussed by the Executive today and Ministers around the table underlined the seriousness of the issues involved and the importance of restoring public confidence.

“It was also emphasised that detailed plans are being finalised to significantly reduce the projected losses in the years ahead.”