Names of RHI signed up businesses published next week

Posted By: January 19, 2017

Claire Simpson. Irish  News. Belfast. Thursday, January 19, 2017

THE names of all businesses who are recipients of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme are to be published next week, the economy minister has said.

Simon Hamilton, a DUP MLA, said: “complete openness and transparency” was needed in connection with the botched RHI scheme, which could cost taxpayers up to £490 million.

However, he said he could only release information in “accordance with his legal obligations.”

Mr. Hamilton told the assembly yesterday that his department had written to every recipient of the non-domestic RHI scheme last month indicating he wanted to publish the businesses’ details.

“The department is currently analyzing the responses received and are following a clear process as required under section 10 of the 1998 Data Protection Act,” he said.

“The process will balance the competing interests of transparency and the right to privacy and protection in accordance with the law.

“I anticipate that the process will be concluded by the beginning of next week and it would be my intention to

publish RHI recipient details on Wednesday, January 25.”

Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy, however, questioned Mr. Hamilton’s decision to postpone publication and said the names should be published “immediately.”

“In the light of ongoing revelations around the DUP’s handling of the RHI scheme the public want to know are there any conflicts of interest as a result of family, business or political connections,” he said.

“Simon Hamilton has at long last bowed to public pressure and committed to releasing the names of beneficiaries.

“However, he has put back publication of the list to January 25 in what looks like an effort to avoid proper scrutiny.

“The public demands full transparency and accountability around the RHI scheme, which has been associated with allegations of corruption. An independent investigation is the best way to achieve this.”

Some biomass boiler owners have said they do not want their names to be made public.

In a letter sent to the Department of the Economy earlier this week, a solicitor

representing some RHI recipients said they “do not consent to their details being published as requested.”

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has previously said it has advised members who are recipients of the scheme not to give permission for their names to be published unless their use of boilers had been audited.

Mr. Hamilton has previously admitted a large number of recipients were gaining “supernormal profits from the scheme.”

He told the assembly on Monday a degree of “fraud” had been involved in the initiative.

Energy regulator Ofgem, who are auditing RHI boilers, said last week that of the 63 installations they had looked at, 33 had their payments suspended, including for technical issues.

Payment was recovered from four of the installations. Another five had their payments resumed after the investigation.