RHI scheme review cost not yet known

Posted By: December 14, 2016

John Monaghan.Irish News (Belfast). Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The government doesn’t know what the cost to the taxpayer will be a review into the RHI scheme, nor the length of time it will take to complete inspections.

First Minister Arlene Foster said on Monday that there would be “100 per cent inspections” of all those claiming under the scheme, which she said was being abused by a “very small minority”.

The department yesterday said more than 2,100 applications had been received under the scheme, but for a second day, it was unable to provide a cost or timescale for a review.

A spokeswoman told The Irish News: “There were 2,128 applications received under the non-domestic RHI scheme, so this is the maximum number of boilers that would need to be inspected.”

“It is too early to say how long it would take for all boilers to be inspected but this work will be undertaken with the utmost priority and as quickly as possible. The cost of inspections has not yet been determined.”

Thousands of people applied to the botched scheme before its closure in February, and it is feared it could cost Northern Ireland taxpayers £400 million over the next 20 years.

SDLP economy spokeswoman and South Down MLA Sinéad Bradley said the proposals for a review “amount to a smokescreen, a distraction to give the illusion that Arlene Foster is taking action.”

She said: “Arlene Foster has meekly proposed writing to the beneficiaries of this scheme to ask if they wouldn’t mind their names being published and her plan to inspect boilers will equally hold little water with the public.”

“The fact that these inspections aren’t costed would be laughable if the issue wasn’t so serious. It is typical of the DUP’s shoot first attitude when it comes to public finances.”