Ulster Farmers’ Union chief executive, Wesley Aston, says that the delay to the renewable heat incentive (RHI) scheme audit process is becoming farcical and that the Union has pressed senior officials in the Department for the Economy (DfE) to confirm when audits will get underway. The comments were made following a meeting between the UFU and Department for Economy (DfE) Permanent Secretary Dr Andrew McCormick.
DfE recently published the details of RHI participants; however, the Union believes that this should not have happened until the audits were carried out. “We were very disappointed by the department’s decision. The failure of DfE to complete the installation audits in a timely manner but then to publish personal details is totally unacceptable. This failure has led to people being deemed to be in the wrong for simply taking part in a legitimate government scheme. Given the public pressure, DfE had a duty of care to scheme participants to prioritise the completion of audits. Publishing the details of the RHI scheme participants in the public interest is a red herring. It is mainly in the interest of taking the pressure off the politicians and civil servants who are responsible for this flawed scheme,” said Aston.
The UFU also asked DfE to clarify the responsibilities between the department and OFGEM. Aston said that there have been many inconsistencies over the course of the RHI debacle, particularly around boiler accreditation. “There appear to be discrepancies in the way our scheme is run and the equivalent scheme in GB and we want to know why. There are a number of farmers here operating in line with the scheme, however their payments have been suspended. Clarity is crucial. We have called on DfE to explain what is going on and restore these payments immediately,” said Aston.