Ulster Farmers’ Union chief executive, Wesley Aston, has raised concerns about the current RHI pilot audits process saying that the ultimate audit process must be fit for purpose. The UFU has called for audits from the outset to allow those using the scheme legitimately to clear their name. “It has taken far too long to get to this point and it is absolutely essential that these audits are thorough but fair,” said Aston. The comments were made after a UFU representative recently attended a pilot audit as an observer at the request of a member.
The pilot RHI inspections commenced on the 21st August and are being carried out by the company Ricardo, appointed by the Department for the Economy. Aston said that farmers signed up to the government scheme in good faith and DfE has a duty of care to ensure the audit process is unbiased. “The audits must be carried out in such a way that those using the scheme legitimately will not be penalised. Having observed one of these pilot audits taking place, we have written to DfE permanent secretary, Andrew McCormick, to express a number of concerns about the process.”
The UFU has encouraged DfE to be as transparent as possible about the audit process and to give consideration to the wording of questions. “We want the audits to be a success. We want to see those using the scheme legitimately vindicated. It would be an absolute disaster if a poorly designed audit process subjects those using the scheme in earnest to penalties and indeed more unjustified scrutiny and criticism,” said Aston.