Ministers asleep at the wheel


Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:-

“It is becoming increasingly clear that during the debacle over the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme then DETI ministers were asleep at the wheel, having failed to put in place any mechanisms to retain ministerial oversight of a scheme which will cost the taxpayers millions of pounds into the future. This is very clear from the answer to this Question which I recently posed to the Economy minister:-

Q: To ask the Minister for the Economy to outline the mechanisms in place for Ministerial oversight of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme since its introduction.

“The answer effectively concedes there were no ministerial oversight mechanisms in place, as it predictably tries to pass the buck to officials:

A: Ministerial responsibilities for the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme since its introduction have included approving the policy and business case and securing Assembly approval to the necessary legislation. Responsibility for the detailed design and ongoing oversight of the scheme rests with Departmental officials and Ofgem as the scheme administrator.

“The minister is the head of the department and, therefore, carries responsibility for its failings. Yet, here, as so often, ministers are trying to palm off responsibility to officials that they failed to properly oversee. This was a multi-million pound scheme which ran out of control while ministers dozed at the wheel. There was no adequate cost controls in place in respect of the scheme, no cap was put in place, as in GB, and re-approval of the Scheme was not sought from the Department of Finance in April 2015.

“These were clear ministerial responsibilities and failings. If this had happened under Direct Rule there would have been a mighty outcry from the DUP and others, but this was a disaster made in Stormont under DUP ministers who now try to blame everyone else. I trust the current PAC investigations will relentlessly pursue these issues.”

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