Existence of third whistleblower who came to Sinn Féin revealed

An employee of Ofgem, which runs the RHI scheme on behalf of Stormont, came forward as a whistleblower at the start of this year, it has emerged.

The man contacted Sinn Féin in January – the month when the RHI scandal was at its zenith and Stormont collapsed – to make a series of major allegations which have not yet been made public.

The man is the third whistleblower known to have attempted to raise the alarm about their concerns.

A woman emailed Arlene Foster at the start of the scheme and then met her officials. That was followed by a man who contacted Mrs Foster’s office in January 2016 and whose allegations were referred to the Audit Office.

David Scoffield QC referred to the latest whistleblower yesterday during his opening statement to the inquiry.

He said: “In course of our investigation, the inquiry has discovered that an employee of Ofgem contacted Sinn Féin in January 2017 and made a series of serious allegations about Ofgem’s involvement in the Northern Ireland RHI, relating to what he characterised as Ofgem’s mismanagement of the RHI.

“The inquiry has since received a witness statement from this individual but awaits the provision of further information from him to substantiate a number of the concerns he has raised.”

Mr Scoffield went on to say that the man’s witness statement makes “serious allegations” about Ofgem “and it is claimed attempts to a cover-up of mismanagement”.

He said that the inquiry’s investigation into the matter was “ongoing” and Ofgem had to date had only a limited chance to respond to allegations.

However, Mr Scoffield said that Ofgem had made clear that it does not accept the allegations and would be addressing them in a detailed way in a further submission to the inquiry.

Yesterday’s hearing was also told of ongoing disputes between Ofgem and the department from early in the life of the scheme. At one point, it was said, Ofgem refused to provide information to the department on a claimant, citing the Data Protection Act.

Ofgem officials also said in evidence now obtained by the inquiry that the DETI team handling the RHI scheme seemed “small” and “inexperienced”.