In interviews with the media yesterday, including the one published in today’s newspaper, Arlene Foster said that she was seeking to publish details of all those who benefited from the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.
This is a welcome commitment.
The first minister also said that there will be full inspections of claimants to make sure that beneficiaries are acting in the spirit of the scheme. This too is a crucial commitment.
The RHI scandal is one of massive proportions. Behaviour that has clearly been fraudulent in spirit has been fully legal.
We need to get to the bottom of precisely how something so utterly inept – at best – came to pass.
Hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds have been squandered, and businesses and individuals have profiteered by behaving in a way in that is the very opposite of environmentally sensitive.
A form of energy waste so extravagant that it can reasonably described as pollution, has been rewarded and encouraged.
This cannot pass without consequences for individuals who are ultimately found to be most to blame, be they civil servants, advisors or politicians. There must be a thorough investigation to find out where that blame lies.
To say as much is not to engage in a witch hunt or sensationalism. There have been many lesser examples of waste and ill judgement in use of public funds that have passed without consequence, but this scandal goes to the heart of devolution –the concept that running issues locally is better than running them centrally from London by experienced officials.
This newspaper is a strong supporter of devolution, and it is in that spirit that these questions must be answered.
Meanwhile, it is welcome that Hebron Free Presbyterian Church is giving any “surplus” money it receives from the RHI scheme to charity. This is what a church should do if it benefits inadvertently from such a misguided scheme.
We hope other beneficiaries follow suit.