Someone has to take responsibility for RHI fiasco

Wood pellets that were burnt in the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme
Wood pellets that were burnt in the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme

As the former Chairman of the Presbyterian Mutual Society, in 2013, I wrote to Mr David Sterling, then Permanent Secretary of DETI, concerning a number of matters including the prosecution by his Department of five unpaid non-executive directors (four of whom were over the age of seventy) and the fact that there had been no disciplinary action against civil servants following severe criticism of the conduct of DETI by both the Treasury Committee and the Ombudsman.

In his reply to me dated 16th July 2013, Mr Sterling wrote:

“Disciplinary proceedings against civil servants in relation to the PMS were simply never appropriate.

“The Department certainly intends to learn from its experience of handling the PMS ... Even taken at its height, criticism of the Department in, for example, the Ombudsman’s Report has not identified anything which merits disciplinary action against individuals within the Department.”

Now that the fiasco concerning the Renewable Heat Incentive has emerged, I wonder just what, if anything, senior DETI officials learned from their experience with the PMS.

I wonder also just what is required before disciplinary action can be taken against “individuals within the Department”.

My experience of over thirty years’ dealing with company law matters allows me to state with certainty that, if this had happened in the private sector, then, to adopt the expression of one MLA, “heads would roll”!

Hundreds of millions of pounds have been wasted.

Surely, someone has to take responsibility for this disaster?

Mark Orr QC, Dromore