Andrew Crawford has said that it was clear to him in the summer of 2015 that there was a “tsunami” of RHI applications coming, with huge budgetary implications – but he cannot recall whether he mentioned that to his boss, the then finance minister, Arlene Foster.
Dr Crawford said that in his communication with fellow DUP Spad Timothy Cairns he was effectively telling him “there’s a tsunami coming here – you need to move”.
He said that in early summer 2015 as he was made aware of major emerging problems with the RHI scheme he could not recall whether he had informed his minister – the then finance minister, Mrs Foster – about the potential problem coming from their former department about a scheme which they had overseen.
When asked how likely it was that he had told Mrs Foster, he said: “I cannot recall. It would be wrong for me to say here whether I done [sic] it or not. I regularly kept the minister up to date with issues, but she was in a new department, we had all sorts of issues with welfare reform and all sorts of challenges coming through the finance department so...”
When pressed on the issue, Dr Crawford added: “It’s something that I should have done. Did I update her verbally on it? I just cannot confirm that, one way or the other.”
Barrister Joseph Aiken said that Mrs Foster has told the inquiry that Dr Crawford did not tell her about the issue.
Mr Aiken then read to Dr Crawford an email which he sent to Mr Cairns where he said that over-spending on the scheme “would be to Northern Ireland’s advantage” because it would mean getting more than our fair share of the UK pot. Dr Crawford defended the rationale behind what he had said, saying that there were reasons why Northern Ireland should get more.
As in the first four days of his evidence, Dr Crawford repeatedly used phrases such as “I can’t recall”, “I’m at a loss to know how that conversation went”, “I don’t know”, “I can’t say” as he conveyed a lack of clarity about many key details, leading to detailed questioning from the inquiry as it attempts to piece together what happened.