The renewable heat scandal is worthy of formal investigation

Morning View
Morning View

The loss of £400 million to the public purse in the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme is so serious that it is worthy of formal investigation.

If the affair is explicable as a case of monunmental incompetence, in which a whistleblower can see flaws within minutes that officials cannot over years, then we need to know that and to learn lessons from it.

If it reflects a culture in which decisions get made and then there is instinctive resitance to over-turn them, even when problems arise, then we need to know that also.

If there is any aspect of the saga that is corruption, even if it involves a small number of people, then that too needs to be explained and needs to be followed with prosecutions.

It is nothing less then staggering that individuals or businesses can make tens of thousands of pounds, perhaps hundreds of thousands, by turning on as much heat as possible, and that people closely involved with running the scheme did not foresee that. It is also a mockery of the very concept of energy conservation and environmental good practice.

If any civil servant is found to be that incompetent, they at the very least must be barred from future promotion.

But politicians cannot escape scrutiny. They have to lead, not merely to accept advice, particularly if advice is atrociously bad.

A probe into this saga should examine if any people who might have had a role running or pushing the scheme personally profited from it. It might well be that there are no such people, which would be good news and would reassure the public, keeping the spotlight on incompetence.

A central question in the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal is why elementary safeguards in Great Britain to prevent profiteering were not introduced here.

Public money has to be treated with prudence, so that we do not bequeath unnecessary debts on to future generations.

This is perhaps the most shocking waste of taxpayer funds since the establishment of devolution at Stormont in 1998.