A “whistleblower” businesswoman warned officials running the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme that it was so lucrative, she was surprised firms were not “putting radiators on the outsides of buildings”.
Jeanette O’Hagan told the public inquiry into the scandal on Friday that she was selling a heat efficiency product in 2013 but found potential clients were not interested; the financial incentives from RHI were so attractive.
The RHI scheme was a scheme offering financial incentives to encourage businesses to switch to renewable fuels.
But critical flaws meant that claimants could earn returns far greater than intended. The projected overspend of public money is now £700m over 20 years.
After scrutinising the scheme Ms O’Hagan raised concerns with the then Enterprise minister Arlene Foster, the BBC reported.
Months after the scheme launched, she wrote several emails to Mrs Foster. The first two had general comments about the scheme and sought a meeting.
But the third, sent to Mrs Foster’s constituency email address, flagged more specific issues about alleged misuse.
The inquiry heard that one of the emails containing the more general comments was forwarded from Mrs Foster’s constituency account to her departmental officials, leading to a meeting with them.
The businesswoman remembers telling them she was “surprised people weren’t putting radiators on the outside of buildings” such were the flaws in the scheme.
She told the officials about her concerns of people on RHI ‘burning to earn’. However officials assured her that “we don’t think people will do that” and she then felt dismissed, she said.