On 1 July 2016 the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland published his report on the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), now the Department for the Economy (DfE), Resource Accounts for the financial year 2015-16. That report identified significant concerns over the development and performance of the Northern Ireland Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (the NI RHI scheme).
Following that report the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Northern Ireland Assembly held a number of evidence sessions during the autumn of 2016 to investigate what had gone wrong with the NI RHI scheme.
Following significant public interest on the issue, and in particular the BBC Spotlight programme broadcast in December 2016, on 19 January 2017, the Minister for the Department of Finance announced a Public Inquiry into the NI RHI Scheme.
The RHI Inquiry published its report on 13 March 2020, identifying 319 findings and making 44 recommendations. The Inquiry recognised that often, once a public inquiry has completed its work, recommendations may not be given effect. In the interests of ensuring, so far as possible, that this does not occur in respect of this Inquiry’s Recommendations, the Inquiry asked the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland to monitor and, as necessary, pursue the effective implementation of this Inquiry’s Recommendations.
The C&AG agreed to take on this oversight role and this will be his first report on the effectiveness of the response to the RHI Inquiry Report’s recommendations.
Work in this Area
Since publication of the Inquiry’s report, the C&AG has published a number of reports which deal with specific issues raised by the Inquiry:
- Capacity and Capability in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (18 November 2020); and
- Raising Concerns: A Good Practice Guide for the Northern Ireland Public Sector (25 June 2020).
- Records Matter: Good practice guide on record keeping (January 2020)
- Developing policy : Good practice guide (planned to be completed 2021/22)
Scope of this Report
The purpose of this interim report is to:
- Consider whether or not the actions proposed to address each of the 44 recommendations are sufficient to fully address the concerns of the RHI Inquiry;
- Consider whether the proposed timelines for implementing change appear reasonable;
- Identify progress in implementing actions to address the recommendations by 31 December 2020;
- Identify the specific actions proposed by DfE to prevent recurrence of the NI RHI Scheme problems;
- Report on the outcome of DfE disciplinary action against those involved with developing and managing the NI RHI Scheme; and
- Examine the validity of arrangements within NICS department to measure the impact of change following implementation of the RHI Inquiry report recommendations.
We aim to publish this report in May 2021. It is likely that there will then be at least one further report in future years evaluating the ongoing progress in meeting the recommendations.