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Boss's relief as Stormont owns up to getting figures wrong on RHI payout

By Jonny Bell

The managing director of a Northern Ireland company has spoken of his relief that a Stormont department finally corrected its figures on the RHI claimant list after originally stating his organisation claimed more than 10 times what it did from the botched energy scheme.

Earlier this month, the government listed Broughshane-based Stephens Catering Equipment as having claimed £228,862 from Stormont Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

However, the company only claimed £20,000 - a mistake the government only rectified and apologised for on Friday, two weeks after the list was made public.

"Everyone can make a mistake, I've made plenty and none of us are above it," said managing director Paul Caves, who said he was horrified to learn of the error.

"I am happy they have corrected it and apologised and we can move on and hope that our reputation has not been too badly damaged. It has been a tough fortnight."

Stephens Catering Equipment was taken over by Mr Caves' father in 1972 when it operated from a site at Belfast International airport. Then employing five people, it has since grown to four sites across Ireland as well as working on the UK mainland. It employs 105 staff a nd has a turnover of around £14m a year.

Mr Caves said it was too early to say what damage the error had done to his business.

"We have had people question our integrity and our credibility. We are just a small family business and we just want to get back to doing what we do."

The company installed an RHI boiler to an upgrade an existing similar system which had been in place for around 15 years.

In the coming months, the Department of Economy is to begin inspections to determine how businesses have used the system and to root out abuse of the scheme.

Mr Caves says he welcomes the opportunity to have his system inspected. He added: "We wrote to the department and asked not to be named. We said we were open to inspection at any time. We have no problem with inspections.

"We are just very thankful the mistake has been rectified and they issued an apology and hopefully those that damned us when they read the list will see that we did not receive what they said we did."

The department was approached for a response to this story.

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