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Date set for first hearing of RHI energy scheme inquiry - next week

By Claire Williamson

The public inquiry into the botched renewable heat incentive scheme has announced the date of its first public preliminary hearing.

The hearing will take place at 11am in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings Stormont on Thursday April 27 2017.

The Chairman, Sir Patrick Coghlin, will introduce his panel and team and make a statement in which he will describe the preparatory work undertaken by the Inquiry to date.

He will also give more detail about how the Inquiry is gathering evidence and he will set out the procedures under which the Inquiry intends to operate.

This preliminary hearing is open to the public.

The Renewable Heating Incentive has been described as the “biggest financial scandal in the history of devolved government”.

Unlike a similar scheme in England, there was no cap on the payments meaning many businesses profited from the scheme.

Flaws in the scheme were identified in June 2015, however, caps were not introduced until the following November, during which period there was a spike in applications.

Eventually the scheme was completely closed to new application in February 2016, however, £86,000 a day is paid out to those on the scheme.

Government officials as well as serving and former Executive ministers have faced mounting questions to explain how the scheme was allowed to be implemented in the manner it was.

The DUP had been at the centre of the storm as it was its members who oversaw the scheme. Arlene Foster was at the time the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Investment which introduced the scheme.

The former first minister has pledged to cut the RHI overspend to zero.

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