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Civil service cannot be defined by RHI failings, MLAs told

The head of the civil service Dr Jayne Brady was giving evidence to an Assembly committee.

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Dr Jayne Brady, who is taking over as the head of the NI Civil Service (PA)

Dr Jayne Brady, who is taking over as the head of the NI Civil Service (PA)

Dr Jayne Brady, who is taking over as the head of the NI Civil Service (PA)

The future of the civil service cannot be defined by the past failings of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, the head of the organisation has insisted.

Jayne Brady said she was committed to following through with reforms recommended by a public inquiry into the green energy scandal, but she made clear she was not going to “dismantle” or a do a “hatchet job” on the service.

Ms Brady told members of the Assembly’s Finance Committee that a “culture change” she was determined to deliver would not be achieved by only reacting to the past but also required “positive” actions to equip it for the future.

Change cannot simply come through reacting to the past.Dr Jayne Brady

The RHI scheme, set up in 2012, incentivised businesses and farmers to switch to eco-friendly boilers by paying them a subsidy for the wood pellet fuel required to run them.

But mistakes in its designs saw the subsidy rates set higher than the actual cost of the wood pellets with applicants finding themselves able to burn to earn.

A public inquiry identified a multiplicity of civil service mistakes in the running of the scheme.

The probe, chaired by retired judge Sir Patrick Coghlin, produced a 656-page, three volume report containing 319 findings and making 44 recommendations aimed at addressing the litany of failures identified by the investigation.

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However, many of the recommendation remain unimplemented and only one civil servant was formally disciplined.

External appointee Ms Brady said she had joined an organisation that was “up for change”.

“I am conscious that we must give serious attention to those areas where our performance has not always been what we or the public would wish,” she told committee members.

“In particular, we need to act on the findings of the RHI Inquiry and deliver against its recommendations.”

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Pellets burning inside an RHI boiler on a farm in Co Down (Liam McBurney/PA)

Pellets burning inside an RHI boiler on a farm in Co Down (Liam McBurney/PA)

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Pellets burning inside an RHI boiler on a farm in Co Down (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ms Brady said it was also important to deliver on the recommendations of a report by the Public Accounts Committee that raised concerns about capability and capacity within the civil service.

“I give you my assurance that I am committed to doing this, but I equally do not want the process of growing and developing our civil service to be wholly defined by these things,” she added.

“Change cannot simply come through reacting to the past, it must also come through positive action to face the future.”

She said the RHI probe and the PAC report represented a “defining moment”.

Ms Brady added: “But I don’t think it should define us.”

The head of the civil service said she intended to win the “hearts and minds” of the 23,000 staff.

“I didn’t come in to dismantle the civil service or to do a hatchet job,” she insisted.


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