Belfast Telegraph

'I have nothing to hide' - DUP's Arlene Foster pledges '100% inspections' of botched heating scheme claims

First Minister reveals DUP special adviser Brimstone claimed under scheme

By Jonathan Bell

Arlene Foster has pledged "100% inspections" of those claiming from the botched Renewable Heating Incentive to ensure they operated within "the spirit of the scheme" saying she has nothing to hide over her role in the development of the project.

She said it was important to determine if there had been "abuses of the system".

It comes as it was revealed money from the scheme was used to heat a Ferrari showroom and could continue to do so in the coming decades.

More: Public money could heat Northern Ireland Ferrari showroom for next 20 years

Pressure mounts on Arlene Foster to quit over energy scheme fiasco as advisor denies he met whistleblower 

Tax payers are facing a £400million bill, which could increase over the coming years over the scheme which had no cap in place. Some businesses were found just to use the heating in order to claim money from the scheme.

In an interview with the BBC the first minister also revealed former DUP special adviser Stephen Brimstone, who recently left his position, was a claimant under the scheme. However, Mrs Foster said his involvement in the RHI was not a factor in his departure.

She also did not rule out appearing before the Public Accounts Committee to answer questions over the scheme and that Stormont will write to those claimants asking if they agree to the publication of their names.

The DUP leader said she had "nothing to hide".

"We are taking action to ensure loss is significantly less and important work is going on in Department of Economy to ensure that is the case," she said.

"We hope to have proposals brought forward in the Assembly next year."

She continued: "The implementation of the scheme was wrong, it was flawed and we have to take action to right that wrong."

"There are investigations ongoing, we need to look at all the renewable heat installations to be able to ensure they are doing what they should be.

"I want to help in any way - I have no difficulty in answering questions I have nothing to hide.

"I brought forward the policy. It was the implementation that went askew."

Mrs Foster said she was not aware of who had applied to the scheme.

"The Department of Economy will write to those that applied and ask if they want their names publicised. I want all those who applied to be publicised because what is happening now is that some businesses are being singled out and that is not right.

"But there is small minority that have abused the scheme.

"We can't just put out a list, we have to stay within the law."

She said there had been 10 or 11 abuses already identified in the scheme and new cost control measures will be introduced.

While not offering an apology to the whistleblower who highlighted the flaws in the system, Mrs Foster did say she regretted the matter.

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