Belfast Telegraph

RHI official Wightman cannot recall whether he read 14-page document

By Brett Campbell

An official who helped run the botched Renewable Heat Incentive has said he tends to "scan" documents and still struggles to understand important documents that he can't remember reading.

Questions to Stuart Wightman, who previously gave evidence to the inquiry back in March, focused largely on a 14 page handover document he was given after joining the energy team in Deti in 2014.

He previously provided only three pages of the documents, which included a note outlining key issues that his predecessor felt needed to be dealt with urgently - including a review of the subsidies on offer.

When asked about his reaction to the discovery of significantly more paper, Mr Wightman said: "I certainly was surprised and quite worried that I hadn't picked up on these 11 pages."

It also emerged that his predecessor, Davina McCay, did not save the handover notes into the Civil Service document recording system - meaning that Mr Wightman was the only the person who had the full copy.

But he said he can't remember if he read it or not.

"You know what a handover document is for - to provide continuity," Sir Patrick Coghlin said.

"I agree with you, chair - I should have read it," Mr Wightman replied.

In his latest witness statement, he claimed that important issues "should have been made clear to senior management".

Mr Wightman stressed that he was not trying to mislead the inquiry and described that time in his career as "particularly mad" adding that there is a lot that is "a blur".

He joined a completely new RHI team after three key civil servants left the department within just a few months of each other.

When the witness was asked by inquiry panellist Dr Keith MacLean if he's the type of person who "will not rest until you've read it all" when given important documents or if he's "happy just to know there's a document" to which he can refer to if needed, he replied: "I'm probably the second."

He continued by admitting that he tends to "scan" documents and that he continues to struggle with the content of the RHI papers.

Mr Wightman also told the Inquiry that he regrets engaging in informal conversations with the poultry and energy industries.

"I realise that some of the engagement does look naive now, given hindsight," he said. "But it was done for the right reasons at the time, with the information I had available to me."

Mr Wightman acknowledged that his talking to stakeholders, including Moy Park, had "led to increased awareness" of proposed tariff changes but said there "no evidence" that it resulted in a spike of applications during July or August 2015.

Belfast Telegraph

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