Belfast Telegraph

DUP advisor Crawford accused top civil servant of pointing finger of blame at others

By Suzanne Breen

Arlene Foster's former special adviser accused the top senior civil servant in her department of "looking to spread the crap all round" regarding the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

Dr Andrew Crawford made the allegation about Andrew McCormick, the permanent secretary in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) in an email which is now in the hands of the RHI inquiry.

In correspondence in July 2016 to John Robinson, who is now the DUP's director of communication, Dr Crawford wrote that he was "uncomfortable with the line that this (RHI) scheme failed from the very start".

He said: "It went wrong since Andrew McCormick came into the department and didn't take forward the consultation that was carried out in 2013. McCormick is looking to spread the crap all round and we are taking the focus off him - he has and will continue to point the finger of blame at AF and JB.

"When asked I think we should be saying that the accounting officer has responsibility over finances and therefore ultimate responsibility."

At the time he sent the email, Dr Crawford was Department of Agriculture special adviser, or 'spad'.

He had formerly been the DETI spad but was succeeded by John Robinson when Simon Hamilton became the minister in that department.

In January 2017, Mr McCormick alleged that Dr Crawford was the person who exerted pressure to keep the RHI scheme open.

The senior civil servant said he had no direct evidence for his claim but that he believed Dr Crawford was the individual responsible. But giving evidence to the RHI inquiry last week, Dr Crawford denied he had tried to keep the flawed green energy scheme open as it ran out of budgetary control.

"For people to say, at that stage, that I was trying to keep the scheme open, runs contrary to what I was doing at that time and what evidence I can produce to the inquiry and have produced to the inquiry," he said.

Mr Crawford quit as a spad in January 2017 as the RHI controversy raged. He said he was resigning because he had become "the focus of the story" and insisted the inquiry would prove he acted with "complete integrity in all that I did".

Mrs Foster said: "I think Andrew will be absolutely cleared when the inquiry comes about."

In written evidence to the inquiry, Dr Crawford has accepted that he acted "inappropriately" by forwarding confidential ministerial submissions about looming RHI cost controls to relatives with an interest in the scheme.

Dr Crawford continues to work for the DUP.

Belfast Telegraph

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