Belfast Telegraph

RHI Inquiry: Money to burn - how the scandal unfolded

November 2012 The renewable scheme is implemented to help non-domestic and business properties to install more environmentally friendly heating systems. It is overseen by then Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

2013 First communications received by DETI from a whistle-blower who alleges that the scheme is being abused.

No cap is placed on the subsidy; the more heat generated the higher the payout.

One allegation highlights that a farmer could have claimed £1m over 20 years for heating an empty barn.

2014 The RHI scheme is rolled out to domestic properties.

2015 As applications for the scheme swell, DETI must seek re-approval for the scheme from the Department of Finance.

“Administration oversight” is blamed for its failure to do so.

February 2016 The overspend is alleged to have reached millions of pounds and an investigation now begins.

Industry Minister Jonathan Bell announces that no further applications will be accepted.

July 2016 The Audit Office says “serious systemic failings” would hit the Northern Ireland budget to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton (DUP) says the ongoing costs of the scheme to taxpayers are “incredible”.

October 2016 Senior members of Ofgem E-Serve — which administers RHI — appear before the assembly’s Public Accounts Committee.

The panel heard that in a period of 15 months no minutes had been recorded of formal meetings between themselves and departmental officials.

December 8, 2016 SDLP leader Colum Eastwood calls on Mrs Foster to appear before the Public Accounts Committee.

December 12, 2016 The DUP leader declares she has “nothing to hide” and aims to restore public confidence by writing to claimants asking if their names can be publicised.

December 14, 2016 Stormont’s first and deputy first ministers ask for the Northern Ireland Assembly to be recalled to discuss the botched heat scheme.

December 15, 2016 Mr Bell claims that senior DUP aides tried to remove Mrs Foster’s name from documents. The claim is denied by both Mrs Foster and the two advisers he accused.

December 21, 2016 Closure of the RHI scheme is now considered. The proposal would incur costs after buying out claimants to reduce the final bill.

January 4, 2017 Rival political parties call for Arlene Foster to stand down. She refuses to do so.

January 9, 2017 Martin McGuinness resigns as deputy first minister in protest at the DUP’s handling of the RHI scandal.

January 13, 2017 Ofgem inspectors say they have suspended payments at 33 of the 63 boilers they have audited.

January 16, 2017 An assembly election is called after Sinn Fein refuses to nominate a deputy first minister to succeed Mr McGuinness.

January 19, 2017 Dr Andrew Crawford, a former aid to Arlene Foster, resigns after claims he “exerted influence” over the scheme.

January 23, 2017 New rules are put in place to reduce payments to claimants to save £30m in the 2017/18 budget.

January 24, 2017 A public inquiry into the RHI scandal, to be chaired by retired appeal court judge Sir Patrick Coghlin, is announced.

March 1, 2017 A judge rules the Department for the Economy can publish details of businesses receiving subsidies from the scheme.

April 27, 2017 The preliminary hearing of the RHI inquiry takes place at Stormont.

May 24, 2017 A list of companies involved in the scheme is published. It includes 821 claimants who shared a total of £62m over five years.

June 30, 2017 A plan to inspect the 2,100 boiler installations is shelved.

August 6, 2017 The Department for the Economy says it intends to seek a 12-month extension of its rules to cut the scheme’s cost, originally implemented for one year from April.

September 18, 2017 Mrs Foster is given special rights which allow her to access witness statements. The inquiry is delayed.

October 2017 RHI claimants exert a legal challenge against the Department for the Economy to stop it reducing the scheme’s tariff payments. Judgment is reserved.

November 7, 2017 The public inquiry into the RHI scheme opens.

Belfast Telegraph


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