Northern Ireland

RHI scandal: Inspection of sites to begin in May

Wood pellets Image copyright tchara
Image caption The Renewable Heat Incentive scheme is approximately £490m over budget

Inspections of Renewable Heat Incentive scheme sites are to begin in May in an attempted crackdown on abuse of the scheme.

The tender for the check-up programme will be advertised shortly.

Former Economy Minister Simon Hamilton ordered the move, which could help reduce some of the RHI scheme's anticipated £490m overspend.

There are 1,200 sites to be inspected, according to data supplied to companies interested in bidding for the contract.

The botched energy scheme was set up in 2012 when Arlene Foster was minister at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, in an attempt by the Northern Ireland Executive to help to increase the consumption of fuel from renewable sources.

However, businesses received more in subsidies than they paid for renewable fuel, and the scheme became majorly oversubscribed.

The fallout from the scandal, which is approximately £490m over budget, resulted in the collapse of Stormont's institutions and the calling of snap elections on 2 March.

Enforcement action

Under the inspections plan, site visits will be unannounced.

The Department for the Economy would expect a final report on findings by December, and then decide what enforcement action to take.

This could involve the clawback of payments.

The cost of inspections has previously been estimated at £2m.

However, those bidding tor the contract will be asked for quotes which will be assessed as part of the tender evaluation.

Some site inspections were carried out for the department last year, after an Audit Office report last year identified major problems with the scheme.

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