Northern Ireland

RHI plan suffers setback over inspection contract

Image caption The RHI scheme involved wood pellet boilers and was aimed at encouraging energy production from renewable sources

There has been a setback in a plan to inspect all 2,100 boilers in the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

The Department for the Economy has been unable to appoint a company to carry out the work "as none of the bids fully met all of the tender requirements".

The programme of 100% inspections had been due to start this week.

The move is seen as part of an attempt to crack down on abuse of the scheme and reduce an overspend initially put at £490m.

A spokesperson for the department said it "is now considering other options" for taking forward the inspections.

The RHI scheme was set up in 2012 in a bid to encourage energy production from renewable sources.

However, overly generous subsidies for the fuel used to power wood pellet boilers meant it was oversubscribed and costs spiralled out of control.

A row over a public inquiry into the scandal led to the collapse of the coalition government, led by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin.

The issue has not yet been resolved and Northern Ireland has remained without a devolved government since January.

The department advertised the inspection contract in March, with the tender thought to be worth in the region of £2m.

It involves 1,200 site visits and could ultimately lead to numerous court actions to claw back money paid to some claimants.

The department is now seeking "constructive feedback" from companies who expressed an initial interest in the contract, but who did not submit a bid.

The companies have been told one of the options may involve a re-tender of the contract.

It is unclear what impact the set-back will have on the department's intention to have been presented with a final report on inspections by December.

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