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RHI: Stormont disputes 'clean bill of health' claim

The controversial Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme was launched in 2012

A STORMONT department has disputed a claim that a government RHI audit aimed at uncovering fraud has given the poultry and mushroom industries a "clean bill of health".

The assertion was made last week by a lawyer acting on behalf of boiler owners who are challenging Stormont's move to reduce Renewable Heat Incentive payments.

Following allegations of abuse in the flawed green-energy initiative, accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers were asked in 2016 to inspect 300 sites.

A barrister said the report had found "no cause for concern" in either of the two sectors and had given them a "clean bill of health".

Asked about the assessment, a Department for the Economy spokeswoman yesterday said it was "wrong to assume" given the low numbers inspected.

"The investigation carried out by PWC in 2016 included inspections of approximately 300 biomass installations, approximately a third of which were used for poultry and mushroom farming," she said.

"These inspections were carried out in order to check the veracity of the whistleblower claims regarding abuse of the scheme.

"The inspectors were looking for specific evidence of abuses but did not include more detailed business analysis of heat use by businesses.

"The poultry and mushroom installations inspected did not reveal any specific instances of abuse, however, it is wrong to assume that this can be taken to give the entire industry a clean bill of health, given the low numbers inspected.

"The department has committed to undertake a further programme of inspections and will use this in order to determine any further action that may be needed."

The spokeswoman said the PWC report had been shared with RHI recipients' lawyers, but refused to make the document public because it "deals with a variety of sensitive issues".

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