Arlene Foster would not have signed off botched scheme if information on alternatives was correct

Andrew Crawford said he didn't have a clear recollection of the meeting after which the RHI was signed off

ARLENE Foster's former special adviser said that if officials had provided information that highlighted the advantages of alternatives to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) then the botched scheme would not have been adopted.

Speaking yesterday as he gave evidence to the RHI inquiry, Andrew Crawford said civil servants from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment's (Deti) energy division should not have tabled an RHI submission to Mrs Foster because a consultants' report on which it was based had "too many issues to be resolved".

Mr Crawford, who resigned from his £80K-plus special adviser's job in January last year, will return to the inquiry next week to complete his evidence on phases one and two of the RHI scheme.

Much of yesterday's morning session focused on two meetings in June 2011 after which the bespoke Northern Ireland RHI was adopted ahead of a number of alternatives.

For the second day running, significant aspects of Mr Crawford's account of the scheme's conception conflicted with earlier evidence given by Fiona Hepper, head of Deti's energy division when Mrs Foster was minister.

The submission had been presented by Ms Hepper, a civil servant Mr Crawford said he and Mrs Foster regarded as "capable".

But it did not accurately reflect the content of a report by consultants setting out scheme options.

Mr Crawford said neither he or the minister were never given sight of tables from the report which laid out the costings and technical information about respective schemes.

Asked by junior counsel Joseph Aiken that if he had been presented with these options by Ms Hepper what the outcome would have been, Mr Crawford said he would have asked for the submission to be redrafted.

"The submission would have had to been updated," he said.

The former DUP spad, who told the inquiry yesterday that he continues to work for the party on part-time basis, said that if he had seen the tables he would have understood "the general direction of travel" and concluded that the RHI scheme as proposed was not the best value and would not produce the most renewable heat output.

"If what Fiona Hepper said is true, and she talked us through the tables, I believe we would have spotted that," Mr Crawford said.

He said he didn't have a clear recollection of the meeting but that if the minister had been presented with the information as claimed, she would not have adopted the scheme.

"There is no way Arlene Foster would have signed off the submission and agreed to go on ahead with the Northern Ireland Renewable Heat Incentive scheme – they are so stark and they are so in contrast to each other," Mr Crawford said.

"If the minister was agreeing to go on ahead with it, at the very minimum she would have needed an updated submission to give her cover on why she was doing what she was going to do."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access

Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: