Foster denies responsibility for botched RHI scheme that will cost Stormont £1bn

ARLENE Foster has refused to accept any responsibility for overseeing a green energy subsidy scheme which was this week labelled as "potentially the biggest scandal since devolution began".

The first minister has even suggested that a Stormont committee should shoulder some of the blame for the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme because she says MLAs failed to scrutinise it properly.

The DUP leader was minister for enterprise, trade and investment for the majority of the time the controversial scheme was in operation.

An audit office report published in July highlighted widespread abuse of the scheme, which was designed to encourage farmers and businesses to switch from fossil fuels.

It has been estimated that paying for the RHI could cost Stormont more than £1bn over the next 20 years.

Speaking to The Irish News, Mrs Foster said she was not accepting any responsibility for the scheme's shortcomings because "it was developed by officials in a way that shouldn't have been developed by officials".

When it was highlighted that they were her officials in her department, the DUP leader said: "I hope you're not suggesting I get to see every single jot and tittle that goes on in every ministerial department.

"Ministers do not get to see that level of detail as you well know. We get to see the overall policy in terms of those renewable schemes."

Arlene Foster on Brexit negotiations:

Mrs Foster said she had brought the concerns of whistleblowers to the attention of the authorities and she was critical of the Stormont committee which was responsible for scrutinising the RHI scheme.

"Some people are very keen to point the finger at me but this was all scrutinised by the enterprise, trade and investment committee at the time, so I think some people who were sitting on that committee need to look to themselves," she said.

Former ETI committee chairman Patsy McGlone said the DUP leader's response was "ridiculous".

"What she's really saying is that she was just a cardboard cut-out at Deti but the buck must always stop with the minister," she said.

"There were failings at a multiplicity of levels at Deti – that department didn't know whether they were blew up or stuffed."