Northern Ireland news

'Unacceptable' that renewable energy charity did not relay RHI concerns

Managing director of Action Renewables Michael Doran said it processed 550 applications to the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme
Gareth McKeown

A former deputy director of a renewable energy charity paid to process a quarter of the north's RHI applications has said it is "utterly unacceptable" concerns were not raised about the flawed scheme.

Declan Gormley served as deputy director at Action Renewables from 2003 to 2012 and described the organisation's actions as "indefensible".

The Irish News revealed last week how between May 2014 and January 2016, Action Renewables advised on around 550 applications to the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme and made close to quarter of a million pounds for doing so, typically charging £400 each time.

The successful applicants account for roughly £300m in taxpayer subsidies committed over a 20-year period.

When asked by The Irish News why no-one within the charity relayed concerns about the operation of the scheme to the government, managing director Michael Doran said it would have been "ethically improper".

"That's not what we were employed to do. If you're employed on behalf of a client to make an application it would then be ethically improper to then undermine that application by trying to have it withdrawn," he said.

"The fact that the government created the scheme that some people now think is over incentivised is not our responsibility."

Mr Gormley said the response was "unacceptable"

"It is utterly unacceptable for the director of Action Renewables or any organisation to say publicly that they were unable ethically to bring to anyone's attention the fact that they knew they were facilitating people to apply to a flawed scheme which was actually at the end of the day going to cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds," he said.

"To benefit from processing applications to the value of almost £250,000, whilst acknowledging that in doing so they were fully aware that it was to the detriment of the taxpayer, is shameful and indefensible."

SDLP Mid-Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone also questioned the approach adopted by Action Renewables.

However, Action Renewables chairman chairman and president of Dublin Institute of Technology, Professor Brian Norton, told the Irish News the organisation was "not responsible for designing or delivering the scheme".

"Action Renewables was responsible for assisting people to make applications to the RHI scheme. That is part of our role in promoting the use of renewable energy.

"The department then assesses those applications and determines if they comply with the scheme regulations. Action Renewables was not responsible for designing or delivering the scheme.

"The 'facilitation' of the scheme is the responsibility of the department as they assess applications."

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