Northern Ireland news

Public inquiry into RHI cost the taxpayer almost £13m

The inquiry into the botched green energy scheme cost the taxpayer almost £13m

THE public inquiry into the botched green energy scheme which brought down Stormont cost the taxpayer almost £13m.

Led by inquiry chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin, the findings of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme inquiry were published earlier this year.

But a breakdown of the cost of the inquiry yesterday revealed that £7.3m was spent directly by the inquiry team on accommodation, legal counsel, support services and expenses.

Sir Patrick and his two panel members were paid £1.3m, while three counsel to the inquiry received just over £2m between them.

Inquiry chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Other figures reveal that the inquiry solicitor, his secretariat and a legal support team were paid £2.3m.

The cost comes on top of a previously revealed £5.5m which four Executive departments paid out in legal fees.

The initiative, which became known as the "cash-for-ash" scheme, had been established to encourage the use of renewable energy sources, but it closed in 2016 due to concerns about cost controls.

A flaw in the design meant that in effect, the money paid out was greater than the cost of fuel.

Also, there was initially no cap on payments.

The controversy triggered the collapse of Stormont in January 2017.

Sir Patrick was highly critical of how the scheme was operated and found it should never have been adopted in the first place. But he also found there was no corruption or "malicious activity" involved by Stormont ministers, officials and special advisers.

Other costs revealed yesterday include almost £1.4m spent on office space and a venue for the hearings and IT used during the evidence gathering sessions.

Travel expenses amounted to £128,000 and £87,000 was spent on a media officer and printing costs of the inquiry report.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news