“The DfE scheme should have been audited from the start; audits should be run to a professional standard; we have raised a Formal Complaint about audit quality.  

Andrew Trimble, Chair of the Association that promotes ethical use of renewable energy said:

  • “We expect all government-run schemes and audits to be run to the appropriate professional standards.”
  • “We met with Dr McCormick and his senior team on Monday this week for a formal, minuted discussion on two agenda issues:
    • (1) Establishing an Appropriate Audit Process.
    • (2) Promotion of Best Practice.”

COOPERATION

“We agreed that we both need to use our energy restore public confidence in the RHI Scheme, in DfE’s governance of the Scheme and DfE management of public money and to assure best practice and efficiency in a scheme which was always meant to protect our environment.”

  • “At launch, the renewables programme was planned to include nearly 30,000 renewable energy devices in everyday use in Northern Ireland by 2020.  The environmental and policy goal has been to lessen our dependence on oil.
  • One of the RHANI cross-industry representatives told the meeting on Monday, that by changing to biomass, his firm no longer needed to burn 500,000 litres of oil every year: another, a corporate sector representative told the meeting that his Company Board was at a loss as to how their written Agreement with DfE could be lawfully cancelled. “
  • “Before the pilot audits commenced, he had written to Dr McCormick questioning the quality of the audit approach and seeking assurance that they would be like a MoT test.  It should not be like a “shakedown traffic stop” in a 3rd world country.”
  • “I had hoped that audits would be reasonable, proportionate, fair and lawful.   I wrote to the Permanent Secretary.  The response from Dr McCormick was tardy and it did not answer the points raised so we therefore pressed for resolution of audit quality and assurance when we met on Monday.
  • “I cannot say that we received assurances, but, when the points about the audit, programme governance, stakeholder engagement, regulatory compliance and fairness were put to Dr McCormick, he stated that irrespective of the matters raised, he had a “budget to protect.”
  • “I was an observer on two audits and have seen correspondence from RICARDO since then.  “I was gravely concerned that the audit approach is not fit for purpose and therefore, it lacks credibility and standing.   The audits must be scrupulous.   It will be a disaster for the renewable sector if the audits become another casualty of DfE management practice.”
  • “During Monday’s meeting, I cited specific, ridiculous scripted technical questions about meter guarantees and re-calibration and asked why the auditors were encouraged to include these with unscripted questions and approximate measurements (by pace) in their site surveys.  The Scheme was launched in 2012.  The Chief Auditor told me that heat meters need only be recalibrated after 10 years – and only then if they show signs of fault.”
  • Dr McCormick, who was chair of the meeting said that he had “noted our concerns.”

 

FORMAL COMPLAINT

Having four times offered to channel our concerns as informal complaints to Dr McCormick, I have today raised –  as a Formal Complaint – the matter of the flawed audit scheme design and quality controls as well as the resulting conduct of the RICARDO auditors on the ground.

 

INTERESTING INFORMATION

The meeting at Netherleigh did throw up some interesting detail:

  • That the senior officials in Energy Branch have no qualification in energy management;
  • That the senior DfE officials have never visited an accredited RHI installation;
  • That the RHI Programme is still being governed is using the “simple” project management rules and not, in accordance with Office of Government Commerce, Programme Governance rules – which was an earlier DfE audit recommendation.

 

DETAIL

  • We now understand that RICARDO auditors were part of the earlier contractor group which had advised on the design of the RHI NI  Renewables Programme.
  •  RICARDO was also part of the now dismissed Op HEAT  PWC audit of 295 sites targeted by DfE.
  • Op HEAT criticised energy practices which had been promoted and authorised by DETI/DfE officials and which were compliant with the changes brought in by the 2015 Regulations
  • In their June Report, CAGNI confirmed that of the 295 sites targeted by DfE in Op HEAT, only two had been excluded from the Scheme.
  •  Op HEAT and these Pilot Audits followed an open market tender process.   The cost to the public purse, of these DfE-sponsored audits is in the public domain.
  • There is an ongoing criminal investigation into the “leaking” of personal information to the media.