Response to the RHI Inquiry
FDA General Secretary Dave Penman responded to the report of the independent public inquiry into the Non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (RHI Inquiry)
“There can be no doubt that the RHI Inquiry report makes uncomfortable reading for ministers, the civil service, special advisers and the Assembly. As the chair makes clear, there were systemic failings across the design, operation and governance of the scheme.
“The recommendations from the inquiry are far reaching, and go beyond the specifics of this scheme and the department responsible for it. The report makes clear that the RHI scheme was a “project too far” for the Northern Ireland Executive, with insufficient resource and expertise to deliver it. The first and key recommendation is that any new policy, at its earliest stage, should be subject to a rigorous process to determine whether the devolved administration has or is prepared to assign the necessary skills and resources to deliver the policy safely and competently.
“As the report makes clear, there was an ambition in the civil service to be seen as supporting the new government structures and a “culture of delivery” emerged, which did not encourage questioning when problems arose.
“Understanding how problems arose, and recommending remedies for the future, inevitably leads to a question of accountability. Civil servants, like all public officials, expect to be held accountable for their actions. As the report makes clear, much of that accountability is shared across civil servants, ministers, special advisers and, indeed, the Assembly.
“We welcome the proposal for an independent panel, separate from the inquiry and Northern Ireland Civil Service which will assess the report and consider whether individual civil servants should be subject to disciplinary action. This panel will have the opportunity to consider the full report and context in which civil servants were operating. Our hope is that ministers and the political parties similarly consider how they will assess the accountability of individuals for their role in the scheme and make those considerations public.”
Notes for editors
1. The FDA is the union for senior managers and professionals in public service, representing more than 18,000 members at grades HEO and above. Membership includes senior civil servants, government policy advisors, prosecutors, diplomats, tax professionals, economists, solicitors and other professionals working across the Government and the NHS.
2. The FDA (formerly the First Division Association) should be referred to simply as "The FDA" and can be described as "the senior public servants' union".
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