Irish Examiner View: Ineptitude rather than corruption blamed

Irish Examiner View: Ineptitude rather than corruption blamed

The publication yesterday of the long-awaited report by Patrick Coghlin, into Stormont’s cash-for-ash scandal, was typical of its type. 

It criticised individuals, but found that a multiplicity of errors and omissions, rather than corruption, was at the root of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme fiasco. It identified many failures, but not enough to end even one career. 

As ever, the system, rather than individuals, is to blame. 

A 656-page report, split over three volumes and 276,000 words, pointed a finger at a range of people, including DUP leader Arlene Foster, but civil servants and politicians’ special advisers bear the brunt of criticism over an administrative loophole that will cost British taxpayers hundreds of millions more than had been anticipated.

Several aspects of the report will resonate south of the border, but one stands out. 

Mr Coghlin was very critical of how officials dismissed warnings from whistleblower Jeanette O’Hagan that the scheme was open to exploitation.

“The treatment of this individual, and of her attempts at communicating her concerns to the department, fell well below the standard that she was entitled to expect,” he said. 

The report is damning about the role of civil servants, saying basic administration and record-keeping, normally the bedrock of the civil service, were absent on too many occasions. 

This can only further undermine public confidence in an already questionable institution.

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