Invest NI made financial offers to the shareholders of Rose Energy, the company behind the Lough Neagh Incinerator, as early as 2008 but the amount of public funding and the cost of shareholding it proposes to take is shrouded in secrecy.
Information obtained by members of the public campaigning against the incinerator shows that Invest NI in their own updated appraisal conducted just five months ago, are concerned that :
- costs have escalated by 50%,
- the project has not been properly tendered throughout the EU
- bank funding is not in the pipeline
- details of fuel supply and electricity supply have not been provided
- it will almost certainly go to planning appeal or public enquiry
The appraisal expert employed by Invest NI said they had not had sight of a revised specification and associated revised costings in order to conduct the review, but had to rely on ‘a description of changes or differences’ supplied by Rose Energy. Indeed detailed financial projections have not been updated since 2007.
The independent appraiser also said that the 50% increase on the initial budget was a particular worry given the lack of competing bids and the fact that the project was not issued through the OJEU tendering process.
Ray Clarke, Chairman of CALNI who obtained the information through a Freedom of Information inquiry, said that taxpayers should be incensed that millions of pounds of public money has already been allocated in a deal that is completely secret.
“Documents reminiscent of the blacked out details of MP’s expenses were delivered to us under the so called Freedom of Information Act. In a December 2008 e-mail from the senior Invest NI executive to Tony O’Neill of O’Kane Poultry the blanked out offer of millions of pounds in grant aid, millions of pounds towards an equity shareholding and millions of pounds for a loan on a commercial basis was offered with a detailed settlement to be agreed in January 2009.”
“Mr O’Neill then responded querying if the loan was a straight substitution for bank funding and asked if this is what the executive meant to do? Most disturbing is the cosy nature of communication in the e-mail trail we have been given. This begs the question of proper objectivity on the part of Invest NI and its advice to Ministers.”
“We are now calling on Invest NI to acknowledge that there are no competitors to Rose Energy for a project of this nature and to stop using the red herring of ‘commercial confidentiality’ to blank out so comprehensively the financial details of this project, particularly those relating to public funding.”
“Putting a monster of this kind on the shores of Lough Neagh, when there are numerous other sites and technologies available which have not been publicly discussed or investigated, is a gross dereliction of duty.”
“The Minister for Agriculture has again fully supported the call for a public enquiry and as this Department is at the heart of this issue she should be listened to. The DOE Minister Edwin Poots has already granted a public enquiry on Belfast City Airport and we believe this is an issue of even greater public interest.”
“We will continue to use every legal tool at our disposal to ensure that openness and transparency is visited on every part of this proposal,” he promised.