Catering equipment firm receives apology over payout mix-up

Cooking suite

The boss of a Northern Ireland catering equipment firm has expressed his relief that a Stormont department has apologised after it was wrongly suggested it exploited a controversial renewable heating scheme.

The Renewable Heating Initiative (RHI), which was set up five years ago, offered a financial incentive for businesses to install renewable heat systems on their premises.

An RHI claimant list originally stated that Stephens Catering Equipment claimed more than 10 times what it did from the energy scheme.

However, the family-owned business only ever installed one RHI boiler in place of a similar system which had been in use for 15 years.

“We are just very thankful the mistake has been rectified and they issued an apology and hopefully those that damned us when they read the list will see that we did not receive what they said we did,” owner Paul Caves told the Belfast Telegraph.

In the coming months, the Department of Economy will reportedly begin inspections to determine how businesses have used the system and to root out abuse of the scheme.

Mr Caves told the paper he welcomed the opportunity to have his system inspected. He added: “We wrote to the department and asked not to be named. We said we were open to inspection at any time. We have no problem with inspections.”

Stephens Catering Equipment boasts four sites across Ireland and employs more than 100 staff, turning over £14m a year.

Mr Caves admitted it was too early to say whether the error had done any long-term damage to the company’s reputation.

“We have had people question our integrity and our credibility. We are just a small family business and we just want to get back to doing what we do,” he said.

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