AUSTRIA – Supervisory authority FMA has been given an additional remit to act as the “accounting police”, according to the finance ministry.

A new department within the FMA will be created to “prevent accounting mistakes at a very early stage”.

It will also make its findings public to “keep the capital market informed”.

The FMA welcomed the announcement and said it was an important step towards greater transparency in the Austrian market.

Accountants institute IWP also welcomed the creation of the new watchdog, but pointed out that Austria was “the last country in the EU” to put such an accounting authority in place.

Together with the Austrian chamber of accountants and tax advisers, the IWP will be a founding member of the new authority, which it wants to “help shape”, based on international experiences with similar accounting watchdogs.

In other new, the Valida pension fund has had to report to Austria’s federal competition authority due to its takeover of the Siemens corporate Pensionskasse.

The authority had recently ruled – several months after the announcement of the agreement – that the deal had been large enough to warrant a registration.

In a statement, Valida said the competition authority’s action had come as “no surprise”, and that neither it nor Siemens expected much delay in registering the final closing of the deal, expected some time this autumn.

Meanwhile, stakeholders in the Austrian second-pillar pensions system, together with the Austrian Standards Board, have compiled guidelines for selecting a Pensionskasse.

The 14-page document includes a sample invitation to tender that any company can use when choosing from the six multi-employer pension funds in Austria.

Andreas Zakostelsky, chairman of the Austrian pension fund association FVPK, said the guidelines were mainly aimed at SMEs, as they struggled most with the complexity of the second pillar.

Currently, around 25% of the Austrian workforce has accrued benefits in one of 17 pension funds, including corporate Pensionskassen. Zakostelsky said he would like to see this figure increased significantly.

Fritz Janda, managing director at that FVPK, said the guidelines would also help companies compare Pensionskassen offers more easily.

Janda and Zakostelsky said the guide was the first officially standardised tool of its kind in the world, and highlighted the fact it had been set up with a broad consensus, ranging from pension fund representatives and scientists to unions and employer groups.