IRELAND – The Pensions Board, the Irish pensions regulator, spends more on office rent than on its pensions awareness campaign, its accounts reveal.

According to the board’s 2003 accounts, it spent 774,000 euros on rent and other ‘establishment expenses’ for its Dublin offices for 36 staff.

Its National Pensions Awareness campaign – with the slogan “Think About Tomorrow...Today” - was allocated 500,000 euros by the government, with the same amount allocated for 2004. The campaign, instigated by the minister for social and family affairs, was launched last summer.

The primary aim of the campaign is to “heighten pensions awareness with a view to increasing pensions coverage in Ireland”. A spokesman for the fund did not return a call seeking comment.

Meanwhile, board chairman Michael McNulty said the board is planning to complete its review of the funding standard in 2004. “We hope to strike a balance between, on the one hand, the interests of member protection and, on the other, the capacity of sponsoring employers and schemes to support provision.”

And he added the other main priority for the year is to bring forward proposals to the minister for the implementation of the EU pensions directive in the autumn of 2004.

“The implementation of the directive is likely to require changes in national pensions regulation across a wide range of areas,” McNulty said.

“Again, our concern will be in meeting our obligations under the directive, to strike a balance between the interests of member protection and the need to avoid an undue regulatory burden.”

Last month the board launched consultations on both the funding standard and the implementation of the directive.

It reported that the number of defined benefit schemes at the end of the year had fallen to 1,693 from 1,901 at the end of 2002 – though the number of DB members had risen to 483,000 from 471,800.