IRELAND - Assets held by the new Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSA) in Ireland have risen to €835.28m at the end of 2006 up from €451m a year before.

The number of PRSAs taken out rose to 95,045 from 68,257 a year before. Out of the total for last year 72,761 Standard PRSAs and 22,284 non-Standard PRSAs in 2006.

The number of employers signed up with one of the 10 PRSA providers under the employer mandatory access requirements increased only slightly from 76,304 to 80,463.

In 2006 a total of 35,285 employees have taken out PRSAs through their employer, compared to 27,381 a year before.

The PRSA system is making "slow but steady progress" Mary Hutch, head of information and training at the Pensions Board commented.

The Pensions Board supervises the PRSA system and employer's compliance with the regulations. Every employer in Ireland who does not already offer an occupational pension provision has to choose a PRSA provider.

Last week, the Pension Board successfully prosecuted an employer for failing to comply with this regulation. The employer had failed to inform the board about whether or not they had signed a contract with a PRSA provider. He was fined €300 by the court and had to pay the costs of €800m for the hearing.

Commenting on the prosecution, the chief executive officer of the Pensions Board, Brendan Kennedy, said that the provision of PRSAs by employers "is a key component in the drive to increase private pension coverage in Ireland.  The board has a responsibility to enforce this mandatory access requirement and regards non-compliance as a serious matter."

A PRSA is a contract between an individual and an authorised PRSA provider in the form of an investment account that can be used to save for retirement.