IRELAND - The total number of pension schemes registered with the Pensions Board, the Irish regulatory body, rose by 19% in 2000 to 86,348, while the numbers covered by all schemes rose by 10% to 629,801, according to the board’s recent annual report.

The number of new defined contributions(DC) schemes rose by 20%, and covered 180,690 members, with over 70,000 being in individual arrangements. By contrast, the numbers of defined benefits(DB) plans actually fell during the year from 2,060 to 2,027, the membership of DB schemes rose to 449,111, an increase of just 6%. The board says there were 69 new DB plans registered in 2000, but the closure plans meant a net loss of 33.

The contrast between the coverage of the two approaches is that there were 94 DB plans with over 500 members each and a total of 348,000 members, there were on 16 such DC schemes, with just 19,000 members.

The board says that it has agreed with the relevant government department, in advance of the introduction of the personal retirement savings account(PRSA), the new pensions vehicle, benchmarks for coverage by second pillar arrangements. The report says the board has implemented: “An appropriate mechanism to measure the level of coverage both before and introduction of the PRSA regime and at intervals during and at the end of the regime’s first five years of operation”.

In the past, the board has said it would recommend compulsory supplementary pension provision if there was not a significant increase in the proportion of the working population covered at the second pillar level.

Commenting on the Pensions Act’s ‘whistle-blowing’ provisions, which require trustees, actuaries and a range of advisers to report suspected fraud or misappropriation at pension funds to the board, it says it has received 26 of these reports since 1996. “Each of the reports was relevant and the board’s intervention was of assistance in protecting the interests of members,” it says

The report adds that “in some cases these reports should have been considered and made at an earlier stage than actually happened and the contents of the reports has at times been unclear”.