UK – The successor to the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority is to build a comprehensive regulatory database of the UK’s 100,000 pension schemes.

OPRA spokesman Nick Edmans said the body is currently hamstrung by its “very rudimentary database”. The planned new pensions regulator that will take over from OPRA will build its own database, which will enable it to police pensions in a more proactive way.

It will use public domain data such as company accounts as well as risk modelling to assess which schemes could be in jeopardy. So-called ‘whistleblowers’, who report on badly-run schemes, will still have a role to play.

He was unable to estimate the cost of building the database but said “it would be a big project”.

OPRA admits it has come under fire for focusing on the “detailed housekeeping of schemes” at the expense of the ‘big picture’. It accepts the charge, but says it has been constrained by legislation.

“To date, OPRA’s targets have focused primarily on operational efficiency rather than regulatory effectiveness,” it says. It will now handle fewer but more complex cases.

It is now taking a more proactive, risk-focused stance - approaching insurers directly to found out about schemes in wind-up. This approach is “generating bulk applications from providers” it says.

OPRA says in its 2003-2004 business plan that it will “adopt a higher industry and public profile”.