IRELAND - Paul Kenny, the Pensions Ombudsman, has warned "non-co-operation or prevarication" by companies in relation to his investigations will be met with the "full force of the law", following a second legal victory.

Wexford Circuit Court has issued a court order against Joe Keane, a director of the former Joe Keane Construction Company Ltd, requiring him to produce the necessary documentation relating to an Ombudsman's investigation within 21 days and to pay all legal costs relating to the case.

The information was requested by Kenny's office following a complaint the company had allegedly deducted pension contributions from wages over a three-year period but had not passed the money into the mandatory Construction Workers Pension Scheme (CWPS).

The decision follows an earlier legal victory by the Ombudsman in April, when it won a court order against 3D Restoration and Construction Ltd to provide documentation in relation to a similar complaint. (See earlier IPE story: Ombudsman wins court case against building firm)

Kenny pointed out around 50% of all complaints to his office are resolved through mediation, "where there is clearly a willingness on both sides to resolve the issue", but he warned where formal requests for information are made and not complied with, "my office will not be given the run-around".

Kenny warned: "This is the second such case within the last month, marking a new tougher stance by my office. It gives me no pleasure to have to resort to court action to get people to comply with their legal requirements under the Pensions Act. However, there comes a time when it has to be made abundantly clear that non compliance with requests from my office will have immediate and serious legal consequences."

As a result, he confirmed in addition to the court order and legal costs, the defendant would also face criminal proceedings initiated by the Ombudsman for  "non-compliance with the initial request for information".

He said: "As a consequence, anybody who fails to comply with a request for information from my office should be fully alive to the fact that I will not hesitate to instigate a criminal action for non-compliance and civil action to enforce the request."

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