NETHERLANDS - The chairman of the occupational pension fund for Dutch notaries (SNPF) has stepped down, following serious criticism from both internal supervisors and the accountability body on how the executive board is run.

Chairman Ben van den Berg recently stepped aside for Gijs Alfrink - also a member of the executive board - and is now a non-executive board member, the scheme has confirmed.

In the scheme’s annual report for 2009, the internal supervisors - consisting of the non-executive board members - reproached the executive board for having been “too slow, having lost the initiative and having relied too much on its provider UNP for governing tasks”.

The UNP was privatised in 2008 and is owned by the Stichting Notarieel Pensioenfonds, its only customer.

Ton Veninga, one of the internal supervisors, said: “The problem focused on the lack of communication and the executive board not being proactive.

“But as Van den Berg is a tax expert, we are very pleased he is staying on as a non-executive board member.”

According to Veninga, there is no link between the less than optimal performance of the executive board and the scheme’s low coverage ratio of 91.3% at the end of July.

“This is caused by the combination of the decreasing long-term interest rates and the fact we have been investing cautiously, with a large fixed income allocation,” he explained.

In the opinion of Arnoud Alderlieste, who until recently was a controller at UNP, the speed of the executive board is illustrated by the fact the eight-strong UNP staff has been waiting for new pension arrangements since 2006.

“Despite repeated promises, the staff hasn’t received the mandatory uniform pension statement, nor the start letter for new entrants either,” Alderlieste said, adding that all staff is deeply unhappy about this.

However, Veninga said: “These new pension arrangements were necessary following the privatisation of UNP.

“It was complicated, both from a fiscal and an actuarial point of view, and it is actually a matter for UNP itself.”

According to Veninga, the new pension plan is almost completed, and he emphasised that the staff’s legal position, as well as pension rights, would not be affected.

“Initially, the staff also participated in our pension fund, but that wasn’t possible any longer after UNP was privatised,” he said.

Acting chairman Alfrink has been confirmed as a candidate for the chairmanship, but he declined to comment on behalf of the scheme’s board, as he has yet to be formally appointed.

Max Muntinga, director of UNP, said: “The most important challenge for the pension fund is to keep all pension rights of our participants intact and to avoid any rights cuts.”

In the annual report, the executive board indicated it shared the concerns about the effectiveness of a one-tier board structure and promised to discuss the matter in September.

Former chairman Van den Berg could not be reached for a comment.