UK - The UK Pensions Regulator (TPR) has announced details of a new framework agreement that will see more than 20 UK consultancies serve as expert witnesses on its determinations panel.

As part of the framework agreement, the consultancies will also offer advice on issues ranging from convenant assessment to investment and risk management matters.

Covering all 22 companies that applied - including Aon Hewitt, Capita Hartshead, LCP, Mercer, PwC and Barnett Waddingham - they will also be asked to provide actuarial services, with all three areas addressed for both small and large occupational pension schemes in the defined contribution and defined benefit spectrum.

A spokesman for the regulator told IPE: "This is for a framework agreement only. It is a contingency in case it is absolutely necessary to engage certain professional services in future to advise the regulator - for example, on key scheme funding cases."

Under the agreement, the consultancies will be asked to offer "independent specialist advice" to the regulator, as well as potentially act as expert witnesses on its determinations panel, should the need arise.

A TPR spokesman noted that the Pension Protection Fund would be able to request assistance from those included the framework, in an attempt to reduce tender costs.

Several local government pension schemes have recently embarked on similar joint tenders at a time when the UK public sector is facing cuts under the government's deficit reduction plan.

The contract award notice added: "One of TPR's roles is to investigate cases where there may be serious governance, or investment or funding issues, associated with occupational pension schemes (DB and DC)."

The determinations panel exercises the regulator's formal powers and is responsible for the issuance of Financial Support Directions, such as the one received by Lehman Brothers following its bankruptcy.

Other companies in the framework include Punter Southall, PKF, Bluefin Corporate Consulting, KPMG and Grant Thornton, Zolfo Cooper, Pension Capital Strategies and Hymans Robertson, as well as Redington, BDO, Buck Consultants, Begbies Traynor and Deloitte, Ernst & Young and Baker Tilly Restructuring and Recovery.