Pensions regulator says public schemes need more funding

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Pensions regulator says public schemes need more funding

Public sector pension schemes need more funding to improve their administration systems, which currently could, in theory, lead to wrongful pension payments, The Pensions Regulator (TPR) chief executive has warned.

In an interview with FTAdviser, Lesley Titcomb – who will be leaving the regulator next year – said public sector schemes “need to do everything they can to drive up the standards of data and record keeping”.

Last month the regulator, which regulates public service schemes providing pensions for 16.7 million people, published its Public service governance and administration survey 2017, which concluded that 15 per cent of these pension funds don’t have an adequate process for monitoring data accuracy and completeness, up from 11 per cent in 2016.

Ms Titcomb said: "They [public sector schemes] now understand the importance of having a rectification plan and sticking to it, the importance of getting their annual benefits statement out to people on time.

“It could in theory [lead to members receiving wrong pension payments] and that is why we need to get it right.”

She argued "the challenge for the public service schemes has been to get investment in systems improvement, and data and record keeping”.

She added: “[Public sector entities] need to recognise that they have duties as employers just as other employers in the private sector do, and they need to think about what percentage of their budget they allocate to the administration of the pension scheme - in some cases they will need to invest more in their back office.

“How they do that is a matter for them.”

In its public-sector schemes research, the watchdog said that it has made its “expectation clear that all schemes should do an annual data review”.

However, 17 per cent of schemes had not carried out a data review in the last twelve months, and a further 8 per cent were not sure.

The regulator added that during 2017, it has set its “expectations around data security and provided additional guidance on developing a good data improvement plan”.

The regulator added: “We will consider enforcement action where scheme managers fail to demonstrate that they are taking appropriate steps to improve their records, including having a robust improvement plan in place.”

For the first time, TPR’s 2018 scheme survey will ask schemes to report on their common and scheme specific data scores.

The survey also showed that public sector schemes received almost 3,000 complaints regarding transfer delays or refusals.