Pensions Regulator  

Regulator intervenes after pension admin failure

Regulator intervenes after pension admin failure

The Pensions Regulator intervened on governance and administration at the Oxfordshire County Council Pension fund after the public sector scheme failed to send annual statements to active members in 2014/15.

The watchdog received a breach of law report in 2015, saying no annual statements had been issued to members in that financial year.

Public service pension schemes have to provide annual benefit statements to active members within five months of the end of the scheme’s financial year, usually August 31.

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Annual benefit statements are important as they include vital information which members can use to make informed financial decisions, such as when they can retire, the regulator stated.

According to TPR, this was the start of a three-year improvement programme that saw 50 per cent of statements issued the following year and three quarters (77 per cent) for 2016/17.

But although improvements were being made TPR was not content with the rate of progress and in May 2018 issued a warning notice to the scheme manager.

This required the manager to take all necessary actions to issue the statements for 2017-18, and agree a plan with TPR to prevent the issue reoccurring in future years.

An improvement notice was issued in August and by the end of 2018, 99 per cent of statements due for 2017/18 had been issued.

According to the current rules, failure to comply with an Improvement notice can result in a monetary penalty of up to £5,000 for individuals and up to £50,000 for other entities per breach.

Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, noted that the regulator’s role is to make workplace pensions work and it will act where standards are not met.

She said: "Oxfordshire’s inability to issue benefit statements in 2015 was due to poor data and the challenges they faced to improve it.

"We clearly set out our expectations and worked with them to improve their data. This has resulted in the vast majority of the fund’s 20,000 active members receiving the benefit statements they are entitled to."

Ms Parish added that when a scheme manager does not hold accurate and complete member data, TPR expects them to produce a measurable data improvement plan.

She said: "They should have appropriate controls in place and use their powers to manage employers who are not co-operative in fulfilling their obligations to the scheme."

maria.espadinha@ft.com