Minutes of Proceedings

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 14 June 2005

PRESENT: Mr D Watson
Mr M Carrick
Mr J Dallat
Mr D McClarty

APOLOGIES: Mr J Kelly

IN THE CHAIR: Mr D Watson

IN ATTENDANCE: Mr T Evans, Mr E Hobson, Ms K Dickson (Baillie Gifford, Agenda Item 2), Mr D Salter (Baillie Gifford, Agenda Item 2), Mr S McCormick (Northern Ireland Audit Office, Agenda Item 3), Ms A Whitaker, Mrs K McCartney and Mr N Burns

1. Minutes of meeting of 15 March 2005 were agreed.

The Minutes of the meeting of 15th March 2005 were agreed subject to the following amendments:

Item 6 Paragraph 1 to read, “Mr Hobson gave details of a number of suggestions which had been raised by the Northern Ireland Audit Office during their audit of the 2003-04 Annual Accounts”.

Item 8 Paragraph 4 to read, “With regards other legislatures Mr Ballantine informed the Trustees that the Welsh Assembly have already implemented both the 1/40th accrual rate and the partners pension and that the Scottish Parliament are introducing a Pensions Bill in April 2006 to consider the changes.

2. TRAINING FROM BAILLIE GIFFORD (BG) PRESENTED BY KATHLEEN DICKSON AND DAVID SALTER

Ms Dickson and Mr Salter provided the Trustees with training on Risk and Corporate Governance. The Trustees were also provided with a short presentation on the current status of the fund. The main points outlined to the Trustees during this presentation included:

1. The performance of the fund for the first quarter of 2005 has been reasonable.

2. At present equities offer better returns in comparison to bonds, the main reason being the current high price of bonds. In responding to a question relating to the Trustees intentions on investing future monies in bonds, whilst stating that they were not in a position to offer advice on investments, BG informed the Trustees that if they were to insist upon buying bonds the best approach would be to allow them some flexibility in the funds to use and to “drip feed” the money, possibly every three months as this would have less of an impact.

3. Baillie Gifford agreed to provide a written response to questions provided in writing by the Government Actuary’s Department.

The Trustees agreed that Baillie Gifford should deliver a further two modules of training at their next meeting in September.

3. ANNUAL ACCOUNTS/ ANNUAL REPORT

The Trustees agreed to discuss this item at the end of the meeting.

4. MATTERS ARISING

MINUTES DATED 7 OCTOBER 2004 AND 13 OCTOBER 2004

The Trustees agreed amendments to the minutes of 7 October 2004 and 13 October as discussed at the meeting on 15 March 2005.

COMBINED PENSIONS FORECASTS

The Trustees were informed that the combined pension forecasts were issued to the members of the Assembly Members’ Pension Scheme (NI) 2000 on 6 April 2005 along with the annual benefit statements.

OUTSOURCING PENSION ADMINISTRATION

Mr Evans informed the Trustees that Mr Hobson intends to meet with the Scottish Public Pensions Agency in the coming weeks. A draft Service Level Agreement will be brought to the next meeting for consideration.

5. ANY OTHER BUSINESS

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

The Trustees agreed to a short presentation on the impact of Freedom of Information on the Assembly Members Pension Scheme (NI) 2000 at the next meeting. 
The Trustees also agreed that it would be beneficial to carry out an audit of the information held on Members.

FLEXIBILITY OF AVC’s

Mr Carrick asked for confirmation of the outcome of the paper provided by GAD on the flexibility of AVC’s. It was agreed to discuss this at the next meeting.

6. ANNUAL ACCOUNTS/ ANNUAL REPORT

At the previous Pension Trustee meeting Mr Carrick asked for clarification regarding the Administrative expenses outlined on pages 16 and 17 of the Accounts. The Finance Office has confirmed that the administration fees on page 17 of the Accounts actually refer to pensions that were paid in April and the heading has been changed to reflect this.

The 2003-04 account has been approved and was certified on 28 April 2005 by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The Annual Report has been approved and is being printed.

Mr McCormick, Director from The Northern Ireland Audit Office was in attendance to discuss the following matters arising from the account.

1. Date for Accounts – Mr McCormick informed the Trustees that planning for this year’s accounts was in progress and that the audit would commence in June 2005 with a completion date of August 2005.

2. The use of an Audit Committee to scrutinise the Scheme – Mr McCormick informed the Trustees that such a committee would operate as an independent challenge function. However the Trustees had indicated in the Management response that they did not feel it was necessary to include the fund in the remit of the Northern Ireland Assembly Audit Committee. As Pricewaterhouse Coopers provide a consultancy service to the Trustees Mr McCormick was content with this approach. However he suggested, as a further compromise, that a meeting should be arranged with the Trustees and the NI Audit Office in August, before the Comptroller and Auditor General signs the accounts, to discuss any matters arising.

3. Material Transactions – Mr McCormick informed the Trustees that it was good practice to have a register for declaring members’ interests in place. Mr Evans advised that a Register of Members’ Interests is already in place.

4. Service Level Agreement – Mr McCormick noted that a service level agreement has now been put in place with the Government Actuary’s Department.

5. Life Insurance – Mr McCormick asked the Trustees what the procedure was for renewing the policy and if there was a continuing need for the policy. Mr Hobson informed Mr McCormick that the policy is reviewed by the Government Actuary’s Department in line with the age profile and the size of the fund at the time.

6. Risk register – Mr McCormick discussed the requirement for a risk register and suggested that the Trustees may wish to liaise with the Westminster Pension administrators requesting sight of their risk register.

7. Mr McCormick stated that he would contact Mr Hobson to confirm the procedure for the laying of the 2003-04 Accounts during the suspension of the Assembly.

7. DATE OF NEXT MEETING

The next meeting will be arranged for September 2005. There may however be a need to bring the Trustees together in August to meet with the Northern Ireland Audit Office to discuss issues which may arise from the auditing of the 2004-05 Annual Accounts.

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