Minutes of Proceedings

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 20 September 2005

PRESENT: Mr D Watson
Mr M Carrick
Mr D McClarty

APOLOGIES: Mr J Dallat
Mr J Kelly

IN THE CHAIR: Mr D Watson

IN ATTENDANCE: Mr T Evans, Mr E Hobson, Mr G Ballantine (Government Actuary’s Department), Ms M Mageean (NIA Freedom of Information Unit, Agenda Item 2), Mr S McCormick (Northern Ireland Audit Office, Agenda Items 4-5), Mrs K McCartney and Mr N Burns

  1. Minutes of meeting of 14 June 2005 were agreed.

The Minutes of the meeting of 14th June 2005 were agreed subject to the following amendment:

Item 6 Paragraph 3 to read, “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”.

  1. MATTERS ARISING FROM TRUSTEE MEETING 14 JUNE 2005 MINUTES DATED 15 MARCH

The Trustees agreed amendments to the minutes of 15 March as discussed at the meeting on 14 June 2005.

OUTSOURING

Mr Hobson informed the Trustees on the outcome of his recent meeting with Mr Neville Mackay, Chief Executive of the Scottish Public Pension’s Agency (SPPA).

Mr Hobson informed the Trustees that he had now received a letter from Mr Mackay outlining the proposed basis for the SPPA providing a pension administration service for the Assembly Members’ Pension Scheme.

The proposal is that the SPPA will undertake a pension administration service based on the service level agreement which mirrors the arrangement with the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body.

The preferred start date for this service would be 1 April 2006 with a minimum contract period of 3 years.

An initial set up cost of £7,000 would be charged with an annual fee thereafter of £5,000 per annum.

The Trustees asked for an assessment to be carried out on the value-for-money implications of outsourcing pension administration in comparison to retaining it in-house.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

Mairead Mageean from the NIA Freedom of Information Unit delivered a short presentation to the Trustees on the impact of the Freedom of Information Act upon the Assembly Members’ Pension Scheme (AMPS).

Ms Mageean informed the Trustees that the Act incorporates a publication scheme, which contains minutes of Pension Trustees meetings and the AMPS Annual Reports.

On responding to a query Ms Mageean confirmed that there have been no FoI requests received in the Assembly regarding the AMPS.

AVC FLEXIBILITY

This item was discussed at substantive Item 6.

RISK REGISTER

This item was discussed at substantive Item 5.

FROM TRUSTEE MEETING 15 MARCH 2005
INVESTMENT OPTIONS

This item was postponed until a future meeting.

  1. ACTUARIAL VALUATION

Mr Ballantine briefed the Trustees on the main points in the draft GAD valuation report, as at 31 March 2005, supporting the recommendation to increase Exchequer contributions from 21.3% to 23.3%.

It was agreed that the valuation report could now be finalised by GAD and forwarded to the Trustees.
On the request of the Trustees Mr Ballantine outlined the discontinuance position.

Mr Watson informed Mr Ballantine that the Swiss Life Insurance policy expires on 22 October 2005. As Swiss Life have confirmed their withdrawal from the UK market Mr Watson asked Mr Ballantine if GAD could review the position and advise them whether or not they still require death in service insurance cover, taking into account the size of the fund and the current funding level. Mr Ballantine’s initial thoughts were that the fund should be sufficient to cover the scenario of a death in service and agreed to provide a note advising the Trustees of the position.

Mr David McClarty excused himself from the meeting at this point.

(As a quorum was no longer present it was agreed that the meeting should continue informally)

  1. ANNUAL ACCOUNTS/ ANNUAL REPORT

Mr Stephen McCormick, Director from the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) was in attendance to discuss matters arising from the recent audit of the 2004-05 Annual Accounts.

Mr McCormick informed the Trustees that the accounts were well presented but wished to raise an issue regarding governance. Mr McCormick raised the issue of lack of evidence that the Trustees had challenged the apparent poor investment return of Royal London Asset Management (RLAM) during the period 1 April 2004 to 30 November 2004.

The Trustees however pointed out that officials from RLAM had been robustly challenged on the under performance of the fund on a number of occasions and that this would be reflected in their response to the NIAO Management Letter.

Mr McCormick also pointed out that it was now considered good practice to provide a combined Annual Report and Annual Accounts. 

Mr McCormick confirmed that the 2004-05 Annual Accounts would be laid in the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Business Office by the NIAO.

It was agreed by those Trustees present that the appropriate amendments would be made to the Annual Accounts and that a draft copy would be forwarded to all of the Trustees before signing off and passing to the NIAO.

  1. RISK REGISTER

Mr McCormick was content with the Risk Register although he suggested that the Trustees may wish to insert dates in the column titled Action Required. 

This suggestion was accepted by the Trustees present and a copy forwarded to absentees.

  1. AVC FLEXIBILITY

Mr Ballantine informed the Trustees that following A-day, on 5 April 2006, regulations would allow members some flexibility over the time when they can take their AVC benefits. A decision will have to be taken as to whether or not AMPS scheme rules should be changed to facilitate this at a later meeting when a quorum is in place.

  1. DATE OF NEXT MEETING

The Trustees agreed that the next meeting should be arranged for either Tuesday 6 or Tuesday 13 December 2005. Baillie Gifford will be invited to this meeting to discuss the performance of the fund.

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