Auditors under fire to be given pensions guidance

Since the Pensions Act 1995 took effect in 1997, more and more auditors have been being disciplined by the institutes. Despite efforts to educate members of their new auditing responsibilities, trustees and auditors of pension schemes claim there is still a lack of guidance on the issue.

Ian Plaistow, chairman of the Auditing Practices Board said the guidance report would seek to remind auditors of their responsibilities and would not necessarily contain anything new.

‘It aims to highlight previous guidance so auditors fully understand their duties,’ he said. ‘Only when you see the effects of a new act through experience, can you ensure guidance covers all the points.’

Opra, the occupational pensions regulatory authority, has referred an increasing number cases to the institutes.

Michelle Mullen, the Scots ICA’s legal services advisor, said: ‘The Scots institute has been proactive in providing information on members. As a whole the institute and especially the member services department have taken significant steps to ensure that registered auditors understand they have a duty to report to Opra under Section 48.’

Since the Pension Act 1995 came into force in April 1997, auditors’ responsibilities have been increased.

Section 48 of the Act stipulates that trustees and auditors of pension schemes must by law inform Opra of any anomalies within seven months of the scheme’s year end. But, confusion over interpretation of the Pensions Act continues to be an issue.

According to Opra’s annual report 1998/99, 13,107 cases were referred to regulatory staff for further investigation, a 37% increase on the previous year.

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