Monday 21 October 2019

Calls to reverse pension transfers for FG


FIANNA Fail has called for the reversal of an obscure regulation introduced by Fine Gael more than 20 years ago to enable employees of the political party to enhance pensions when they transferred to the public sector.

The former Fine Gael leader, John Bruton, signed a statutory instrument in 1987, while a government minister, to include Fine Gael in a public sector pension transfer scheme. No other political parties were included in the statute. As the name suggests, the Public Sector Transfer Network scheme was originally intended to allow people to take their pensionable years of service with them if they moved from job to job within the public service.

Mr Bruton used the statutory instrument to add Fine Gael to the scheme to help five members of the party's staff whose roles were being transferred to the public sector. The regulation enabled the Fine Gael staff to include their years of service with the party when their public sector pensions were being calculated. Fine Gael indicated this weekend that the regulation had not been used since it was introduced to benefit those five staff members.

The statute remains on the books, however.

Sean Fleming, the Fianna Fail spokesman on public sector reform, said it should be removed. Theoretically at least, the statute means Fine Gael staff that transfer to the public sector may include their years toiling for the party when their state pensions are being calculated.

However, Fine Gael said in a statement: "The inclusion of Fine Gael in the Public Service Transfer Network, relates to a change in procedure when Leinster House support staff were transferred from the party payroll to the Oireachtas payroll. At the time there were five staff involved who had been included in a Defined Benefit Pension Scheme run by Fine Gael."

It continued that Fine Gael staff were now on a different pension scheme -- defined contribution, as opposed to defined benefit -- and staff are not entitled to avail of the pension transfer scheme: "No other staff outside the original five have an entitlement to transfer service through The Public Service Transfer Network."

The statement added that any cost associated with the pension transfer is "billed to Fine Gael".

Mr Fleming said: "Fine Gael said that any cost is billed to Fine Gael. Was it billed? How much was billed and when was it paid?

"This seems to have been for Fine Gael only. Did Labour, their government partners, know about it?"

A Department of Finance spokesman said that private sector organisations can apply to join the Public Sector Transfer Network if they meet certain conditions. But only five private organisations have done so. Four of them are regional tourism companies and the fifth is Fine Gael.

Mr Bruton slipped in the statutory instrument on March 9, 1987, as Minister for Public Affairs, the day before the Fine Gael/Labour coalition was dissolved.

Sunday Independent

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