Blood service pension pot insolvent, CEO confirms

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has a €35m hole in its pension pot, up from €24m at the end of 2010.

The figure was confirmed by chief executive Andrew Kelly yesterday after publication of the state-sponsored body’s annual report and in advance of publishing its annual accounts.

Mr Kelly said the pension fund was “currently insolvent”, but the IBTS was in talks with the Department of Health in an attempt to resolve the issue.

“Obviously we have to resolve the funding issues. We can’t carry on like this. The implications of winding up the scheme are too great, clearly this is not on the horizon.”

Mr Kelly said discussions with the department were “at a sensitive stage”.

About 950 individuals, including both current and former employees, are members of the pension scheme. Of these, about 600 are active members while the remainder is comprised of both pensioners and former employees who left to work elsewhere but chose to defer their entitlements under the scheme until retirement age.

Writing in the 2011 annual report, Mr Kelly said the pension issue remained unresolved “despite significant efforts by the executive and the board”.

“This is impacting on staff across the organisation. It must be resolved in 2012 in the interests of staff morale and to bring certainty to the funding arrangements for the pension provision for all staff,” said Mr Kelly.

The Government has previously bailed out troubled pension funds of other semi-state bodies under the Financial Measures (Misc. Provisions) Act, with the taxpayer picking up the tab.

A spokesman for the health department said last night that it was in discussions with the IBTS board “on how best to resolve the issue of the deficit” and that “this may involve using a proportion of pension levy funds”.

In 2011, members of the IBTS board received more than €100,000 in directors’ fees.

Chair of the board, Katharine Bulbulia, received €20,520 in directors’ fees and €4,690 in expenses. Ms Bulbulia, a former senator, was programme manager to former tánaiste Mary Harney.

She is also a member of the Medical Council for which she received €7,696 in fees in 2011.


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