September 15, 2017 / 6:57 PM / 10 months ago

UPDATE 1-Africa's biggest fund manager backs CEO, denies he misused funds

(Updates with pension fund statement)

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 15 (Reuters) - South Africa’s state-owned pension fund, the continent’s biggest money manager, backed its chief executive on Friday and dismissed newspaper reports he had misused funds and improperly raised salaries for some executives.

Daniel Matjila has been chief executive officer of Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which manages nearly 2 trillion rand ($150 billion) of civil servants’ pensions, since 2014.

Business Day reported on Friday that Matjila had been accused in a letter sent to PIC’s board of using funds reserved for corporate social investment to bankroll a business of someone close to him and of irregularly raising salaries of PIC executives.

Matjila told Reuters the allegations made by Business Day were “spurious”.

“They are trying to find a reason to suspend or fire me,” he said.

The PIC held a board meeting on Friday where Matjila made representations responding to the allegations against him.

“Following the meeting, the Board expressed its confidence in the ability and integrity of the CEO, Dr Daniel Matjila, management and staff of the PIC,” the fund said in a statement.

“The Board also noted media allegations prior to the meeting about its intention to remove the CEO. The Board wishes to reiterate that it rejects these allegations with the contempt they deserve.”

The PIC is seen as among the best-run of South Africa’s 300-odd state-owned companies and is the biggest investor in the economy. It holds a large chunk of government bonds and huge stakes in blue-chip companies such as miner Anglo American , lender Barclays Africa and grocer retailer Shoprite.

On Thursday, South Africa’s Treasury denied a report in another newspaper that it was about to fire Matjila, although Deputy Finance Minister and PIC chair Sfiso Buthelezi confirmed the board would seek “clarification from him on internal matters” at Friday’s meeting. ($1 = 13.1319 rand) (Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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