(Adds quotes, details)
JOHANNESBURG, Oct 6 (Reuters) - South Africa’s finance minister ordered the government pension fund on Friday to investigate possible irregularities at the fund to help ally concerns that politicians are trying to “influence” it.
The Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which holds a large chunk of government bonds and stakes in leading South African companies, has come under the public spotlight after reports that the finance ministry had requested 100 billion rand ($7 billion) from the fund to bail out struggling state firms.
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has denied making such a request, which drew sharp criticism from opposition parties and civil society.
Gigaba said in a statement on Friday he was concerned about the “politicisation” of the PIC and asked its management to conduct a “forensic investigation” into its operations.
“We need to assure pension holders that those with political or economic power will not be allowed to unduly influence the PIC,” Gigaba said.
Gigaba also asked the PIC to provide a list of all its beneficiaries and the investments it has made.
The PIC, which was given two weeks to respond to Gigaba’s request, could not immediately comment on the matter.
The PIC board said last week its chief executive Daniel Matjila had been cleared of any wrongdoing following an internal audit triggered by allegations that he had allocated funds improperly.
$1 = 13.7145 rand Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by James Macharia and Gareth Jones