12/10/2013 03:57 EST | Updated 02/09/2014 05:59 EST

TDSB senior staff salaries went up $1.29M during wage freeze

The Toronto District School Board paid some of its senior staff members more than $1 million beyond the total salaries they would have received had a wage freeze had been followed, according to the findings of a newly released forensic audit.

Ernst and Young began conducting a forensic audit in June at the request of the Ministry of Education. It was completed earlier this month and handed a 51-page report into the ministry.

During the course of their audit, Ernst and Young also found that the TDSB had potentially spent $3.2 million of government funds in a way that was not in accordance with ministry regulations.

Those funds had been part of a ministry grant, which the auditors found were not spent directly on specific projects as the ministry requires and which the school board did not obtain written permission from the ministry to do.

On the wage-freeze issue, auditors examined whether $1.29 million in salary increases offered to senior management and supervisory staff were justified by changes in the responsibilities of those individuals over the past two years.

The auditors found that salary increases were supported under such criteria, but they were not in line with the spirit of a wage-freeze the provincial government had enacted throughout the broader public sector.

Audit began in June

The ministry had asked Ernst and Young to conduct a forensic audit of the school board’s financial practices, which was prompted by concerns raised by the TDSB's acting director.

Auditors also looked at the way the board handled its internal audits, as well as the financial reports the TDSB passed on to the ministry in recent years. Other issues the auditors examined included the procurement practices used in selected contracts and expenses filed by the director’s office.

Education Minister Liz Sandals released a statement Tuesday, thanking the auditors for their work and calling on the TDSB to act on the auditors’ recommendations in a timely manner.

"The ministry will work with the board to finalize a plan early in the new year that will outline how the board will address the concerns raised in the report," Sandals said in the statement.

The TDSB has had a rocky year after the departure of former director Chris Spence, who resigned from his job in the midst of a plagiarism scandal.

The board’s then-deputy director, Donna Quan, became the acting TDSB director and subsequently notified the ministry of her concerns about the TDSB and its financial practices.

Quan became the board’s permanent executive director in October.