Senior staff at the Toronto District School Board received $1.29 million in salary increases despite a wage freeze between March 2010 and August 2013, according to a forensic audit released by the province Tuesday.

The improper raises, as well as unapproved contracts and misspent funds, were contained in a damning audit conducted by Ernst and Young LLP.

Some of the key findings:

• Wages for senior staff and supervisors paid in excess of the wage freeze for the period between March 2010 to August 2013.

• Under procurement, 45 per cent of 20 sample transactions reviewed did not use a competitive bid process; almost half of those did not meet the approval requirements.

• 79 per cent of the transactions reviewed in the director’s office expenses did not use a competitive bid process.

• Potentially ineligible trustee expenses, including a duplicate reimbursement for home internet charges, purchase of a tablet computer for over $100 more than what is allowed, and hotel expenses for a one-night stay in a downtown Toronto hotel.

• $3.2 million in education programs spending may not have “been used in accordance” with ministry guidelines.

In addition, the report described a “culture of fear” within the organization, including staff who fear losing their job if they refuse to follow orders, even if they do not “comply with set policies.”

The report was initially requested in June by then-acting director Donna Quan. She has since been appointed permanently to the role, and has pledged to improve accountability within the organization.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Quan said the TDSB is taking the report’s findings and recommendations very seriously and carefully reviewing board policy and procedures.

“We recognize clearly the need for higher levels of fiscal responsibility,” Quan said, adding the public can expect to see the TDSB “raise the bar” in 2014 with respect to staff accountability, transparency and procurements.

“Every dollar must go into the classroom,” she said.

Quan said she is still reviewing the report in detail and therefore could not comment on whether staff who filed improper expense claims would be asked to pay them back.

Responding to allegations of a culture of fear among staff, Quan said there has been some “differences of opinions” on how issues are addressed at the board level, but added TDSB workers are in general “happy” in their work environment.