Toronto's auditor general has found "no evidence of any lack of integrity" nor any evidence of "political interference" after allegations by a transit riders' group that claimed city council was given misleading information in the planning of the Scarborough subway extension in the summer of 2016.

In February, a group called Scarborough Transit Action (STA) alleged the TTC provided a briefing note to council that had inflated the cost of the seven-stop light rail plan to $2.7 billion in an effort to get councillors to vote for the subway extension instead. 

City council went on to vote 28-15 against reverting to the LRT option for replacing the aging Scarborough RT line. 

That note, auditor general Beverly Romeo-Beehler said in a review released Friday, was "within an acceptable range," given the stage of the project at the time," adding that the figures were highlighted as estimates only.

Recommendations would 'prevent similar situations'

But the review also found 'deficiencies" in the way the note was distributed, and made a number of recommendations "to prevent similar situations from arising in the future."

They include the TTC CEO providing more clarity around the assumptions being relied on when using information in briefing notes, establishing when it is appropriate to share such notes, creating a public online repository not unlike the one maintained by the City of Vancouver, and ensuring distribution protocols align with that of the city.

'We unfortunately anticipated that the report would stop short of finding any politicization or wrongdoing.' - Scarborough Transit Action riders' group

TTC management accepted those recommendations, the report said.

But on Friday, the group that lodged the complaint criticized the report, saying it stopped short of a "value-for-money" audit to determine if the funding used for Scarborough subway was in fact worth it.

"It should have been performed and should be done right away, because huge sums of public money have already been spent on this and the costs are multiplying quickly," said the STA's Brenda Thompson in a statement released after the report was made public.

The subway extension's price tag was last projected to be $3.35 billion, up from a previous estimate of $3.2 billion.

'Nothing but integrity and professionalism'

"We unfortunately anticipated that the report would stop short of finding any politicization or wrongdoing by Toronto Mayor John Tory or TTC CEO Andy Byford because we were told by the auditor general's investigator back in April that Byford wanted the report made public," said group member Rosemary Frei in the same statement, saying that fact suggested to her that Byford "must have known he'd be exonerated."

In a statement Friday, Byford thanked Romeo-Beehler for the review, saying he asked for the matter to be publicly reported on "because I knew ... that I and my staff had acted with nothing but integrity and professionalism."

Byford went on to explain he could not recall when asked by the media why the inclusion of costs were added to the note, but that in fact the project manager at the time suggested including them in the note.

"The auditor general's report serves as a reminder to us all of the importance of waiting for an accountability officer's findings before repeating unfounded allegations in public forums."

Byford did acknowledge the distribution of briefing notes could be improved, saying the TTC has implemented measures to ensure any future briefing note is distributed to city council by the transit agency's clerk.