RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A state audit released Tuesday says the North Carolina Department of Public Safety did not ensure Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Funds were spent in accordance with legislative goals.

Click here to read the audit

The audit, performed by the Office of State Auditor Beth Wood (D), says the lack of design and implementation of procedures to help make sure funds were spent correctly “increased risk that recipients could have misused funds without the misuse being detected and corrected timely.”

“There’s just no accountability on how we’re getting these monies out in our disasters,” Wood said in an interview. “They need to put policies and procedures in place because hurricanes are not going to stop. And, this kind of spending is not going to stop.”

The North Carolina General Assembly enacted the Hurricane Florence Emergency Response Act in October 2018 – the month after the hurricane made landfall at Wrightsville Beach.

The act allocated $942.4 million to help the state recover from the storm.

Part of this act required DPS to ensure the funds were properly used.

The audit found more than that half – $502 million – was distributed with limited monitoring.

It also found that $783 million of the recovery funds were distributed without ensuring all recipients had a method to measure the results.

“We won’t know if $783 million accomplished everything that it could, that everybody got all the relief that they deserve,” said Wood. “Even though we’re sending this money out in an emergency, there should be some monitoring. People say, ‘Oh, we’ve got an emergency. We can’t monitor.’ We’ve got to figure that out. We have got to figure that out.”

Eddie M. Buffaloe, Jr., secretary of the Department of Public Safety, met with Wood Tuesday morning. He took over as secretary of the agency in late 2021, after the time period Wood analyzed for her audit.

Following their meeting, Buffaloe declined to answer questions about the report when asked by CBS 17.

He responded to the audit in a letter dated Mar. 29 saying that the department now uses a “Scope of Work” document to help monitor how funds are spent.

“Often, especially in natural disaster situations, specific needs are not clear to the General Assembly at the time they must act on a bill, so the outcome language may be vague,” he writes. He adds that there was “an absence of specifically articulated outcomes.”

Wood was critical of that response. She’s released a series of audits in recent weeks highlighting how money meant to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic also was not adequately tracked.

“I think the General Assembly frankly assumes that when they hand this money off to any recipient, any state agency, any university, any community college, that it’s just sort of common sense that they are going to make sure they gave you the money and you got everything you could out of it,” she said. “Getting in the mindset that it’s not just getting the dollars out the door to the right place but making sure that you’re accomplishing everything you should.”