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NC did not properly track Florence Disaster Recovery Funds: Audit

RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) — A state audit released Tuesday says the North Carolina Department of Public Safety failed to ensure Hurricane Florence recovery funds were spent in line with government goals.

Click here to read the exam

The audit, conducted by Office of State Auditor Beth Wood (D), states that the failure to design and implement procedures to ensure proper use of funds “has increased the risk that recipients may have misused funds without timely detection of the misuse and corrected.”

“There’s just no accountability for how we get those funds out of our disasters,” Wood said in an interview. “They need to put policies and procedures in place because hurricanes aren’t going to stop. And that kind of spending isn’t going to stop.”

The North Carolina General Assembly passed the Hurricane Florence Emergency Response Act in October 2018 — a month after Hurricane struck Wrightsville Beach.

The law provided $942.4 million to help the state recover from the storm.

Part of that law required DPS to ensure funds were used properly.

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

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

“We won’t know if $783 million did everything it could to give everyone the relief they deserve,” Wood said. “Although we send this money out in an emergency, there should be some monitoring. People say, ‘Oh, we have an emergency. We can’t monitor.’ We need to find out. We have to find out.”

Eddie M. Buffaloe, Jr., secretary of the Department of Public Safety, met with Wood Tuesday morning. He took over as the agency’s secretary in late 2021, following the period Wood analyzed for their review.

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

He responded to the audit in a letter dated March 29, saying the department is now using a “scope of work” document to help monitor how the funds are being spent.

“Often, particularly in natural disaster situations, specific needs are not clear to the General Assembly when deciding on legislation, so outcome language can be vague,” he writes. He adds that “there was a lack of specifically articulated results”.

Wood criticized this reaction. It has released a series of audits in recent weeks highlighting that money intended to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic was also not being adequately tracked.

“I think the general assembly, frankly, assumes that if they’re going to give that money to a recipient, a state agency, a university, a community college, it’s just a kind of common sense to make sure they give you the money and you did everything you could,” she said. “Remember that it’s not just about putting the dollars in the right place, it’s about making sure you accomplish everything you should be doing.”

https://www.cbs17.com/news/north-carolina-news/nc-didnt-track-florence-disaster-recovery-funds-properly-audit/ NC did not properly track Florence Disaster Recovery Funds: Audit

DUSTIN JONES

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