RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The North Carolina Department of Insurance failed to fully verify that some volunteer fire departments were eligible for millions of dollars in grants before awarding them money, a state audit found.

A report from State Auditor Beth Wood on Thursday said DOI awarded $56.2 million in Volunteer Fire Department Fund grants from January 2021 through October 2022 with limited verification that those departments were eligible to receive them.

Of that, $18.5 million was awarded with limited verification that those departments were the ones most in need of the money.

The audit also found DOI did not award those grants “fairly and equitably” to eligible departments and did not follow the policy that requires supporting documentation before those funds are disbursed.

The report said DOI should verify the information self-reported by those volunteer fire departments selected for need-based grants, should hire enough staff to perform that verification and should follow the policies it had previously established.

In response, Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey said his department does verify “eligibility and need for every grant it awards” but adds that “we disagree that all self-reported information should be independently verified.”

The report says DOI did not follow its policy in disbursing 28 grants worth $495,315 without receiving the paperwork to show how the money would be used to purchase equipment or make capital improvements.

But Causey says his agency determined that only $28,506 — or, 6 percent — of the total amount of grants awarded.