Detailed Information on the
Delta Regional Authority Assessment

Program Code 10002336
Program Title Delta Regional Authority
Department Name Delta Regional Authority
Agency/Bureau Name Delta Regional Authority
Program Type(s) Competitive Grant Program
Assessment Year 2008
Assessment Rating Adequate
Assessment Section Scores
Section Score
Program Purpose & Design 80%
Strategic Planning 50%
Program Management 90%
Program Results/Accountability 26%
Program Funding Level
(in millions)
FY2007 $12
FY2008 $12
FY2009 $6

Ongoing Program Improvement Plans

Year Began Improvement Plan Status Comments

Work with Independent Evaluator to create and implement an appropriate high quality evaluation to assess program effectiveness.

Action taken, but not completed

Create and implement transparent project selection process

Action taken, but not completed Work with member states to create and implement a transparent and competitive project selection process.

Completed Program Improvement Plans

Year Began Improvement Plan Status Comments

Produce annual performance measures.


Program Performance Measures

Term Type  
Long-term/Annual Output

Measure: Jobs Created and/or Retained


Year Target Actual
2003 131 220
2004 3671 1729
2005 1992 3438
2006 4128 5214
2007 2534 2235
2008 2587
2009 2187
2010 2235
2011 2206
2012 2364
Long-term/Annual Output

Measure: People Who Gained Employment from Training in their Area.


Year Target Actual
2003 53 70
2004 0 0
2005 2566 962
2006 833 1446
2007 821 359
2008 645
2009 126
2010 254
2011 436
2012 510
Annual Efficiency

Measure: Average time to determine Federal grant project eligibility of pre-applications from Local Development District.


Year Target Actual
2006 Baseline 35
2007 30 36
2008 30 30
2009 30
2010 30
2011 29
Annual Efficiency

Measure: Average time from receipt of full grant applications from states to disposition.


Year Target Actual
2004 Baseline 32
2005 30 30
2006 29 32
2007 29 51
2008 28
2009 28
2010 28
Annual Efficiency

Measure: Ratio of grant administrative expenses for salaries and fringe benefits to project grant dollars.


Year Target Actual
2005 Baseline 1:28
2006 1:30 1:55
2007 1:30 1:44
2008 1:30
2009 1:30
2010 1:30
2011 1:30
2012 1:30
Annual Efficiency

Measure: Cost Per Job Created


Year Target Actual
2002 NA 464
2003 NA 1018
2004 NA 686
2005 NA 1759
2006 NA 2829
2007 NA 5755
2008 5250
2009 4550
2010 4250
2011 4250

Questions/Answers (Detailed Assessment)

Section 1 - Program Purpose & Design
Number Question Answer Score

Is the program purpose clear?

Explanation: The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) was established as a Federal-State partnership to assist the eight-state, 240-county Mississippi Delta region in obtaining the economic development essential to create and sustain strong local economies. DRA assists economically distressed communities to leverage other federal and state programs which are focused on basic infrastructure development and transportation improvements, business development, and job training services.

Evidence: Enabling Legislation, P.L. 106-554.

YES 20%

Does the program address a specific and existing problem, interest, or need?

Explanation: DRA must spend at least 75% of its federally-appropriated funds in economically distressed counties, parishes, and areas. The counties included in DRA's statute, consistently have higher poverty and unemployment rates, and lower per capita income, as compared to the national average. For example, in 2003 the national poverty rate was 12.5%, compared to 17.8% in DRA counties. DRA targets distressed counties, defined in statute as "the most severely and persistently distressed and underdeveloped [with] high rates of poverty or unemployment." Of the 240 counties in the region, 227 are distressed.

Evidence: Enabling Legislation P.L. 106-554, Distressed Counties listed at: http://www.dra.gov/state-grant-funding/fy2008/distressed_counties.aspx.

YES 20%

Is the program designed so that it is not redundant or duplicative of any other Federal, state, local or private effort?

Explanation: DRA is recognized for the constructive role it plays as a regional coordinator of Federal investments in areas of high stress, particularly in rural areas, within the Mississippi Delta region. However, this region of the country receives grant funding for economic development, health care, and job training from several other Federal sources. In 2000, GAO identified 73 federal programs that can be used for economic development activities. Many of these programs cover rural and urban populations, and provide grants for the same activities as DRA, such as infrastructure and workforce development and strengthening civic capacity.

Evidence: GAO report is available at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/r200220.pdf. Duplicative Federal programs include the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration, Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Administration, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant program, the Department of Health and Human Service's Community Economic Development Program and Department of Labor's Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development Grant Program.

NO 0%

Is the program design free of major flaws that would limit the program's effectiveness or efficiency?

Explanation: DRA works collaboratively with the States and local development districts to identify projects of regional significance, with at least 75 percent of its funds aimed at distressed areas. However, while the program design is currently adequate in most respects, DRA's original voting structure which is scheduled by statute to resume on January 1, 2009, provides the Federal member (and Co-Chairman) a vote equal to each of the region's State members therefore relinquishing the veto authority that he (or she) has under the current "temporary" method of voting that is in place until that date. In addition, the method of appointing the membership of the DRA raises a constitutional concern. Specifically, the Authority's authorizing statute provides that the DRA shall be composed of a Federal member, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and the Governors of each participating state (or their designees). This raises a Constitutional concern because the Authority exercises delegated sovereign authority on a continuing basis, yet the State members are not appointed in conformity with the Appointments Clause of the Constitution.

Evidence: FY 2007 Performance Accountability Report; Enabling legislation, P.L. 106-554; 2006 GAO report on "Rural Economic Development" available at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06294.pdf and "Statement on Signing H.R. 2646, the 'Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002'". May 13, 2002 (/news/releases/2002/05/20020513-5.html).

YES 20%

Is the program design effectively targeted so that resources will address the program's purpose directly and will reach intended beneficiaries?

Explanation: Per DRA's authorizing legislation, at least 75 percent of DRA appropriations must go to distressed counties. In FY2007, 94 percent of grants went to distressed counties and isolated areas of distress, as did 93 percent in FY2006, 96 percent in FY2005, 89 percent in FY2004, 97 percent in FY2003, and 91 percent in FY2002.

Evidence: DRA Federal Grant Profile http://www.dra.gov/pdfs/FGP_Profile_JBook_2007.pdf, and DRA Enabling Legislation, P.L. 106-554.

YES 20%
Section 1 - Program Purpose & Design Score 80%
Section 2 - Strategic Planning
Number Question Answer Score

Does the program have a limited number of specific long-term performance measures that focus on outcomes and meaningfully reflect the purpose of the program?

Explanation: In order for DRA to monitor its effectiveness, it compiles performance outcome data on an annual and long term basis for economic development in particular areas within its region. DRA has created two transparent and accountable performance targets which are considered both annual and long-term measures (annual/long term): 1) Jobs created and/or retained and 2) People who gained employment after receiving job training in their area. DRA projects these targets over the long term in five year increments, using grantee annual projections as targets.

Evidence: Delta Regional Authority's "Clarification Notes" available at http://www.dra.gov/state-grant-funding/fy2008/clarification_notes.aspx; Federal Grant Profile 2002-2007 available at http://www.dra.gov/pdfs/FY%202009%20J-book.pdf.

YES 12%

Does the program have ambitious targets and timeframes for its long-term measures?

Explanation: Although DRA has long-term measures in place, its targets are not ambitious. In both measures, five-year targets decrease instead of increase. This may be related to the Authority's fluctuating appropriations and yearly project mix. DRA is working to ensure project deliverables are more consistent and ambitious.

Evidence: See measures section.

NO 0%

Does the program have a limited number of specific annual performance measures that can demonstrate progress toward achieving the program's long-term goals?

Explanation: DRA has established short-term performance measures directed at its core efforts and legislatively mandated mission. DRA's stated priorities consist of basic public infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, business and workforce development. To measure progress with respect to these priorities, DRA measures its efforts for each project in terms of jobs created or retained and numbers of people that gained employment after training in new or improved job skills. DRA believes that each of these factors contribute positively toward DRA's short and long term goal of the elimination of pockets of poverty in the 240 county and parish region covered by DRA.

Evidence: See measures section.

YES 12%

Does the program have baselines and ambitious targets for its annual measures?

Explanation: DRA has established three annual measures based upon fundamental programmatic goals. DRA annual targets are projected based on a combination of projects in progress and anticipated future levels of funding. Due to unaccountable project deliverables during the first few years of operation, where an unrealistic number of deliverables were promised and then not achieved, DRA's annual targets lack consistency and do not show continued performance improvement. Although DRA has since instituted a stronger oversight process of grantees and their deliverables, annual targets remain inconsistent. DRA is working to make project deliverables more consistent, accountable and ambitious.

Evidence: See measures section.

NO 0%

Do all partners (including grantees, sub-grantees, contractors, cost-sharing partners, and other government partners) commit to and work toward the annual and/or long-term goals of the program?

Explanation: DRA prepares and releases annual Federal Grants Program guidelines. DRA then receives project pre-applications from the local development districts (LDDs), and the Federal Co-chair determines Federal eligibility. Eligible projects are forwarded to the State governors, who then select projects for full consideration by the DRA Board. Projects selected by the States must conform to their State plans, which are tied to the program goals of DRA. DRA grantees must report the number of deliverables at the completion of the project. In addition, the DRA Board will soon release its second Comprehensive Action Plan ("Regional Development Plan II"). Accordingly, DRA states will be required to prepare new state plans, such that they will then be in conformity with the Board overall plan for the region.

Evidence: Enabling Legislation, P.L. 106-554. Also, see http://www.dra.gov/state-grant-funding/ for state requirements including, grants timelines and instructions, eligibility rules, performance measurement guidelines, and administrative requirements.

YES 12%

Are independent evaluations of sufficient scope and quality conducted on a regular basis or as needed to support program improvements and evaluate effectiveness and relevance to the problem, interest, or need?

Explanation: No independent evaluations of sufficient scope and quality have been conducted to date. However, DRA is in discussions with their Certified Public Accounting firm to design and implement a high quality evaluation to ascertain program impact, effectiveness and relevance.

Evidence: DRA's 2008 Regional Development Plan

NO 0%

Are Budget requests explicitly tied to accomplishment of the annual and long-term performance goals, and are the resource needs presented in a complete and transparent manner in the program's budget?

Explanation: In an effort to show performance accountability and transparency, DRA distributes annually to members of Congress and the President, a fully detailed budget justification that includes DRA's budget request for funding broken down by administrative expenses with the remaining dollars allocated to the DRA Federal Grant Program. However, DRA's budget request does not reflect the relationship between budget and performance. The DRA budget does not link funding requests to specific performance targets or indicate how specified allocations of resources could affect performance. DRA is working towards integrating these two aspects now that they have strong annual/long term measures in place.

Evidence: Delta Regional Authority FY2008 and FY2009 Budget Justification.

NO 0%

Has the program taken meaningful steps to correct its strategic planning deficiencies?

Explanation: DRA's first Comprehensive Action Plan in 2002 was overly ambitious and focused on areas outside the scope of an agency of its size. DRA will soon release its second 5-year Regional Development Plan which it believes presents a more appropriate strategic direction. The plan is tied closely to the Agency's current annual/long term performance measures of job creation and training and will also focus on private sector investment spurred by DRA investment. DRA will work with states to coordinate their associated strategic plan. DRA will also continue to emphasize multi-state planning and coordinating of regional investments from other public and private institutions.

Evidence: DRA's 2008 Regional Development Plan

YES 12%
Section 2 - Strategic Planning Score 50%
Section 3 - Program Management
Number Question Answer Score

Does the agency regularly collect timely and credible performance information, including information from key program partners, and use it to manage the program and improve performance?

Explanation: DRA collects timely and credible program information and has taken steps to make grantees more accountable for deliverables. For instance, DRA instituted a new, more stringent private entity participation agreement and requires that grantees supply quarterly progress reports. In addition, DRA requires Local Development Districts to perform a site visit of all projects and submit an evaluation. Although, DRA's projected targets for both outcome measures continue to fluctuate up and down, some of this may be influenced by DRA's fluctuating appropriation levels during the first few years of operation and continued unpredictable mixture of projects funded each year. Since DRA receives the initial list of applicable projects from member states, the Agency does not always have control over the final mix of projects, whether it is a majority of training or projects focused on water and sewer infrastructure. Now that DRA is officially tracking outcome based annual/long term measures and funding levels appear steady, it can begin to formulate more objective and useful program decisions to effectively improve performance across the board.

Evidence: See DRA's Private Entity Participation Agreement at the following site: http://www.dra.gov/pdfs/Participation%20Agreement%2010-2-07.pdf, and the LDD Evaluation.

YES 10%

Are Federal managers and program partners (including grantees, sub-grantees, contractors, cost-sharing partners, and other government partners) held accountable for cost, schedule and performance results?

Explanation: DRA's newly updated Participation Agreement firmly holds each program partner accountable for cost, schedule and performance results. Additionally, the DRA Federal Grant Program Agreement holds all grantees accountable for the same measures. In the event that the performance results are not achieved, these documents have provisions to reclaim a percentage of the total grant awarded. In addition, all contractors are bound by a Contractual Agreement, which is upheld by the DRA Contract Manager and the DRA designated program manager. Dependent on the size of the contract, a full scope audit may be conducted by an independent source to assure the adherence to the contract deliverables. If deliverables are not met in the timeframe listed in the contract, a percentage of the reimbursement is withheld until the proper documentation is provided.

Evidence: DRA Private Entity Participation Agreement and DRA Federal Grant Program Agreement.

YES 10%

Are funds (Federal and partners') obligated in a timely manner, spent for the intended purpose and accurately reported?

Explanation: DRA grant contracts include a clause that enables DRA to withdraw obligations if projects are not started within 18 months. To ensure funds are spent for approved project activities only, all grant payments are reviewed by the Project Coordinator, who in turn recommends payment to the Director of Federal Programs. The Director of Federal Programs reviews the request and documentation and approves or rejects payment. Project grant disbursements are reported to the Board of Directors monthly by project and amount of disbursement, to substantiate that funds are obligated for the intended purpose, and also ensure a small unobligated balance at the end of the fiscal year. DRA also requires quarterly financial and project updates from grantees to ensure projects are on schedule and funds are being spent for approved activities. After GAO determined that DRA was not reporting obligations to FAADS, DRA provided the missing data and regularly reports such to the Census Bureau.

Evidence: DRA Monthly Grant Position Reports; Clarifications Notes http://www.dra.gov/state-grant-funding/fy2008/clarification_notes.aspx; GAO report available at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06294.pdf; Project Performance Activity Reports http://www.dra.gov/pdfs/Qtr_Report_requirements_DRA_grants.pdf.

YES 10%

Does the program have procedures (e.g. competitive sourcing/cost comparisons, IT improvements, appropriate incentives) to measure and achieve efficiencies and cost effectiveness in program execution?

Explanation: DRA works closely with other Federal economic development agencies to coordinate its grant-making in an effort to learn best practices and avoid inefficient uses of its resources. DRA currently utilizes three efficiency measures which track grant processing times, the ratio of administrative expenses to grant dollars, and the time it takes to determine grant eligibility. DRA is working to improve their progress and effectiveness in these three areas. DRA has also started tracking a cost efficiency measure which will help bring more attention to this objective.

Evidence: DRA Fiscal Year 2007 Performance and Accountability Report, DRA's 2008 Regional Development Plan.

YES 10%

Does the program collaborate and coordinate effectively with related programs?

Explanation: DRA is charged with improving Federal and state assistance to the Mississippi Delta region. The Authority regularly coordinates with other Federal agencies, States, and local development districts to identify regional priorities and coordinate funding to those initiatives. For example, DRA has identified rising diabetes and other negative health trends as a major impediment to economic progress in the Delta region. DRA therefore began its "Healthy Delta" initiative, in which DRA is working with the region's eight governors.

Evidence: Memorandums of Agreement between DRA and the Under Secretary of USDA for Rural Development and local development districts; FY 2007 Performance Accountability Report; Federal Grant Program Profile http://www.dra.gov/pdfs/FGP_Profile_JBook_2007.pdf.

YES 10%

Does the program use strong financial management practices?

Explanation: DRA reviews all documentation forwarded by the administering agency for accuracy, and DRA is working to implement a system to monitor the administering entity. In addition, DRA uses GSA's Administration Finance Center to assist in accounting and financial management practices. DRA is audited under the guidelines set forth by the Accountability for Tax Dollars Act, and the FY 2007 Performance Accountability Report's independent auditor's report found no material weaknesses. Grantees are required to provide DRA with quarterly Financial Status Reports. In each of DRA's five annual Performance Accountability Report's, DRA has received an unqualified audit opinion, from an independent CPA firm.

Evidence: USDA OIG Audit, Fiscal Years 2001-2004, http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/62099-1-AT-REDACTED.pdf, http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/62099-1-TE.pdf; Fiscal Year 2007 Performance Accountability Report; Financial Status Reports http://www.dra.gov/pdfs/SF269.pdf; Smith, Turner & Reeves study on DRA financial reporting practices and other program specific audits.

YES 10%

Has the program taken meaningful steps to address its management deficiencies?

Explanation: The USDA OIG audit of DRA for Fiscal Years 2001-2003 identified some weaknesses with respect to grant management practices. In response, DRA strengthened its oversight capabilities, hiring additional program staff, and strengthened its review of reports from its Federal grant partners. In addition, DRA is acknowledged as a strong regional coordinator and planner of Federal investment in the Mississippi Delta region. For example, DRA partnered with the Department of Labor and USDA to fund training programs to support an emerging automotive industrial cluster in Northwest Arkansas.

Evidence: USDA OIG Audit, Fiscal Years 2001-2004, http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/62099-1-AT-REDACTED.pdf, http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/62099-1-TE.pdf; Fiscal Year 2007 Performance Accountability Report.

YES 10%

Are grants awarded based on a clear competitive process that includes a qualified assessment of merit?

Explanation: While DRA sets the priorities for funding, a clear, competitive process for project selection does not occur. Each year, DRA prepares and releases Federal Grants Program guidelines. DRA receives project pre-applications from the local development districts (LDDs), and the Federal Co-chair determines Federal eligibility under DRA's statue. Eligible projects are forwarded to the State governors, who then select projects for full consideration by the DRA Board. While the Federal Co-chair has final veto authority over project approval, it is the States that select projects under plans linked to DRA strategic goals. Meanwhile, it is unclear what kind of a ranking system the States use to select projects. DRA should work with the States to ensure their project selection processes include independent merit review and ranking of applications.

Evidence: Enabling legislation; Section 506 of P.L. 108-447, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005.

NO 0%

Does the program have oversight practices that provide sufficient knowledge of grantee activities?

Explanation: DRA ensures accountability with its statute and regulations of the project, while the partner federal agencies ensure project progress and compliance with its specific grant program. DRA Project Coordinators review quarterly project status reports on activities of the previous quarter, including obstacles and remedial actions, and projected activities for the coming quarter. Project Coordinators also conduct random project site visits to audit grantee performance, and complete a site visit checklist and write a site visit report. Expenditures are reported to the Board of Directors monthly by project and amount of disbursement. Quarterly project status reports verify that funds are being spent for their intended purpose.

Evidence: Reimbursement Checklist Report; Monthly Grant Position Reports; Site Visit Log; Quarterly Project Status Report http://www.dra.gov/pdfs/Qtr_Report_requirements_DRA_grants.pdf.

YES 10%

Does the program collect grantee performance data on an annual basis and make it available to the public in a transparent and meaningful manner?

Explanation: DRA maintains a database that collects and reports all performance data on an annual basis. The information from this database is used to create a report, called the Federal Grant Program Profile which consists of several different reports including, summaries of funding priorities/eligibility, basic project information and funding levels for chosen projects. Information is organized by state and by Congressional District. The Profile document is published every February in hardcopy as well as placed on the DRA website. The database is further copied to a CD ROM and distributed to Congress and DRA partners. DRA is working to use this report along with the data gathered from its three performance measures to set substantive goals towards more consistent performance levels.

Evidence: Federal Grant Program Profile http://www.dra.gov/pdfs/FY%202009%20J-book.pdf.

YES 10%
Section 3 - Program Management Score 90%
Section 4 - Program Results/Accountability
Number Question Answer Score

Has the program demonstrated adequate progress in achieving its long-term performance goals?

Explanation: DRA developed long term performance measures (in five-year increments) that directly address mission critical achievements, such as job creation and retention. DRA has taken several steps to ensure partner performance towards achieving these long term goals and utilizes the expertise of an independent auditor to analyze expected versus actual project deliverables to help ensure accountability. DRA recently met one out of two long term targets and several of its next long term targets are at a lower level than the first, indicating a downward level of achievement and lower level of performance. Now that DRA's grant management and oversight is fully in place, the Authority should work towards setting and achieving more ambitious and consistent long term performance goals.

Evidence: See measures section and DRA's 2008 Regional Development Plan.


Does the program (including program partners) achieve its annual performance goals?

Explanation: DRA has the fundamental infrastructure in place to collect and track annual performance data. However, DRA struggles to meet the annual targets of its two measures, job creation and retention, and most importantly, lacks a consistent and ambitious projection of performance for the out years. This uncertain performance may be due to inconsistent appropriation levels and the Agency's fluctuation in project mix per year. DRA is aggressively pursuing its job related targets and is re-accessing the lack of performance and its internal policies related to jobs achieved through workforce training.

Evidence: See measures section and Grant Program Profile http://www.dra.gov/pdfs/FGP_Profile_JBook_2007.pdf.


Does the program demonstrate improved efficiencies or cost effectiveness in achieving program goals each year?

Explanation: DRA operates with a relatively small staff, resulting in employees who carry out multiple activities. For the majority of projects, DRA relies on its Federal partners to manage day-to-day administration. DRA ensures accountability with its statute and regulations, while the agencies ensure project progress and compliance. However, DRA only met one out of four efficiency measure targets. DRA is assessing internal policy and whether or not a reengineering of certain processes is in order. The fluctuation of DRA's cost efficiency measure which tracks the cost per DRA job created may be due to shifting funding levels. As DRA becomes a more seasoned agency, they are working towards creating realistic and ambitious targets and generally better aligning targets with actual performance results.

Evidence: Delta Regional Authority Fiscal Year 2007 Performance and Accountability Report.


Does the performance of this program compare favorably to other programs, including government, private, etc., with similar purpose and goals?

Explanation: No systematic evaluations comparing DRA program performance to other economic development programs have been conducted. Also, there are no unified measures across all economic development programs, making it difficult for a quality comparison. However, several features of DRA, including its focus on projects of regional significance, its leveraging of other government and private sector dollars, and coordination of Federal investment, are similar to other economic development programs. DRA is also focusing on fundamental outcomes like job creation and will soon officially track private investment. In addition, DRA's resources are well targeted to the region's most distressed communities.

Evidence: Delta Regional Authority Fiscal Year 2007 Performance and Accountability Report; DRA Enabling Legislation, P.L. 106-554; DRA's 2008 Regional Development Plan.


Do independent evaluations of sufficient scope and quality indicate that the program is effective and achieving results?

Explanation: No evaluations of sufficient scope and quality have been conducted. However, DRA is working with an independent Certified Public Accounting firm to design and conduct such an evaluation.

Evidence: DRA's 2008 Regional Development Plan.

NO 0%
Section 4 - Program Results/Accountability Score 26%

Last updated: 09092008.2008SPR