Mississippi – December 10, 2009

The content below was excerpted from the Mississippi Appendix (PDF, 16 pages) of GAO's fourth bimonthly review of the Recovery Act.[1]

Contents

What We Did

We reviewed two programs funded under the Recovery Act—the Highway Infrastructure Investment Program and Public Housing. We selected these programs to follow up on projects we reported on in our earlier reports. Our work focused on the status of program funding, the programs’ use of funds, and other issues. As part of our review of public housing, we revisited two housing agencies, one in Picayune and another in Gulfport. For descriptions and requirements of the programs covered in our review, see appendix XVIII of GAO-10-232SP.

To gain an understanding of the state’s experience in meeting Recovery Act reporting requirements, we examined documents prepared by, and held discussions with, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT). As a prime recipient[2] of Recovery Act funds, MDOT is required to report quarterly on a number of measures, including the use of funds and estimates of the number of jobs created and retained. The first quarterly reports were due in October 2009. We focused our work on MDOT’s methodology for collecting data, particularly job creation and retention data, and on MDOT’s experience in preparing the October report.

Our work in Mississippi also included meeting with officials of three Mississippi cities to determine the amount of Recovery Act funds each has received, or will receive, directly from federal agencies and to learn how those funds are being used. We chose to visit the cities of Jackson, Meridian, and Vicksburg. We selected Jackson because its unemployment rate was below the state’s average, and it is one of the larger cities in Mississippi. We selected Meridian and Vicksburg because both are smaller cities with unemployment rates higher than the state’s average.

What We Found

Highway Infrastructure Investment

As of October 31, 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has obligated $301 million and reimbursed to Mississippi $69 million of the $355 million of Recovery Act funds apportioned to the state. The state is using most of the obligated funds for interstate and state road projects that MDOT plans and administers and secondary road and bridge projects that the Mississippi Office of State-Aid Road Construction oversees. In commenting on MDOT’s selection of state-wide Recovery Act projects, MDOT’s Executive Director said that the Recovery Act’s requirement that priority be given to projects projected for completion within 3 years limited Mississippi’s ability to fund projects that would have produced lasting economic impacts. Finally, we found that FHWA has obligated little of the estimated $45 million that MDOT has set aside for projects planned by local public agencies (counties and cities), largely because these entities have been slow to plan Recovery Act projects. However, the State Local Public Agency (LPA) Engineer believes that the counties and cities will have these projects ready for obligation before March 2, 2010, the date on which unobligated program funds are subject to withdrawal and redistribution in accordance with the Recovery Act.

Public Housing Capital Fund

Mississippi has 52 public housing agencies that have received about $32.4 million from the Public Housing Capital fund. The Picayune Housing Authority used Recovery Act funding for two projects, one completed in August 2009 that renovated 22 units and another that began September 24, 2009, which will renovate 92 units. The Mississippi Regional Housing Authority-VIII (MRHA-8) in Gulfport planned to use funds for 5 projects. MRHA-8 has one project under way, has awarded contracts for two others, and expects to award a contract for a fourth project in December. The housing agency dropped one of its five planned projects when it found that a lengthy environmental assessment was required before the project could move forward. In addition, bids for other projects are coming in at less cost than estimated. MRHA-8 is planning to undertake additional projects with remaining Recovery Act funds.

Recipient Reporting

MDOT uses FHWA’s Recovery Act Data System (RADS) to collect data required for its quarterly report. This includes information such as project descriptions, project completion status, and project cost. MDOT also requires suballocants, subrecipients, and vendors to submit monthly payroll reports, which RADS uses to compute the number of jobs created and retained. However, we found that some work carried out in support of Recovery Act projects is not reported. Additionally, MDOT, its suballocants, and its vendors are not taking steps to verify the accuracy of payroll reports that are the basis for RADS’ computation of jobs created and retained.

Cities’ Use of Recovery Act Funds

Jackson, Meridian, and Vicksburg have all received or will be receiving Recovery Act funds directly from one or more federal agencies. Jackson has received or will be receiving a total of $6.83 million; Meridian, $1.02 million; and Vicksburg, $773,000. The cities’ plans for the funds include constructing and repairing facilities, purchasing police vehicles, acquiring other public safety equipment, and providing training that will enable low-income, older individuals to re-enter the workforce.

Full December ReportBack to top

Recovery Act: Status of States' and Localities' Use of Funds and Efforts to Ensure Accountability
GAO-10-231
Recovery Act: Status of States' and Localities' Use of Funds and Efforts to Ensure Accountability
(Appendixes)
GAO-10-232SP
  • [1] Pub. L. No. 111-5, 123 Stat. 115 (Feb. 17, 2009).
  • [2]As defined by OMB, prime recipients are non-Federal entities that receive Recovery Act funding as Federal awards in the form of grants, loans, or cooperative agreements directly from the Federal Government.
GAO Contact
portrait of of John K. Needham

John K. Needham

Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management

needhamjk1@gao.gov

(202) 512-5274