IG finds both agency implementation and SBA oversight of WOSB program to be flawed

Federal agencies’ contracting officers are awarding set-aside contracts without meeting the set-aside requirements associated with the Small Business Administration’s Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) program.

This finding, among others, appears in a report issued on May 14, 2015 by the SBA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

SBA - IGThe OIG report states that as much as $7.1 million worth of contracts received by WOSBs in fiscal year (FY) 2014 may be improper.  For example, 10 of 34 WOSB set-aside awards were for ineligible work, and 9 of these 34 were awarded to firms that did not provide required documentation to prove they were eligible WOSBs.

In addition to the 9 WOSB awards that did not have any ownership or control documentation in the SBA’s WOSB Repository, the OIG identified 13 of 25 firms in their audit sample that uploaded only some — but not all — of the required documentation to the Repository, thus also bringing their program eligibility into question.

Additionally, 12 businesses did not provide sufficient documentation to prove that a woman or women controlled the day-to-day operations of their firms.  These firms, which received $8 million in contracts, also may be ineligible for their WOSB set-aside awards.

The OIG report is critical not only of agencies’ implementation of the federal WOSB program but also of SBA’s lax oversight.  Accordingly, OIG made five recommendations to the SBA’s Associate Administrator for Government Contracting and Business Development calling for improvements in how SBA manages and administers the WOSB program.

It should be noted that even before the OIG’s report, the SBA’s WOSB program already was slated to undergo some major programmatic changes based on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for both FY 2013 and 2015.  The NDAAs stipulated considerable increases SBA’s oversight responsibilities.  Specifically, the FY 2015 Act will: 1) grant contracting officers the authority to award sole-source awards to WOSB firms, 2) remove firms’ ability to self-certify, and 3) require firms to be certified.  The SBA is still determining how it will implement these mandated changes.

The OIG’s full report can be downloaded here: Improvements_Needed_in_SBAs_Management_of_WOSB_Program-OIG_Report_15-10

Advocacy group accuses SBA of misapplying law on small business set-asides

As it celebrates National Small Business Week, the Small Business Administration is facing renewed accusations that its efforts to reserve work for small contractors have been distorted by accounting tricks and misapplication of the law that permits large companies to win the awards.

Public Citizen, the nonprofit that pushes an anti-corporate view of trade, the environment, campaign finance and product regulation issues, released a report on Wednesday saying SBA “may be flouting the law,” perhaps for political reasons.

public citizenThe study of controversies over the SBA-coordinated program to help federal agencies meet the goal of 23 percent of purchases from small businesses draws on the work of the Petaluma, Calif.,-based American Small Business League, which has long battled SBA and the Defense Department over the definition of a small business. But the league, Government Executive has learned, does not think Public Citizen’s conclusions go far enough.

The SBA’s claims “that the government has met or nearly met a requirement to make 23 percent of its purchases from small businesses are misleading and rely on methodologies that conflict with federal law and regulations,” argued the report by Taylor Lincoln, research director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/05/advocacy-group-accuses-sba-misapplying-law-small-business-set-asides/112240

Commerce’s innovation exec seeks to hire entrepreneurs

The chief of innovation in the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration wants to bring more entrepreneurs into government, perhaps as two-year fellows, she said on Wednesday.

Commerce Dept.“There is lots of entrepreneurial thinking in government—it’s surprising,” Julie Lenzer Kirk, director of Commerce’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, told small business owners at a conference of the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council. But she added that when she ran the state of Maryland’s Center for Entrepreneurship, “I would tell business people, ‘You’re my tribe.’ When I got to government, I’m still trying to fit into the tribe.”

The EDA’s role, Kirk said in a pep talk to small business contractors titled “It Takes a Village,” is not direct investment like the Small Business Administration, but helping build capacity through partnerships, grants, and tools that bring people together. “Making sure state and local officials understand that small businesses are the job creators is essential,” she added. It’s “connecting the dots” on a regional basis because “what works in Detroit is not what is needed in Atlanta.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/04/commerces-innovation-exec-seeks-hire-entrepreneurs/110965

Former security contractor CEO agrees to pay $4.5 million to settle civil claims

Keith Hedman, 55, of Arlington, Virginia, the former chief executive officer of a Virginia-based security contracting firm, Protection Strategies, Inc. has agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle civil claims relating to his involvement in a fraudulent scheme to create a front company to obtain contracts through the Small Business Administration’s Section 8(a) program.  The Section 8(a) program allows qualified small businesses to receive sole-source and competitive-bid contracts set aside for minority-owned and disadvantaged small businesses.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, made the announcement after the settlement agreement was signed by both parties. “The civil settlement illustrates the importance of not stopping at a criminal resolution when a defendant has pled guilty to fraud against the government,” said U.S. Attorney Boente.

The settlement resolves civil claims against Hedman relating to the criminal plea entered by him in U.S. v. Hedman,1:13cr74. According to court records, in or about 2001 Hedman formed PSI, which was approved to participate in the 8(a) program based on the 8(a) eligibility of its listed president and CEO, an African-American female. When the listed president and CEO left PSI in 2003, Hedman became its sole owner, and the company was no longer 8(a)-eligible.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.alexandrianews.org/former-security-contractor-ceo-agrees-to-pay-4-5-million-to-settle-civil-claims/

 

The small-business conundrum

Recent news reveals that federal agencies overstated their success last year in contracting with small businesses that face socioeconomic disadvantages. It turns out that the Small Business Administration’s inspector general identified over $400 million of contract actions awarded to ineligible firms, thus overstating SB goaling performance in FY13.

Download the IG report here.

While reasons for misreporting are one issue, the perennial issue of meeting SB goals persists. Some people joke that when an agency fails to meet their SB target, the response is to increase it. Does goal setting work? Everyone agrees with fundamental ideals of small entrepreneurs and businesses bringing fresh ideas, outlooks, and solutions to government and societal problems.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20141008/BLG06/310080012/The-small-business-conundrum