IRS contractor loses SBA certification in bid protest decision

The Small Business Administration has revoked the Historically Underutilized Business Zone status of a contractor that has come under congressional scrutiny over nearly $500 million in IRS contracts from last year.

SBA spokeswoman Tiffani Clements told Federal Times in an email that Strong Castle Inc., was decertified as a so-called HUBZone contractor on May 23. The status gives contractors an edge in competing for federal work by being based in economically distressed areas.

Clements declined to provide further details, saying the decision letter contained confidential business information. Strong Castle is located on the 500 block of H Street N.W. in Washington’s Chinatown neighborhood.

Strong Castle, formerly Signet Computers, did not return email or phone messages this week.

The move by the SBA comes one month after the Government Accountability Office denied a protest from losing bidders who raised questions about whether Signet improperly qualified for HUBZone status.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20130605/ACQUISITION03/306050007

Contracting officers now able to set-aside contracts of any dollar amount to WOSBs

An interim final rule published May 7, 2013 in the Federal Register and effective immediately will amend regulations to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program allowing for greater access to federal contracting opportunities for women-owned businesses as a result of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) signed in January.

The interim final rule removes the anticipated award price of the contract thresholds for women-owned small businesses (WOSB) and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSB) to allow them greater access to federal contracting opportunities without limitations to the size of the contract.   The rule can be accessed at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-05-07/html/2013-10841.htm  and comments can be submitted on or before June 6, 2013, at www.regulations.gov, identified by the following RIN number:  RIN 3245-AG55.

As a result of the rule change, contracting officers will be able to set aside specific contracts for certified WOSBs and EDWOSBs at any dollar level which will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal of five percent of federal contracting dollars being awarded to WOSBs. The SBA is currently working on the changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulations.

Prior to the rule change, the anticipated award price of the contract for women-owned and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses could not exceed $6.5 million for manufacturing contracts and $4 million for all other contracts.

Every firm that wishes to participate in the WOSB program must meet the eligibility requirements and either self-certify or obtain third party certification.  There are four approved third-party certifiers that perform eligibility exams: El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Women Business Owners Corporation, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Additional information and links about approved third-party certifiers are available at: http://www.sba.gov/content/contracting-opportunities-women-owned-small-businesses

To qualify as a WOSB, a firm must be at least fifty-one percent owned and controlled by one or more women, and primarily managed by one or more women.  The women must be U.S. citizens and the firm must be considered small according to SBA size standards.  To be deemed “economically disadvantaged,” a firm’s owners must meet specific financial requirements set forth in the program regulations.

The WOSB Program identifies eighty-three four-digit North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS) codes where WOSBs are underrepresented or substantially underrepresented.   Contracting officers may set aside contracts in these industries if the contract can be awarded at a fair and reasonable price and the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that two or more WOSBs or EDWOSBs will submit offers for the contract.

For more information on the Women-Owned Federal Small Business Contract Program or to access the instructions, applications or database, please visit www.sba.gov/wosb.

OFPP brings no predisposed notions to strategic sourcing

The Strategic Sourcing Leadership Council delivered a set of proposals for how and where to expand the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative.

But not every suggestion sent to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in March was about a new contract or expanding a current blanket purchase agreement.

Joe Jordan, the administrator of OFPP, said the council wants to move forward with a number strategic sourcing efforts, including technology hardware and software, laboratory supplies, janitorial and sanitation, mobile and wireless products and services and others.

“We are now working with them to say ‘what is the solution?’ It doesn’t mean in all those categories, there is one governmentwide contract,” Jordan said, after a panel discussion on strategic sourcing at an event sponsored by the Coalition for Government Procurement in Arlington, Va. Wednesday. “We are putting all that commodity under management with an executive agent that has a deep content knowledge and all of the large buyers at the table, along with the Small Business Administration, to figure out what the right solution is. In some cases, it will mean reduced contract duplication, better leveraging our spend and driving volume based discounts. In other cases, it’s more terms and conditions and taking administrative costs out of the approach.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/517/3290214/OFPP-brings-no-predisposed-notions-to-strategic-sourcing

House small business chair questions SBA handling of sequester

The Small Business Administration’s handling of a tightened budget under sequestration has prompted a House committee chairman to seek clarifications and data on the agency’s funding for its guaranteed loan program and on the cost of employee travel to conferences.

Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the House Small Business Committee, on Wednesday (Apr. 3, 2013) sent a letter to SBA Administrator Karen Mills expressing concern about priorities assumed in contingency planning under sequestration. Government Executive obtained an advance copy of the letter.

“The committee remains concerned that the core functions of the agency may be curtailed by sequestration,” Graves wrote. “This is problematic if SBA continues to fund activities not specified in the Small Business Act or the 1958 Small Business Investment Act or unnecessary travel by employees.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2013/04/house-small-business-chair-questions-sba-handling-sequester/62252/?oref=govexec_today_nl

SBA’s advocacy office catches fire from business and academic communities alike

The business community’s ombudsman within the Small Business Administration defended his office’s record against attacks from both the right and the left on Thursday.

Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant was accused by business groups of allowing agencies to write regulations with little input from affected companies while an academic charged that his office is a tool of corporate anti-regulatory lobbying.

Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., chairman of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations, called the hearing out of concern that agencies may not be complying with the 1980 Regulatory Flexibility Act.

“Each year, federal agencies publish between 3,000 to 4,000 new regulations and many of those rules impose burdens on small businesses,” he said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2013/03/sba-office-catches-fire-businesses-and-academic-alike/61884/?oref=govexec_today_nl.

Reports contend SBA advocacy office guided by big business

An office designed to advocate for the protection of small businesses has  routinely worked against health and safety regulations despite lacking the  relevant scientific expertise or a clear benefit for small businesses, say two  reports.

The studies, both released last Tuesday (1/29/2013), from the Center  for Effective Government (.pdf) and the Center  for Progressive Reform (.pdf) say that the Small Business Association’s  Office of Advocacy is a largely unaccountable office whose comments carry a  heavy weight because it was created to ensure federal rules take small business  needs into account.

Keep reading at: SBA office guided by big business, say reports – FierceGovernment http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/sba-office-guided-big-business-say-reports/2013-01-31#ixzz2JaBeMn1s

Subscribe: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/signup?sourceform=Viral-Tynt-FierceGovernment-FierceGovernment

 

Defense Act causes SBA to lift dollar limits on WOSB set-asides

Women-owned small businesses will have greater access to federal contracting opportunities as a result of changes included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program.

“This new law is a prime example of how the Obama Administration is embracing a more inclusive view of entrepreneurship, helping small businesses and America succeed,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “Today, women own 30 percent of all small businesses up from just 5 percent 40 years ago. As one of the fastest growing sectors of small business owners in the country, opening the door for women to compete for more federal contracts is a win-win.”

The NDAA removes the anticipated award price of the contract thresholds for women-owned small businesses (WOSB) and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSB) to allow them greater access to federal contracting opportunities without limitations to the size of the contract. Prior to the new law, the anticipated award price of the contract for women-owned and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses could not exceed $6.5 million for manufacturing contracts and $4 million for all other contracts.

The Women’s Federal Contract Program allows contracting officers to set aside specific contracts for certified WOSBs and EDWOSBs and will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal of five percent of federal contracting dollars being awarded to WOSBs.

The law also requires the SBA to conduct another study to identify and report industries underrepresented by women-owned small businesses. As a result, more eligible women-owned businesses may be able to participate in SBA’s Women’s Federal Contract Program and compete for and win federal contracts.

These changes have not yet taken effect.  The SBA is working with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy under the President’s Office of Management and Budget on the implementation including changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulations.

Every firm that wishes to participate in the WOSB program must meet the eligibility requirements and either self-certify or obtain third party certification. There are four approved third-party certifiers that perform eligibility exams: El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Women Business Owners Corporation, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Additional information and links about approved third-party certifiers are available at www.sba.gov/wosb. To qualify as a WOSB, a firm must be at least fifty-one percent owned and controlled by one or more women, and primarily managed by one or more women. The women must be U.S. citizens and the firm must be considered small according to SBA size standards. To be deemed “economically disadvantaged,” a firm’s owners must meet specific financial requirements set forth in the program regulations.

The WOSB Program identifies eighty-three four-digit North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS) codes where WOSBs are underrepresented or substantially underrepresented. Contracting officers may set aside contracts in these industries if the contract can be awarded at a fair and reasonable price and the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that two or more WOSBs or EDWOSBs will submit offers for the contract.

For more information on the Women-Owned Small Business Program or to access the instructions, applications or database, please visit www.sba.gov/wosb.

Contractors spoke, SBA listened: Rules for R&D funds altered

Contractors with outside investors can tap research funds set aside for small businesses, thanks to a new rule from the Small Business Administration, though an outcry from the small business community led to some restrictions.

First, some background.   As reported in May, the SBA proposed allowing small businesses that are majority-owned by venture capital and private equity firms or hedge funds to particulate in two popular programs: the Small Business Innovation Research Program and the 1992 Small Business Technology Transfer Act. Those small business have not before qualified for these programs.

The Small Business Innovation Research program, or SBIR, was established to strengthen the role of small businesses in federally funded research and development. The Small Business Technology Transfer Act, knowns as STTR, requires federal agencies with R&D budgets of more than $1 billion per fiscal year to fund small businesses.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/fedbiz_daily/2012/12/firms-sound-off-on-new-rule-allowing.html?ana=&page=all

COs must verify WOSB/EDWOSB status independent of SAM info

Ever since last year’s launch of the System for Award Management (SAM) — the federal database that replaced Central Contractor Registration (CCR) — there have been a myriad of problems involving system stability, data entry by vendors, access by users, and data migration from CCR to SAM.  Over time, some of these issues have been resolved.  However, new problems have arisen, and the latest one that has come to our attention could effect the eligibility of women owned businesses for federal contract set-asides.

The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech has learned that SAM may not correctly display a company’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or Economically Disadvantaged Small Business (EDWOSB) designation. This means some small businesses that are legitimate WOSB/EDWOSB concerns are unable to visibly display their status in SAM at this time.   Reports indicate that the Small Business Administration (SBA) has called this latest challenge to the attention of the General Services Administration (GSA), SAM’s administrator.

While this problem is resolved, Contracting Officers are reminded that the identification of a woman-owned small business in SAM is not the authentication source required by regulations at 13 CFR 127.300(c).

The Code of Federal Regulations at 13 CFR 127.301(2) indicate that a Contracting Officer may accept a concern’s (bidder or proponent) representation as a WOSB or EDWOSB if the apparent successful offeror provides the appropriate documentation, as described in §127.300(e) at the time of initial offer.

Here are three ways a Contracting Officer can verify a WOSB/EDWOSB concern’s legitimacy:

  1. If an WOSB/EDWOSB concern has a valid certificate from one of SBA’s four approved third party certifiers (i.e., El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Women Business Owners Corporation, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council), the concern can submit the certificate along with a signed copy of SBA form 2413 Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or SBA form 2414 (EDWOSB) form to the Contracting Officer to validate the concern’s eligibility status.  Furthermore, the WOSB/EDWOSB concern must have the same documentation uploaded into SBA’s WOSB Repository at the time of initial offer.  (Under no circumstances are certifications to be accepted from parties other than the four organizations approved by the SBA; in other words, state certifications or any other forms of certification are not to be considered or accepted.)
  2. The WOSB/EDWOSB concern may submit a hard copy (signed) of all the required documents mandated by in the Code of Federal Regulations 13 CFR 127.300(e) and a signed copy of SBA WOSB form 2413 or to the EDWOSB form 2414,  for verification of WOSB/EDWOSB status.  These records are to be maintained for six years in the contract file.
  3. If the WOSB/EDWOSB concern is also an SBA-certified 8(a) concern, the concern may submit a copy of the SBA 8(a) BD Participant certificate and the signed SBA WOSB form 2413 or to the EDWOSB form 2414.

In all instances, Contracting Officers are required to verify a concern’s status in SBA’s WOSB Program Repository.  It is the obligation of the WOSB or EDWOSB to provide current, accurate and complete documents to the Contracting Officer for each contract award, via the Repository.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Contracting Officer to verify WOSB/EDWOSB status.  If the Contracting Officer has information that calls into question the eligibility of a concern as an WOSB/EDWOSB, or the concern fails to provide all of the required documents to verify its eligibility, the Contracting Officer is to not award a WOSB/EDWOSB contract to that business concern.

In summary, regardless of how a business concern is listed in SAM, Contracting Officers should affirm the status of WOSB and EDWOSB concerns by checking their documentation online in the WOSB Program Repository per 13 CFR 127.300(c).  Apparent awardees can only provide access to those Contracting Officers who are registered for the WOSB Program Repository.  Contracting Officers should go to: https://eweb.sba.gov/gls/dsp_login.cfm and click on “Request SBA User ID” to establish an account.

To access a copy of the Contracting Education Academy’s presentation on various issues involving the System for Award Management (SAM), including helpful tips and work-arounds for both the vendor and acquisition communities, please click here.

SBA misapplying policy on sole-source contracts, GAO says

The Small Business Administration lacks a process for assuring that agencies provide sufficient justification for awarding sole-source contracts to SBA-preferred contractors, the Government Accountability Office reported Wednesday.

Auditors reviewed 72 sole-source contracts worth $20 million or more in the 8(a) program designed to benefit Alaska native corporations since 2009. Under a change in the Federal Acquisition Regulation mandated by the fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, agencies are required to spell out their justification for not awarding the work to competing contractors.

Contracting preferences for Alaska native corporations have led to cases of fraud perpetrated by front companies.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2012/12/sba-misapplying-policy-sole-source-contracts-gao-says/60153/?oref=govexec_today_nl.