8(a) Program Improvements Needed, Says SBA OIG

8(a) Program improvements are needed to allow more disadvantaged firms to receive 8(a) contracts, according to a recent report issued by the SBA Office of Inspector General.

In its report, the SBA OIG credits the SBA with positive steps taken to improve the 8(a) Program, but says that more must be done to ensure that 8(a) business development assistance reaches more 8(a) Program participants.

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8(a) Program: Accent, Lack of English Proficiency Not Evidence of Bias

A Bulgarian immigrant’s thick accent and lack of English proficiency were not evidence of bias, and did not support the immigrant’s 8(a) Program application.

In a recent 8(a) Program decision, the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals expressed sympathy for the language difficulties many immigrants face, but held that such difficulties, by themselves, do not constitute evidence of “social disadvantage” for 8(a) Program purposes because the 8(a) Program requires a showing of bias or prejudice.

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8(a) Program: Is The SBA “Searching For Reasons To Deny” Women?

The SBA’s course of conduct in reviewing the 8(a) applications of companies owned by women “gives the distinct impression that the SBA is simply searching for reasons to deny every claim” of social disadvantage made by women applicants.

These strong words come from a recent SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals decision, in which OHA again overturned the SBA’s denial of a woman-owned business’s 8(a) application.

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8(a) Joint Ventures: SBA Approval Not Required At Proposal Submission

A joint venture may be awarded an 8(a) set-aside contract so long as the SBA approves the joint venture before award.

In a recent GAO bid protest decision, a procuring agency rejected a joint venture’s proposal for an 8(a) set-aside contract because the joint venture had not been approved by the SBA as of the date of proposal submission.  The GAO–relying in part on input from the SBA–held that the rejection was improper.

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Women 8(a) Applicants Don’t Need “Smoking Gun” Evidence Of Bias, Says SBA OHA

A woman does not need to provide the SBA with “smoking gun” evidence of bias in order to be considered socially disadvantaged for purposes of her company’s application to the 8(a) program.

In a recent decision, the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals sharply criticized the SBA’s evaluation of a woman-owned small business’s 8(a) application, holding that the SBA had improperly discounted evidence of bias, needlessly demanded that the woman provide irrelevant details, and made several other errors.

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8(a) Fraud: Contractor Fraudulently Obtained $52 Million, Says DOJ

A Maryland man has pleaded guilty in an 8(a) fraud case involving a company that received more than $52 million in 8(a) contracts to which it was not entitled.

According to a Department of Justice press release, Vernon Smith pleaded guilty to charges that he (not the company’ s disadvantaged majority owner) exercised complete control over the company’s day-to-day management and long term decision making.

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8(a) Program Mentor To Pay $928,000 False Claims Act Settlement

An 8(a) Program mentor has agreed to pay a False Claims Act settlement of $928,000.  The settlement stems from the government’s claims that the mentor abused the 8(a) mentor-protege program.

According to a Department of Justice press release, the mentor firm performed eight 8(a) prime contracts on behalf of its protege–without an SBA-approved joint venture.  The government also contended that the mentor’s extensive role resulted in the protege firm failing to meet the applicable limitation on subcontracting.

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