Just in time for the holidays, there is good news for WOSBs–sole source contracts are coming!
If you have followed SmallGovCon over the past week, you have seen a few posts about changes made to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act since the bill was initially passed by the House in May. But one piece of the original House bill has remained intact: the final 2015 NDAA allows WOSBs and EDWOSBs to receive sole source contracts.
With little fanfare, Congress just passed legislation eliminating the ability of WOSBs to self-certify for purposes of WOSB set-aside contracts.
The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act rewrites the portion of the Small Business Act governing WOSB set-asides, deleting what I have called the “trust but verify” option: the ability for putative WOSBs to self-certify as such, then back up their self-certifications by submitting supporting documentation to the WOSB Document Repository. Instead, the 2015 NDAA would appear to require a formal certification in order for a small business to be awarded a WOSB set-aside contract.
Only one percent of women-owned small business contract awards have come from WOSB or EDWOSB set-asides.
This disheartening finding was part of a recent GAO report on WOSB contracting, which finds that WOSB set-asides have had a “minimal effect” on agency awards to WOSBs and attainment of agency WOSB goals. The GAO report offers some insights on program changes that might increase the use of WOSB set-asides, including one major change that may already be in the works.
The SBA performs only “minimal oversight” of third-party certifiers for the woman-owned small business program, and thus “lacks reasonable assurance that only eligible businesses receive WOSB set-aside contracts,” says the GAO in a recent report on the WOSB Program.
The GAO report identifies numerous weaknesses in the WOSB certification system, and provides a number of recommendations to strengthen WOSB Program oversight.
Women-owned small businesses could receive sole source contracts under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, which was passed by the House of Representatives last week.
The House-passed 2015 NDAA includes an amendment authorizing economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses to receive sole source contracts of up to $6.5 million for manufacturing, and up to $4 million for other industries. For WOSBs that are not economically disadvantaged, sole source contracts would be available, with the same thresholds, in industries where WOSBs are considered substantially underrepresented.
The SBA will “make it a priority” to adopt regulations establishing mentor-protege programs for SDVOSBs, HUBZones, and WOSBs in the next 12 months, according to the SBA’s most recent semiannual regulatory agenda.
The regulatory agenda states that the three new mentor-protege programs are expected to be “similar” to the 8(a) mentor-protege program, which suggests that the special joint venturing benefits currently available only to 8(a)s may become available to SDVOSBs, HUBZones and WOSBs, as well.
False or incorrect women-owned small business self-certifications may be a significant government-wide problem, according to a recent audit report issued by the NASA Office of Inspector General.
The NASA OIG report states that in a study of sampled awards to self-certified WOSBs, 7 out of 20 awardees, or 35 percent, “may not have met the criteria for a woman-owned small business.” Noting that these firms won nearly $75 million in government business in 2010 alone, the NASA OIG has referred its report to the SBA and GAO, concerned about a “potential Government-wide effect of this condition.” Continue reading →