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 →
Small government contractors often rely on teammates and subcontractors to demonstrate relevant experience. But as one recently-published GAO bid protest decision shows, some procuring agencies may take a dim view of such reliance.
In GAO Protest of Quasars, Inc., B-405747 (Dec. 7, 2011), the agency found that a woman-owned small business’s reliance on a teammate for relevant experience was risky, because that teammate might leave, depriving the team of the necessary expertise. The GAO found nothing unreasonable in the agency’s evaluation.
Back in the ’80s, I spent many a weekday afternoon watching The Transformers (the cheesy original cartoons, not the abysmal movies that followed much more recently). The tagline of the show, which was about a bunch of robots that can transform into vehicles, was “more than meets the eye.”
“More than meets the eye” is also a good way to think about the requirements for the still relatively young women-owned small business program. Google the phrase “women-owned small business program requirements” and you’ll come up with any number of articles stating that a viable women-owned small business must be “at least 51% unconditionally owned and controlled” by women.
While this is certainly true, these articles rarely explain exactly what the SBA has in mind when it comes to “unconditional” ownership and control. Under the WOSB regulations, the truth, especially on the “control” front, may surprise you.
My daughter is learning to take her first steps, while holding onto the furniture. Yesterday, she started pushing her stroller around the living room, essentially using it as a walker. My wife and I looked at each other and said something like, “things are about to get really interesting around here.”
Things are also about to get interesting when it comes to the women-owned small business program, and its subset, the economically disadvantaged women-owned small business program. Ever since the WOSB program formally came into being last year, I’ve been saying that it was only a matter of time before WOSBs and EDWOSBs started protesting one another’s eligibility for WOSB and EDWOSB set-aside procurements.
Now, the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals has ruled on its first WOSB appeal. What happened? Well, for one, all WOSBs should make sure their facsimile machines are in good working order before submitting another bid.