Breaking News: SBA (Finally!) Proposes Regulation Extinguishing WOSB Self-Certification

In a move bringing to mind Etta James’ most popular refrain, SBA has proposed an amendment to its regulations which will require Woman-Owned Small Business program participants to be certified by the SBA or an SBA approved third-party certifier.

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GAO Highlights SBA Oversight Issues with WOSB Certification and Lack of Use of WOSB Set-Asides

This is our second blog on GAO’s recent report on SBA’s management of the Woman-Owned Small Business program. Here is our initial post.

In the report, GAO analyzes SBA’s oversight of the current certification program, and reports on its study of why contracting officers don’t use the WOSB set-asides as much as one might think.

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GAO to SBA: Please Address “Ongoing Oversight Issues” for the WOSB Program

GAO recently issued a report on several ongoing issues with SBA’s management of the Woman-Owned Small Business program. Because of the number of issues in the report, we’ll summarize it in a few posts.

In this post, we’ll provide some background on GAO’s review of the WOSB program and address how (and whether) SBA has implemented the changes required in the WOSB program by the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. Long story short, SBA has still not done all Congress has asked of it in the 2015 NDAA, particularly with regard to eliminating WOSB self-certification.

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The Mysterious Case of the Missing SBA Women-Owned Small Business Certification Program

On December 19, 2014, then-President Obama signed the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act into law.  The 2015 NDAA eliminated the statutory basis for federal agencies to award women-owned small business set-aside contracts to self-certified companies.  In essence, then, the 2015 NDAA effectively eliminated WOSB self-certification.

Flash forward almost four years, and the SBA has not yet implemented a WOSB certification program.  In fact, the SBA hasn’t even proposed rules to implement such a program.  Instead, although the SBA continues to license a few third-party certifiers, the SBA also continues to say that WOSBs “can self-certify directly at certify.sba.gov by answering questions and uploading documents.”

So where the heck is the mysteriously missing SBA WOSB certification program?  And is it even legal for the SBA to continue allowing WOSB self-certification?

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SBA Inspector General: 89% of WOSB Sole Source Contracts Were Improper

Nearly 90% of women-owned small business sole source contracts reviewed by the SBA Office of Inspector General were improper, according to a startling report issued yesterday.

In the study, the SBA OIG concluded that because of pervasive flaws in the award of WOSB and EDWOSB sole source contracts, “there was no assurance that these contracts were awarded to firms that were eligible to receive sole-source awards under the Program.”  And if that wasn’t enough, the SBA OIG reiterated its position that, as a legal matter, it is improper to award any WOSB or EDWOSB sole source contract to a self-certified company.

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WOSB Program: Company Ineligible Because Husband Managed Business

A self-certified woman-owned small business was ineligible for a WOSB set-aside contract because the woman owner’s husband held the company’s highest officer position and appeared to manage its day-to-day operations.

A recent SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals decision highlights the importance of ensuring that a woman be responsible for managing the day-to-day business of a WOSB–and that the woman’s role be reflected both in the corporate paperwork and in practice.

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GAO: WOSB Self-Certification May Allow “Potentially Ineligible Businesses” To Get Contracts

Woman-owned small business self-certifications (which the SBA still accepts more than 2 1/2 years after Congress eliminated it) may allow “potentially ineligible businesses” to win WOSB set-aside and sole source work, according to a fascinating new GAO report.

Among other things, the GAO report provides a comprehensive overview of the SBA’s progress addressing problems with the four major socioeconomic preference programs–8(a), SDVOSB, HUBZone and WOSB.  And to its credit, the SBA has fixed a number of previously-identified flaws.  But other problems remain, including the SBA’s now-longstanding failure to eliminate WOSB self-certification.

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