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.
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.
Now that the calendar says March, I’m getting ready for March Madness. The basketball excitement is building here in Lawrence, home of the #1 ranked Jayhawks. Tomorrow, I’ll be at Allen Fieldhouse for the last home game of the season, and a farewell to senior standout Perry Ellis.
But don’t worry, I won’t let my excitement over March Madness deter me from bringing you our SmallGovCon Week In Review. This week’s collection of government contracts stories brings great news for WOSBs and EDWOSBs, an update on the abrupt cancellation of a major DHS contract, an effort to permit SDVOSBs to obtain disadvantaged status with the Department of Transportation, and much more.
Of 34 WOSB and EDWOSB set-aside awards examined by the SBA Office of Inspector General, 15 of those awards were improper.
The SBA OIG’s conclusion comes in a new WOSB program report, and suggests that some Contracting Officers are unaware of the WOSB progran’s unique requirements, including the NAICS code limitations for WOSB and EDWOSB set-asides.
The SBA has acknowledged that Congress eliminated WOSB self-certification in the 2015 NDAA–but suggests that WOSB self-certification may continue until the SBA adopts a regulatory framework for a formal certification program.
In a proposed rule released today, the SBA adopts a pragmatic approach that nonetheless may be legally problematic given that Congress did not authorize a continuation of WOSB self-certification pending SBA regulatory action.
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.