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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GAO: WOSB Set-Asides and Sole Sources are Discretionary, not Mandatory

Historically, Uncle Sam has struggled to meet its WOSB contracting goals. It wasn’t until 2015, in fact, that the government first met its WOSB contracting goal and, since then, has continued to struggle to meet it.

Thankfully, agencies are authorized to use set-asides and sole-source awards to increase WOSB participation. But as a recent GAO decision shows, an agency isn’t required to use either procedure.

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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 Changes: My “Game Changers” Podcast

The woman-owned small business program is in the midst of major changes: from the addition of sole source authority, to lingering questions about what the heck the SBA’s plan is to address the elimination of WOSB self-certification.

I recently joined host “Game Changers” podcast host Michael LeJune of Federal Access for an in-depth discussion of recent WOSB program changes, and where the WOSB program goes from here.  Click here to listen to the podcast, and visit the Game Changers SoundCloud page for more great discussions with government contracting thought leaders.

WOSB Sole Source Authority Added To FAR

WOSB sole source authority is now part of the FAR.

Effective December 31, 2015, the FAR Council has adopted an interim rule incorporating the WOSB sole source authority adopted in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act and recently made part of the SBA’s regulations.

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Thank You, Utah!

I am back in Kansas after a great trip to Salt Lake City, where I spoke at the 10th Annual PTAC Procurement Symposium.  My presentation covered important new developments in government contracting, including the SBA’s proposed new “universal” mentor-protege program, the new WOSB sole source authority, and more.

Many thanks to Fred Lange, Chuck Spence, and their team at the Utah PTAC for inviting me to speak.  Thanks also to all of those who attended the conference and made this such a great event.

I will be here in Lawrence for a few weeks, and then it is on to Washington, DC, where I will be sitting in on Supreme Court oral arguments in the Kingdomware SDVOSB/VOSB case and speaking on Kingdomware and other timely government contracting topics at the APTAC Fall Conference.

WOSB Sole Source Contracts Authorized As Of October 14, 2015

WOSB and EDWOSB sole source contracts will be authorized under the SBA’s regulations effective October 14, 2015.

In a final rule published today, the SBA implemented regulatory authority pursuant to which Contracting Officers may issue sole source contracts.  The question now is whether Contracting Officers will be willing to issue sole source contracts based on the SBA’s rule–or will wait until the FAR Council adopts similar authority.

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