To level the playing field for women business owners, the Federal Government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses participating in SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business (“WOSB”) Federal Contracting Program. Ideally, those contracts are for specific industries where WOSBs are historically underrepresented. And in fact, the Government even has certain WOSB contracting goals to encourage such set-asides. So, its easy to see why the WOSB Program can be a great opportunity for small businesses to get a leg up in the federal contracting world. But don’t let the name fool you, it takes more than just woman-ownership to get in–and stay in. Let’s take a closer look at SBA’s requirements for becoming certified under the WOSB Program.Continue reading
Update 5/14/2020: Since this post was originally published, SBA’s website has clarified when SBA Certification will be available and when Self-Certification will end. The post has been updated to reflect this information.
On Monday, the Small Business Administration will publish a Final Rule updating the certification methods for businesses applying for and participating in the Women-Owned Small Business program. The new Rule will also impose new thresholds for demonstrating economic disadvantage, impacting applicants not only for the WOSB program, but also the 8(a) Business Development program.Continue reading
Last May, we reported on proposed changes to the SBA’s Women Owned Small Business Program Certification Process. Now, the SBA’s website includes updated information about what those changes may mean for existing and new WOSBs.Continue reading
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?
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.
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.