The Basics: Socioeconomic Sole Source Awards

Just last week during a Govology webinar on Women-Owned Small Businesses, one of the attendees asked my colleague Haley Claxton and I an insightful question about the different standards for giving sole source awards to participants in various government programs. She wanted to know the difference between how contracting officers go about offering an 8(a) sole source award and a WOSB sole source award.

I had to admit, the practical, ground-level, nitty gritty business of how these awards are doled out doesn’t actually come across my desk that much.

So, let’s take a look, shall we?

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This Just In! SBA Provides Updates on WOSB Certification Changes

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.

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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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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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