DOE OIG: Mentor-Protege Program Needs Improvement

The Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General has concluded that the agency’s mentor-protege program requires improvements to maximize benefits for eligible small business proteges.

In a new audit report, the DOE OIG states that it discovered various weaknesses in DOE’s management of its mentor-protege program, including allowing graduated firms to participate as proteges for a second time.

The purpose of the DOE OIG’s audit was to investigate the DOE’s management and oversight of its mentor-protege program.  The DOE OIG uncovered several weaknesses, including:

  • Thirteen firms were allowed to participate as proteges, even though they already appeared to be successful.  In one case, the protege in question had already received $111 million in federal procurement dollars.
  • Six mentor-protege agreements exceeded the DOE’s recommended term of up to six years.  Several mentor-protege agreements lasted up to 10 years.
  • Four proteges that successfully graduated from the DOE mentor-protege program at one DOE site were allowed to enter into new mentor-protege agreements at other DOE sites.
  • The DOE lacked sufficient policies to assist mentors in the solicitation and selection of proteges.
  • The DOE did not monitor the progress of each protege through the duration of its mentor-protege agreement or maintain an adequate tracking system to account for protege activities.

The DOE OIG stated that “[t]hese findings, coupled with the practical limitations on the number of available Program slots, led us to conclude that small businesses most suitable for inclusion may not have had the opportunity to participate.”  The DOE OIG made a number of recommendations for improvement, which the DOE’s management states will be implemented.

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