GAO: WOSB Self-Certification May Allow “Potentially Ineligible Businesses” To Get Contracts

Woman-owned small business self-certifications (which the SBA still accepts more than 2 1/2 years after Congress eliminated it) may allow “potentially ineligible businesses” to win WOSB set-aside and sole source work, according to a fascinating new GAO report.

Among other things, the GAO report provides a comprehensive overview of the SBA’s progress addressing problems with the four major socioeconomic preference programs–8(a), SDVOSB, HUBZone and WOSB.  And to its credit, the SBA has fixed a number of previously-identified flaws.  But other problems remain, including the SBA’s now-longstanding failure to eliminate WOSB self-certification.

The GAO Report, entitled “Small Business Administration: Government Contracting and Business Development Processes and Rule-Making Activities,” covers 45 pages.  And while it’s not the post-apocalyptic thriller I was reading on the beach last week, it’s well worth a read–covering everything from the SBA’s internal field-office and reporting structure to how long it takes SBA to publish major rules, like last year’s regulations governing the limitations on subcontracting and All Small Mentor-Protege Program.

Of particular note, the GAO Report discusses oversight challenges in the four major socioeconomic programs.  The report notes that the SBA has successfully implemented corrective actions to address certain previously-identified weaknesses in its programs, including many recommendations related to the 8(a) and HUBZone programs.  But other challenges remain.  With respect to the WOSB program, in particular, the report states:

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 eliminated the self-certification process for the WOSB program and required SBA to give more authority to contracting officers to award sole-source contracts—that is, contracts that do not require competition. SBA completed a rule-making process to allow the program to award sole source contracts. Although SBA has provided an advanced notice of proposed rule making for the certification program, it has not implemented a process to eliminate self-certification as of May 2017. As a result of inadequate monitoring and controls, such as not implementing a full certification program, potentially ineligible businesses may continue to incorrectly certify themselves as WOSBs, increasing the risk that they may receive contracts for which they are not eligible.

Not only is WOSB certification required by statute, I think that certification will give Contracting Officers more confidence to use WOSB set-asides and sole source vehicles.  And that, I hope, will reverse the government’s embarrassing failure to hit the 5% WOSB goal.  Perhaps the GAO Report will spur the SBA to prioritize creating the required certification program.  I’ll keep you posted.