Is the SBA ‘searching for reasons to deny’ women 8(a) status?

November 7, 2014 by

The SBA’s course of conduct in reviewing the 8(a) applications of companies owned by women “gives the distinct impression that the SBA is simply searching for reasons to deny every claim” of social disadvantage made by women applicants.

These strong words come from a recent SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals decision, in which OHA again overturned the SBA’s denial of a woman-owned business’s 8(a) application.

SBA OHA’s decision in Matter of Ironwood Commercial Builders, Inc., SBA No. BDPE-532 (2014) involved the 8(a) application of Ironwood Builders, Inc., a company owned by Nancy Brinkerhoff.  Ironwood applied to the 8(a) program in February 2012.

Keep reading this article at: http://smallgovcon.com/8a-program/8a-program-is-the-sba-searching-for-reasons-to-deny-women/

 

SBA’s 8(a) and HUBZone eligibility workshop to be held in Atlanta on Nov. 12

November 6, 2014 by

The Georgia District Office of the Small Business Administration (SBA) is conducting a workshop on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014 for small businesses interested in learning about the eligibility requirements associated with the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development and Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) programs.

The workshop will be held at 233 Peachtree St. NE, Ste. 1900, Harris Tower, Peachtree Center Mall, Atlanta, GA, 30303, from 10:00am until noon.

In order to attend, pre-registration is required.  To register, click on this link: http://events.sba.gov/eventmanagement/EventRegistration.aspx?id=838a3859-3c5d-e311-9914-02bfa56e2a24.

Man pleads guilty to fraudulently obtaining $2.8 million in contracts meant for 8(a) and veteran-owned businesses

November 4, 2014 by

Wesley Burnett, age 54, of Hermosa Beach, California, pleaded guilty on October 24, 2014, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $2.8 million in federal government contracts through the use of the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program, designed to assist disadvantaged businesses.

According to his plea agreement, Burnett owned and operated Confederate Group LLC and Total Barrier Works (TBW).  These companies were in the business of maintaining and installing anti-terrorist systems and vehicle control equipment such as security barriers, bollards, gates, uninterrupted power systems (UPS) and other perimeter security anti-terrorist equipment.

Burnett admitted that at various times from 2007 until 2014, he falsely represented to the government that Confederate Group LLC was a “Hispanic-American owned business,” a “minority owned business,” a “service disabled veteran owned business,” and a “small disadvantaged business,” in order to win federal contracts at military bases and federal buildings that were reserved for firms in those categories. In fact, Burnett is not a member of any racial or ethnic minority, is not a disabled veteran and is not a member of a socially disadvantaged group, as those terms are defined by the Small Business Administration, and therefore his company was not qualified to receive contracts set aside for those categories. As a result of Burnett fraudulently claiming minority and/or disabled veteran status, from 2008 through 2014, Confederate Group LLC was awarded approximately $534,315, in contracts reserved for minorities and service disabled veterans.

In order to bid on the set-aside contracts, Burnett recruited individual who were members of racial or ethnic minorities, service disabled veterans, or members of socially disadvantaged groups, and offered them a percentage of the total value of any contract he won using their companies’ name. As part of the scheme, Burnett, using the name of the minority owned company bid on federal government contracts set aside for companies owned by minorities, service disabled veterans, or members of socially disadvantaged groups.  Burnett and TBW did all of the work covered by the contract, then paid the owner of the company in whose name the contract had been awarded a fixed percentage of the gross value of the contract, usually between four and five percent. To further this “pass thru” arrangement, Burnett falsely represented that TBW was a trade name for the minority owned company in whose name the contract had been awarded, when in fact TBW was a separate and distinct company.

For example, Yogesh K. Patel was the owner of United Native Technologies, Inc. (“UNTI”), which, according to its articles of incorporation, was formed to “perform information technology services to federal, state and local government, as well as commercial.”  In 2005, Patel applied for and was granted certification as a minority or socially disadvantaged owned business under the SBA’s 8(a) program. In addition to a broad scope of assistance from SBA, participants in the 8(a) program can receive sole source government contracts that are reserved for minority or socially disadvantaged owned companies.

Burnett met Patel at a business conference and the two agreed to use UNTI to bid on 8(a) set aside contracts at federal government installations, including military bases and federal buildings, with Burnett, TBW and individuals at Burnett’s direction actually performing the work necessary to fulfill these contracts. Burnett also agreed to pay Patel approximately 4.5% of the total value of any contract awarded to UNTI. As a result, between January 2010 and November 2013, UNTI was fraudulently awarded more than $1.8 million in 8(a) set-aside U.S. government contracts, while the work on the contracts was actually performed by Burnett’s company and employees.

Burnett admitted that he had similar arrangements with the owner of an 8(a) firm that did electrical and other work for government and commercial clients, and with the owner of a service-disabled veteran owned small business. Burnett also fraudulently obtained the personal identifying information of a service-disabled veteran, which he then used when bidding on federal government contracts.

Burnett faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the wire fraud conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow has scheduled sentencing for February 2, 2015, at 10:00 a.m.

Yogesh K. Patel, age 47, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 12, 2015, at 12:00 p.m.

The National Procurement Fraud Task Force was formed in October 2006 to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The Procurement Fraud Task Force includes the United States Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General community and a number of other federal law enforcement agencies. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Task Force, demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to helping ensure the integrity of the government procurement process.

Source: http://www.justice.gov/usao/md/news/2014/BusinessOwnerPleadsGuiltyToWireFraudConspiracyToFraudulentlyObtainMoreThan2.8MillionIn.html

SBA data show large firms are nabbing contracts reserved for small businesses

October 7, 2014 by

Federal procurement data show that large companies, including leading defense contractors, last year received millions of dollars in contracts intended for small and disadvantaged businesses. The data was obtained last week by the American Small Business League, which fought a multi-year court battle to obtain the information from the Small Business Administration.

The group, based in Petaluma, Calif., and run by software entrepreneur Lloyd Chapman, has been a thorn in the side of SBA for years. It accuses the agency of catering to large companies that misrepresent themselves as small businesses to win government contracts.

Last week the league obtained from SBA an Excel file containing nearly 107,000 entries of vendors that received $83 billion in small business contracts in fiscal 2013. While SBA annually releases analytical information about small business contracting, it took a lawsuit from the league to force the agency to release its list of vendors who receive small business contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/10/sba-data-show-large-firms-are-nabbing-contracts-reserved-small-businesses/95699/

SBA zeros out fees on small dollar loans, expands relief for larger loans to vets

October 3, 2014 by

The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced that fee relief on 7(a) loans of $150,000 or less implemented last year and originally slated to expire on Sept. 30, 2014, will be extended through federal fiscal year 2015.   SBA has also announced that fee relief measures for SBA Veterans Advantage will also be renewed as well as enhanced.   Both the extension of the fee relief for 7(a) loans $150,000 and under, and the extension and enhancement of the fee relief for SBA Veterans Advantage loans became effective October 1, 2014, and will remain in effect through Sept. 30, 2015.

sba-logo“We zeroed out fees on loans of less than $150,000 to any 7(a) borrower because we don’t want SBA fees to be an impediment to getting capital out to communities where it can make a game-changing difference, especially to our under-served communities, who use these small dollar loans more frequently,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet. “We also owe a debt of gratitude and so much more to our service men and women, and veterans who are the cornerstone of small business ownership. This fee relief will continue to help veterans business owners who grow their businesses, create jobs in their communities, and put their training and passion for our country to work in their neighborhoods.”

The most recent numbers available for FY14, as of September 12, 2014, show that the SBA had guaranteed 28,806 for over $1.74 billion in loans $150,000 and under, up from 23,337 loans and $1.34 billion in FY 2013.  This represents an increase of 23.4 percent and 30 percent, respectively. Fee reductions on these loans resulted in almost $19 million in savings to small business borrowers in FY 2013.

Under the original fee relief for 7(a) loans that began  Oct 1, 2013, both the upfront guaranty fee and the annual servicing fee (“on-going guaranty fee”) were reduced to zero on loans $150,000 and under.

Today, the SBA is announcing that:

  • The provisions that began on Oct. 1, 2013, for 7(a) loans under $150,000, will now be continued for fiscal year 2015. For loans larger than $150,000, the annual servicing fee lenders pay will be 0.519 percent of the guaranteed portion of the outstanding balance of the loan. The upfront guarantee fee will continue to depend on both the amount and the maturity of the loan.
  • For SBA Veterans Advantage loans, the conditions implemented on Jan. 1, 2014 – zero upfront guaranty fee on all SBA Express loans to veterans of $150,000 up to $350,000 – will remain unchanged for FY 2015.
  • Beginning Oct. 1, 2014, the upfront guaranty fee for non “SBA Express” loans $150,000 up to $5 million will now be reduced by 50 percent. There is no reduction on the annual servicing fee for loans over $150,000.

Seventy percent of all SBA loans made to veterans are $350,000 or less. Since its inception through Sept. 20, 2014, SBA had guaranteed 153 loans for $38,861,900 under Veterans Advantage. Fee relief for these loans resulted in savings to borrowers of about $571,000.

For further information on all SBA programs and services, visit the SBA website at www.sba.gov, or contact your local SBA field office.  You can find contact information for your local SBA office at http://www.sba.gov/localresources/index.html.

SBA’s inspector general says agencies are overstating 8(a) and HUBZone contracting achievements

September 29, 2014 by

On September 24, 2014, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued Evaluation Report 14-18, Agencies are Overstating Small Disadvantaged Business and HUBZone Goaling Credit by Including Contracts Performed by Eligible FirmsThis report presents the results of an evaluation of select Section 8(a) Business Development Program and Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) contract awards.

The OIG identified over $400 million in contract actions that were awarded to ineligible firms, which may have contributed to the overstatement of small business goaling dollars for the Small Disadvantaged Business and the HUBZone Business preference programs in FY 2013.  Besides reporting inaccurate information in Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG), procuring agencies may have limited contracting opportunities for firms currently participating in the 8(a) or HUBZone programs.

Further, the OIG found that HUBZone and 8(a) certification information is not consistently transmitted to the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) and the System for Award Management (SAM).  As a result, the affected small businesses are not getting the visibility in the DSBS database, especially the HUBZone firms, and as a result, may impact federal agencies in meeting their HUBZone procurement goals.

Additionally, the OIG also identified over $1.5 billion dollars in contract actions for which the firms were in the programs at the time of contract award, but in FY 2013 were no longer in the 8(a) or HUBZone programs.  Specifically, SBA regulations permit procuring agencies to claim Small Disadvantaged Business and HUBZone goaling credit on certain contract actions even after firms have left the program.  In the opinion of the OIG, the amount of dollars the SBA reports to Congress and the public as being performed by 8(a) and HUBZone firms in the Small Business Goaling Report is significantly impacted by the inclusion of contract actions performed by former program participants.

The OIG made two recommendations to SBA’s Associate Administrator for Government Contracting and Business Development intended to strengthen controls between SBA databases on certification data of 8(a) and HUBZone firms and information reported in FPDS-NG. The recommendations are:

  1. In coordination with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the General Services Administration, the SBA should strengthen controls between the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search Database and the System for Award Management to ensure accuracy of 8(a) and HUBZone certification data in FPDS-NG.
  2. The SBA should modify DSBS so that a firm’s profile and certification information for HUBZone and 8(a) status remains visible and accurate to agency contracting officers, or develop an alternate list to verify a firm’s status.

The OIG reports that SBA’s management has agreed to pursue both recommendations.

Businessman convicted of bilking federal government of $1.4 million

September 24, 2014 by

An El Paso, TX federal jury this week convicted a Houston-area businessman on fraud charges for bilking the federal government out of nearly $1.4 million.

Jurors on Tuesday found Thomas Gregory Harris, 55, of Friendswood, Texas, guilty of 16 counts of wire fraud. Harris is the former senior vice president of Luster National Inc., a consulting company specializing in the management of capital improvement projects for government agencies and private sector organizations, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Federal prosecutors said that in July 2010, SBA officials approved a joint venture, Tropical Luster Joint Venture, between Luster National Inc. and Tropical Contracting LLC. Officials had previously approved Tropical Contracting as a Section 8(a) program intended to promote business development of companies owned and operated by “socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.”

However, Luster National did not qualify to become a Section 8(a) program.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_26559132/businessman-convicted-el-paso-bilking-1-4-million

 

8(a) certification is subject of SBA’s Oct. 23rd workshop

September 16, 2014 by

The 8(a) Business Development program is a part of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s efforts to promote equal business access for socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, including Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, subcontinent Asian Americans, and in in some cases women business owners.

Companies with an 8(a) Certification can benefit from the wide-range of services offered including government contracting set-asides, access to capital, management and technical assistance, and much more.

In order to benefit from the 8(a) program, a company must first qualify and be certified by the SBA.  The SBA’s Georgia District Office is conducting a 3-hour workshop to explain the required qualifications and the certification program.

4 face prison for alleged fraud in claiming 8(a) and SDVOSB status for millions of dollars of federal contracts

September 15, 2014 by

Four individuals pleaded not guilty last week to three counts of fraud involving federal contracts intended for 8(a) and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

A federal grand jury in Greeneville, Tennessee returned an indictment on Aug. 12, 2013, against Ricky Anthony Lanier, 47, and Katrina Reshina Lanier, 40, of LaGrange, N.C.; Latoya Montrevette Speight, 37, of Snow Hill, N.C.; and Emanuel Louis Hill, 47, of Louisville, Ky., for wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and major fraud against the United States.

These individuals appeared in court on Sept. 9, 2014 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis Inman and pleaded not guilty. All were released on bond pending trial, which has been set for Nov. 18, 2014 in U.S. District Court, in Greeneville, Tennessee.

If convicted, they all face a term of 20 years in prison as to each wire fraud charge and up to 10 years in prison for the charges of major fraud against the United States. Additionally, they face fines of up to $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release as to each count. The indictment also seeks forfeitures of approximately $15 million as to the Laniers and Speight and approximately $5 million as to Hill.

Details of this conspiracy are included in the indictment on file with the U.S. District Court, which alleges that the Laniers, Speight, and Hill conspired from November 2005 to April 2013 to defraud the United States government through a scheme to fraudulently obtain federal contracts intended to be awarded to businesses lawfully participating in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development program and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concern program.

Court records state Ricky Lanier was an owner of Global Construction Inc. (GCI), which participated in the SBA’s 8(a) business development program from 1998 to 2007. Katrina Lanier and Speight worked at GCI.  From 2001 to 2007 GCI received over $23 million in federal contracts.

In 2007, however, GCI graduated from the 8(a) program and was no longer eligible to receive 8(a) set-asides.

Kylee Construction, founded in 2005, originally had a mailing address of Emanuel Louis Hill’s father’s home, then a post office box opened by Ricky Lanier, and eventually changed to Hill’s home address.   Between 2010 and 2013, Kylee Construction received over $5 million in contracts under the Department of Veterans Affairs program for small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans.

Lanier also convinced a North Carolina-based company, JMR Investments, that he would handle all of their construction business.   From 2008 to 2013, JMR received over $9 million in federal contracts designated under SBA and VA programs.

This indictment is the result of an investigation by Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, Department of Interior Office of Inspector General, Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General, and United States Secret Service, with assistance from the National Park Service and General Services Administration Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Neil Smith and David Gunn will represent the United States.

 

SBA proposes revisions to employee-based size standards for manufacturing and other industry sectors

September 11, 2014 by

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has published two proposed rules to revise small business size standards in North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Sector 31-33 (Manufacturing) and industries with employee-based size standards that are not a part of NAICS Sector 31-33, Sector 42 (Wholesale Trade), and Sector 44-45 (Retail Trade).  The proposed rules were published in the Federal Register on Sept. 10, 2014.

As part of its comprehensive size standards review required by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, the SBA evaluated employee-based size standards for all 364 industries in NAICS Sector 31-33 and 57 industries and five exceptions that are not in NAICS Sectors 31-33, 42, or 44‑45 to determine whether they should be retained or revised.

In the first rule, SBA proposes to increase size standards for 209 industries in Sector 31-33.  The SBA also proposes to increase the refining capacity component of the Petroleum Refiners (NAICS 324110) size standard to 200,000 barrels per calendar day total capacity for businesses that are primarily engaged in petroleum refining.  The proposed rule also eliminates the requirement that 90 percent of a refiner’s output being delivered should be refined by the bidder.

In the second rule, SBA proposes to increase the employee-based size standards for 30 industries and three exceptions and decrease them for three industries that are not in Sectors 31-33, 42, or 44‑45.

Additionally, SBA proposes to remove the Information Technology Value Added Resellers exception under NAICS 541519 (Other Computer Related Services) together with its 150-employee-based size standard.  Similarly, SBA also proposes to eliminate the Offshore Marine Air Transportation Services exception under NAICS 481211 and 481212 and Offshore Marine Services exception under NAICS Subsector 483 and their $30.5 million receipts based size standard.  Accordingly, the second proposed rule also removes Footnotes 15 and 18 from the table of size standards.

If the changes in the two rules are adopted as proposed, nearly 1,650 more firms will become small and eligible for federal procurement and SBA’s loan programs.

Comments can be submitted on the proposed rules on or before November 10, 2014 at www.regulations.gov, identified by the following RIN numbers: (RIN 3245-AG50 for Sector 31‑33) and (RIN 3245-AG51 for employee-based size standards for industries that are not part of Sector 31-33, Sector 42 or Sector 44-45).  You may also mail comments to Khem R. Sharma, Chief, Office of Size Standards, 409 3rd St., SW, Mail Code 6530, Washington, DC  20416.

For size standards review, SBA takes into account the structural characteristics of individual industries, including average firm size, startup cost and entry barriers, the degree of competition, and small business share of federal government contracting dollars.  This ensures that small business size definitions reflect current economic conditions and federal marketplace in those industries.

An SBA-issued White Paper entitled, “Size Standards Methodology,” which explains how SBA establishes, reviews and modifies its receipts-based and employee-based small business size standards, can be viewed at http://www.sba.gov/size.

For more information about SBA’s revisions to its small business size standards for various industry sectors, click on “What’s New with Size Standards” on SBA’s Web site at http://www.sba.gov/size.