4 sectors where most federal procurement is happening, and why that’s bad for small businesses

June 10, 2014 by

The vast majority of federal procurement is happening in four sectors — only one of which meets its goals for divvying contract dollars to small businesses.

According to a report from the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration, more than 80 percent of federal procurement was concentrated in these categories in fiscal 2012:

  • Manufacturing, with nearly $200 billion.
  • Professional, scientific and technical services, with about $141 billion.
  • Administration and support, waste management and remediation, with about $43 billion.
  • Construction, with about $35.44 billion.

But within that massive chunk of contract spending, how much is making its way to small business?  For three of the four categories, not enough to meet the federal goal of 23 percent, according to the report.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/fedbiz_daily/2014/06/4-sectors-where-mostfederal-procurement-is.html

June 19 webinar demonstrates use of federal data to establish marketing strategies

May 29, 2014 by

The SBA is hosting a webcast that will consist of a live demo of three primary federal market research tools to help identify potential contracting opportunities.

The webinar will demonstrate the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), FedBizOpps (FBO), and various publicly-available procurement forecasts published by federal agencies.

The one-hour webinar will be held on June 19 at 10:00 am EST.

To register, visit: http://events.sba.gov/EventManagement/EventRegistration.aspx?id=614fbe79-f5d1-e311-a143-02bfa56e2a24.

A call-in number and access code will be emailed to registrants prior to the scheduled webcast.

It’ll cost $1 million to get better data on bundled federal contracts

May 7, 2014 by

A bill that would require agencies to do a better job of reporting when they combine what could be smaller contracts into a single solicitation would cost about $1 million over five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The 2014 Contracting Data and Bundling Accountability Act aims to improve how agencies report their consolidated and bundled contracts. Agencies consolidate contracts by including multiple requirements in a single solicitation, and if the resulting contract becomes unsuitable for small businesses to bid on — because it’s too large or diverse, for instance  – it’s considered a bundled contract. Agencies are supposed to identify and then justify the move when they’ve either consolidated or bundled a contract.

CBO said it believed agency data on consolidated and bundled contracts is already available, but the analysis conceded that the Small Business Administration would require better software to retrieve that data from the Federal Procurement Data System. The software upgrade would cost about $1 million between 2014 and 2019, CBO said.

Small business advocates argue that the real problem is federal procurement officials are not properly reporting their consolidated contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/04/cost-better-data-bundled-federal-contracts/83164 

SBA: Women 8(a) applicants don’t need “smoking gun” bias evidence

May 6, 2014 by

A woman does not need to provide the SBA with “smoking gun” evidence of bias in order to be considered socially disadvantaged for purposes of her company’s application to the 8(a) program.

In a recent decision, the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) sharply criticized the SBA’s evaluation of a woman-owned small business’s 8(a) application, holding that the SBA had improperly discounted evidence of bias, needlessly demanded that the woman provide irrelevant details, and made several other errors.

SBA OHA’s decision in Matter of Bartkowski Life Safety Corp., SBA No. BDPE-516 (2014) involved Bartkowski Life Safety Corporation’s 8(a) application.  Bartkowski initially applied to the program in January 2012.  Bartkowski asserted that its owner, Lauren Sustek, was socially disadvantaged on the basis of gender.

Keep reading this article at: http://smallgovcon.com/8a-program/women-8a-applicants-dont-need-smoking-gun-evidence-of-bias-says-sba-oha/

SBA isn’t ready to boast yet, but all agencies have met their small biz contracting goals

April 28, 2014 by

For the first time in seven years, all federal agencies in fiscal 2013 met their goals of steering 23 percent of contracting to small businesses, according to panelists at an industry conference on Thursday, Apr. 24, 2014.

Emily Murphy, senior counsel for the House Small Business Committee, in a discussion on legislation and the Small Business Administration’s rulemaking progress, made the disclosure and suggested that SBA is tardy in making the announcement.

Her co-panelist, Kenneth Dodds, SBA’s director of policy, planning and liaisons, said the announcement “deadline is soft,” and that the score card is still being readied.

The Small Business conference was staged by the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council and is intended as an opportunity for small business contractors to interact with agency representatives on how to qualify and win more work.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/04/sba-isnt-ready-boast-yet-all-agencies-have-met-their-small-biz-contracting-goals/83176

 

Phony small businesses pay $1.9 million to settle False Claims Act charges

April 24, 2014 by

Five California-based masonry subcontractors and two individuals paid the government nearly $1.9 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by misrepresenting their disadvantaged small business status in connection with military construction contracts, the Department of Justice announced on April 9, 2014.  The defendants are Frazier Masonry Corp., F-Y Inc., CTI Concrete & Masonry Inc., Masonry Technology Inc., Masonry Works Inc., Russell Frazier and Robert Yowell.

“This settlement demonstrates our continuing vigilance to ensure that those doing business with the military do so legally and honestly and that taxpayer funds are not misused,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery.  “Among the rules that military contractors and subcontractors must follow are those relating to the use and hiring of small businesses.”

The case involved contracts to construct facilities at Marine Corps bases at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Camp Pendleton, Calif.  Under the rules of the Small Business Administration, the contracts required that a certain percentage of the work be performed by disadvantaged small businesses.  This contract requirement was intended to benefit small firms owned by women, minorities and other disadvantaged groups.

The government alleged that the defendant masonry subcontractors and their principals misrepresented to the prime contractors that they were small businesses, and that these misrepresentations caused the prime contractors to falsely certify that they had complied with the small business provisions of the contracts in claiming payment.  Russell Frazier previously pleaded guilty in related criminal proceedings to causing false statements.

The settlement resolves allegations filed in two lawsuits by Rickey Howard, a former employee of Frazier Masonry Corp., in federal court in Raleigh, N.C.  The lawsuits were filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery.  The act also allows the government to intervene and take over the action, as it did in this case.  Howard will receive $393,383. 

The cases are captioned United States ex rel. Howard v. Harper Construction Co., et al., Case No. 7:12-CV-215-D (E.D.N.C.) and United States ex rel. Howard v. RQ Construction LLC, et al., Case No. 7:13-CV-48-D (E.D.N.C.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.   More details at: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2014/April/14-civ-357.html

SBA says GSA failed to assess negative impact of office supply contract on small businesses

April 17, 2014 by

The General Services Administration (GSA) failed to assess the negative impact that the Office Supplies 3 (OS3) strategic sourcing contract would have on small businesses, a Small Business Administration (SBA) analysis says.

Under the Small Business Act, agencies must determine whether new consolidated contracts would negatively affect small businesses, and the SBA is tasked with making sure the agencies execute the determination properly.

SBA undertook the analysis at the Government Accountability Office’s request after several small businesses protested to the OS3 request for proposals, saying GSA failed to look into the economic consequences of the businesses who don’t receive an OS3 award. FedNewsRadio posted a copy (pdf) April 7.

In response to the protests, GSA argued that the OS3 contract is a follow-on contract to the OS2 and not a consolidated contract. GSA also said it’s “contrary to law” to provide an economic analysis on the negative impacts a consolidate contract would have on small businesses.

SBA disagrees on both points.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/sba-says-gsa-failed-assess-negative-impact-os3-small-businesses/2014-04-08 

Business owner says soliciting government business worth the hassle

April 14, 2014 by

[Note: This article was written by Michelle Shoultz, president of Florida-based Frazier Engineering.]

For more than 20 years, Frazier Engineering had a strong commercial and municipal/county government customer base that comfortably sustained our small business.

But as the economy changed, we knew we had to change.

We decided to pursue unique certifications that would enable us to compete for federal work in a smaller competitive pool certifications such as 8(a), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise/DBE and Minority Business Enterprise/MBE).

Through the Small Business Administration 8(a) program, we were given opportunities that we would not have had before. However, if we did not already have the knowledge and manpower to support the requirements of those opportunities, our certification would only have been as good as the paper it was printed on. Our success to date has been the result of a solid team, being financially and technically sound, having a strong work history, and being actively responsive.

I’d like to share some lessons we’ve learned over time.

As a small-to-midsize, growing business leader, I would definitely recommend the time and effort involved in pursuing government contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.floridatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/04/01/business-money-edge-chamber/7146529/ 

 

Controversial IT contractor charged with murder

April 8, 2014 by

Braulio Castillo, the president of IT contractor Strong Castle, was arrested April 1 by Loudon County, Va., authorities and charged with first degree murder in the death of his estranged wife, Michelle.

Castillo gained notoriety as a result of a June 2013 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that examined the validity of the service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) status enjoyed by the firm he co-owned with his wife.

Castillo’s disability arose from a sports injury incurred at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School. Additionally, Castillo’s firm enjoyed a special status as a HUBZone company under a Small Business Administration program that gives preference to firms located in designated neighborhoods. SBA decertified Strong Castle’s HUBZone status in May 2013, while the Department of Veterans Affairs affirmed Strong Castles SDVOSB status last September.

keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/04/02/castillo-murder-charges.aspx 

Maryland man pleads guilty to defrauding SBA and IRS over $52 million in government contracts

April 2, 2014 by

Vernon J. Smith III, age 61, of Edgewater, Maryland, pleaded guilty on Mar. 28, 2014 to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government in connection with schemes to fraudulently seek federal contracts under a Small Business Administration (SBA) program to assist socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses.  Smith also pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service  (IRS).

“Today’s guilty plea sends a strong message to those who lie to obtain preferences for federal contract awards,” said Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson of the Small Business Administration. “With our interagency partners, SBA OIG will continue to pursue those who defraud the government by lying to gain access to federal set-aside contracts. We would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for its leadership and professionalism throughout this investigation.”

“Corruption of the nature uncovered throughout the course of this investigation destroys confidence in the Government’s ability to act as a fair and effective steward of taxpayer dollars. This plea today, demonstrates the commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and its law enforcement partners to prosecute fraud to the fullest extent of the law,” said Robert E. Craig, Special Agent in Charge, Mid Atlantic Field Office, Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

“Conspiring to defraud the government in a decade long scheme and filing false tax returns is unlawful,” said Thomas J. Kelly, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Washington DC Field Office. “Bringing individuals to justice, such as Vernon Smith, who intentionally engage in this type of activity in order to defraud the IRS, ranks high on the list of IRS- CI’s enforcement priorities.”

“This complicated scheme boils down to lying and cheating to obtain government contracts,” said GSA Inspector General Brian D. Miller. “I appreciate the hard work of our special agents, law enforcement partners, and U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

According to his plea agreement, Vernon Smith was an owner and officer of Capitol Contractors, which provided roofing and construction services, primarily to U.S. government agencies. On March 3, 1993, Capitol Contractors was certified to participate in the SBA’s Section 8(a) program, which provides assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses. The majority owner of Capitol Contractors was a Native American. A small business can only participate in the Section 8(a) program for nine years before it “graduates” from the program and is no longer eligible to obtain government contracts reserved for Section 8(a) program participants. Shortly before Capitol Contractors graduated from the program in March 2002, the majority owner sold his interest in the company to Vernon Smith, who became the company’s sole owner and managed the day-to-day operations of the company. Vernon Smith did not qualify as a socially and economically disadvantaged individual under the Section 8(a) Program.

In August 1999, Vernon Smith arranged for Anthony Wright, an African-American who was a former roofer and project manager at Capitol Contractors, to form a new company to participate in the Section 8(a) program upon Capitol Contractors’ graduation from the program. On August 11, 1999, Wright incorporated Platinum One Contracting in Maryland. Wright was the president and 60% owner, and Smith’s son was vice president and owned the remaining 40% of the corporation. In reality, Vernon Smith exercised complete and undisclosed control over Platinum’s operations, including the day-to-day management and long term decision making for the company.

Vernon Smith admits that from August 1999 to June 2013, he conspired to defraud the SBA in several ways. For example, Smith directed Wright to submit an application to the SBA for certification in the Section 8(a) program which did not reveal that Vernon Smith:

  • exercised control over the company,
  • had previously supervised Wright,
  • owned more than 10% of Capitol Contractors, and
  • was related to an owner of Platinum.

From May 2004 through April 2010, Vernon Smith also caused Platinum to submit annual updates to the SBA 8(a) program that contained false information, including that the company was controlled by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual, and that no non-disadvantaged member of Platinum’s management received compensation that exceeded that received by Wright. In fact, Vernon Smith controlled the company and Platinum’s payments to Vernon Smith and other corporate officers far exceeded payments received by Wright for 2004 through 2009.  Based on the fraudulent application and annual updates, Platinum One received more than $52 million in contracts from the federal government under the 8(a) program, to which it was not entitled. The total loss to the government resulting from Vernon Smith’s illegal conduct, regarding the illicit profit he received by defrauding the SBA, and depriving a legitimate 8(a) contractor of such profit, is $6,194,828.
In addition, Vernon Smith and a co-conspirator transferred millions of dollars from Platinum to bank accounts in their own names, to Capitol Contractors, to casinos on their own behalf; and to pay for personal expenses charged to Platinum One’s credit cards. These expenses included: extensive dental work, veterinary visits for pets, lavish vacations, and limousine transportation to casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, among others.

Vernon Smith admits that he signed false corporate and personal tax returns for 2005 and 2006. Smith knew that the cost of goods sold and payments to contractors reported on the corporate returns were false because almost all of that money was paid to, and for the benefit of, Smith at casinos. He also knew that the income reported on his personal income taxes omitted hundreds of thousands of dollars that Capitol Contractors had paid to, and for his benefit. As a result, Smith owed additional personal income tax to the IRS totaling $264,105, and Capitol Contractors owed an additional $574,911 to the IRS for tax years 2005 and 2006. The total tax loss resulting from the conspiracy to defraud the IRS is $839,016.

Vernon Smith faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm has scheduled his sentencing for July 2, 2014, at 9:30 a.m.

Anthony Wright, age 42, of Bowie, Maryland, pleaded guilty on June 18, 2013, to his role in the scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 23, 2014.

Source: http://www.justice.gov/usao/md/news/2014/EdgewaterMarylandManPleadsGuiltyToDefraudingSBADisadvantagedSmallBusinessProgramAndIRS.html