Small business federal contracting would change under House bill

March 30, 2015 by

The chairman of the House Small Business Committee introduced a bill that would include more categories for small businesses to get federal contracts.

The bill (H.R. 1481), introduced by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), would increase the number of industries small businesses can compete for contracts as well as identifying new ways to attract small businesses in those new industry categories.

“Small business contracting policies are intended to make sure we have a broad spectrum of small firms working with the government across industries, and when those policies are undermined, it is imperative that we find appropriate solutions,” Chabot says in a March 20 statement.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/small-business-federal-contracting-would-change-under-chabot-bill/2015-03-22

Deadline for comments is Feb. 27 on proposed rule affecting small business federal contracts

February 23, 2015 by

Are you a small business owner doing business with the government?  As previously reported here, the Small Business Administration (SBA) recently published a proposed rule to implement Section 1651 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA), proposing to change several key areas that could impact you:

  • The performance requirements applicable to small business and socioeconomic program set aside contracts and small business subcontracting.
  • The nonmanufacturer rule and affiliation rules.
  • The performance requirements for joint ventures.

From the SBA’s point of view, the proposed regulations should benefit small businesses by allowing small business concerns to use similarly-situated subcontractors in the performance of a set-aside contract, thereby expanding the capacity of small business prime contractors and potentially enabling small businesses to compete for and win larger contracts. SBA also believes the proposed rules will strengthen the small business subcontracting provisions, which may result in more subcontract awards to small business concerns. The proposed regulations also seek to address or clarify issues that are ambiguous or subject to dispute, thereby providing clarity to federal contracting officers as well as small business concerns.

Have comments? Visit the Federal Register online for information and to submit your comments by February 27, 2015.

Incumbent’s past performance score lowered as a result of missing subcontracting goals

February 18, 2015 by

A large incumbent contractor was properly assigned a mere “satisfactory confidence” past performance rating because the large business failed to meet its small business subcontracting goals under four of the five contracts it submitted for evaluation.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO upheld the agency’s assignment of a satisfactory confidence score to the large incumbent–despite the incumbent’s strong performance in many areas–because of the incumbent’s failure to satisfy its subcontracting goals.

In Science Applications International Corp., B-408690.2, B-408690.3 (Dec. 17, 2014), the Defense Logistics Agency issued a solicitation to provide supplies and services pursuant to DLA’s tailored logistics support prime vendor program in the Southeast Region of the United States.  The solicitation provided that each contract would be awarded on a best value basis, considering three evaluation factors: past performance, technical merit, and price.

Keep reading this article at: http://smallgovcon.com/gaobidprotests/subcontracting-goals-missed-incumbents-past-performance-score-lowered

GTPAC-hosted Jan. 22 event to aid Georgia small businesses

January 13, 2015 by

On Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) will play host to six federal agencies holding an industry day forum directed at small businesses in Georgia.  NOTE: As of Jan. 16, 2015, this event is booked to capacity, and no further registrations are being accepted.

NCMA logoThe event is being sponsored by the Atlanta chapter of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) and the regional office of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

The event, billed as “Building Partnerships and Collaborating for Success, a Small Business Industry Day and Matchmaking Event,” is open to all businesses in the region who wish to learn more about doing business with  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the General Services Administration (GSA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

In addition to federal agencies, representatives of major prime contractors also are expected to be present, including Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, ICF International, RTI International, WYLE, Westat, Deloitte, and DB Consulting Group, Inc.

Businesses interested in participating in this event must preregister at: http://gtpac.ecenterdirect.com/ConferenceDetail.action?ID=7954.

More than 200 vendors are expected to attend.  Matchmaking events will be scheduled by vendors based on NAICS code requirements of government agencies and prime contractors. Details for the matchmaking aspect of the event will be promulgated separately to confirmed registrants.

All vendors participating in this event are expected to have the following completed prior to attending:  SAM and DSBS registration, business cards, an elevator speech, and a capability statement. See web link above for more information.

Businesses, Pentagon agree this program doesn’t work — Congress saved it anyway

January 9, 2015 by

Over the past quarter century, the Defense Department has been testing a contracting program that was intended to help small businesses obtain a larger share of federal work. However, Pentagon officials and small business leaders say the initiative has not only failed to help small contractors, it’s actually hurt them.

In other words, neither those running the program nor those it was supposedly intended to help believe the program works. Thus, many expected the experiment to come to an end when its most recent congressional approval expires on Wednesday.

But that’s not happening.

In what critics are calling another victory for Washington’s massive contracting darlings at the expense of small businesses, Congress has approved legislation extending the contracting initiative, called the Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program (CSPTP), for another three years. It’s the eighth time the program has been revived.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/businesses-pentagon-agree-this-program-doesnt-work-congress-saved-it-anyway/2014/12/30/80d72aa0-9066-11e4-ba53-a477d66580ed_story.html

Inspector general releases report on critical risks facing the SBA

December 12, 2014 by

The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has issued its semi-annual report focusing on the most critical risks facing the SBA, including several aspects of government procurement.

SBA - IGCovering the period April through September 2014, the OIG’s report covers key SBA programs and operations, including financial assistance, government contracting and business development, financial management and information technology, disaster assistance, management challenges, and security operations.

Of particular interest to the government contracting community are findings such as:

  • Over $400 million in federal contracts 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.
  • The owner of a Colorado real estate firm and 5 family members were charged in a 37-count indictment by a state grand jury in connection with a $2,323,000 SBA-guaranteed loan to refinance an office building and other existing debt.
  • Sixteen cases of contract-related bribery and/or fraud were identified in connection with contracts or subcontracts set-aside for 8(a), HUBZone, veterans, or other categories of small business.
  • The OIG was unable to determine if the SBA appropriately issued waivers to the non-manufacturer rule because of a lack of established procedures, missing files, and other deficiencies.

The OIG’s full report can be downloaded here: SBA OIG Semi-Annual Report to Congress – Fall 2014

GAO says SBA needs to monitor WOSB certifiers and improve annual eligibility examinations

November 19, 2014 by

In a November 7, 2014 report the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the SBA performs minimal oversight of third-party certifiers of women-owned small businesses and has yet to develop procedures that provide reasonable assurance that only eligible businesses obtain contracts set-aside for women-owned small businesses.

Background

Businesses have two options to certify their eligibility for the federal government’s women-owned small business (WOSB) program. Whether self-certifying at no cost or using the fee-based services of an approved third-party certifier, businesses must attest that they are a WOSB or an economically disadvantaged women-owned small business (EDWOSB). Businesses also must submit documents supporting their attestation to a repository the Small Business Administration (SBA) maintains (required documents vary depending on certification type), and, if they obtain a third-party certification, to the certifier.

Findings

In its examination of the certification process, the GAO found that:

  • SBA generally has not reviewed certifier performance or developed or implemented procedures for such reviews, including determining whether certifiers inform businesses of the no-cost self-certification option, a requirement in the agency’s agreement with certifiers.
  • SBA also has not completed or implemented procedures to review the monthly reports that third-party certifiers must submit.

In its report, the GAO says that without ongoing monitoring and oversight of the activities and performance of third-party certifiers, the SBA cannot reasonably assure that certifiers fulfill the requirements of the agreement.

This finding is bolstered by the fact that, in 2012 and 2013, the SBA found that more than 40 percent of businesses (that previously received contracts) it examined for program eligibility should not have attested they were WOSBs or EDWOSBs at the time of the SBA’s review. SBA officials speculated about possible reasons for the results, including businesses not providing adequate documentation or becoming ineligible after contracts were awarded, but the SBA has not assessed the results of the examinations to determine the actual reasons for the high numbers of businesses found ineligible. The SBA also has not completed or implemented procedures to conduct eligibility examinations. According to federal standards for internal control, agencies should have documented procedures, conduct monitoring, and ensure that any review findings and deficiencies are resolved promptly. As a result of inadequate monitoring and controls, 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.

The GAO finds that the WOSB program has had a limited effect on federal contracting opportunities available to WOSBs. Set-aside contracts under the program represent less than 1 percent of all federal contract obligations to women-owned small businesses. The Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and the General Services Administration collectively accounted for the majority of the $228.9 million in set-aside obligations awarded under the program between April 2011 and May 2014. Contracting officers, business owners, and industry advocates with whom GAO spoke identified challenges to program use and suggested potential changes that might increase program use, including allowing sole-source contracts rather than requiring at least two businesses to compete and expanding the list of 330 industries in which WOSBs and EDWOSBs were eligible for a set-aside.

A summary of the GAO’s report can be downloaded at: http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666430.pdf

The full report can be downloaded at: http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666431.pdf 

An interview with the Pentagon’s small-business director

November 14, 2014 by

Andre Gudger has heard the argument many times that, as he puts it, “small businesses don’t build planes and ships and nuclear weapons.”

It’s his job — or at least part of it — to change that perception.

A Maryland native, Gudger has been the director of the Defense Department’s Office of Small Business Programs since 2011. During the three years prior to his arrival, the share of the agency’s contracts awarded to small companies had shrunk every year. Moreover, in the more than three decades since federal small-business contracting goals had been put in place, the agency had never once accomplished them.

In the three years since, even amid budgetary constraints, small-business participation in Defense Department projects has expanded each year. In fact, this past year, the agency for the first time eclipsed not only its small-business goal, but also the federal government’s target, awarding roughly 23.4 percent of defense contracting dollars, representing about $53 billion, to small employers.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/operation-small-business-an-interview-with-the-pentagons-small-business-director/2014/10/23/216d4cc8-5a12-11e4-b812-38518ae74c67_story.html

 

IG reports continued weaknesses in small business reporting and 8(a) program

November 13, 2014 by

The Office of the Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. Small Business Administration reports on 11 weaknesses in a range of SBA programs.  Two of the “challenges” identified in the Oct. 17, 2014 report pertain directly to small business participation in federal contracting:

  • Procurement flaws allow large firms to obtain small business awards, and allow agencies to count contracts performed by large firms towards their small business goals.
  • The SBA needs to modify the Section 8(a) Business Development  Program so more firms receive business development assistance, standards for  determining economic disadvantage are justifiable, and the SBA ensures that firms follow 8(a) regulations when completing contracts.

SBA - IGThe IG’s full document, entitled “Report on the Most Serious Management and Performance Challenges Facing the Small Business Administration In Fiscal Year 2015″ can be downloaded here, but the text of the IG’s finding on the two point just cited appears below.

Procurement Reporting

The Small Business Act established a Government-wide goal that 23 percent of the total value of all prime contracts be awarded to small businesses each fiscal year. As the advocate for small business, the SBA should strive to ensure that only small firms obtain and perform small business awards. Further, the SBA should ensure that procuring agencies accurately report contracts awarded to small businesses when representing their progress in meeting small business contracting goals.

In September 2014, we issued a report that identified over $400 million in FY 2013 contract actions that may
have been awarded to ineligible firms. We also identified over $1.5 billion dollars in contract actions for
which the firms were in the 8(a) or HUBZone programs at the time of contract award, but were no longer in
these programs in FY 2013. Previous OIG audits and other Government studies have shown widespread
misreporting by procuring agencies, since many contract awards that were reported as having gone to small
firms have actually been performed by larger companies. While some contractors may misrepresent or
erroneously calculate their size, most of the incorrect reporting results from errors made by Government
contracting personnel, including misapplication of small business contracting rules. In addition, contracting
officers do not always review the on-line certifications that contractors enter into Government databases
prior to awarding contracts. The SBA should ensure that procuring agencies accurately report contracts
awarded to small businesses when representing their progress in meeting small business contracting goals,
and that contracting personnel are reviewing on-line certifications prior to awarding contracts.

The SBA revised its regulations to require firms to meet the size standard for each specific order to address a
loophole within General Services Administration Multiple Awards Schedule (MAS) contracts, which contain
multiple industrial codes that determine the size of the company. Previously, a company awarded an MAS
contract could identify itself as a small business on individual task orders awarded under that contract, even
though it did not meet the size criteria for the applicable task. Thus, agencies received small business credit
for using a firm classified as small, when the firm was not small for specific orders under the MAS contract. In
addition, the SBA submitted a final rule to the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) Council to implement the
changes made to its regulations in the FAR. The SBA also updated its standard operating procedure (SOP) to
ensure consistency in conducting its surveillance reviews to assess Federal agencies’ management of their
small business programs and compliance with regulations and applicable procedures.

While the SBA has made substantial progress on this challenge, we are working with the Agency to verify that
the surveillance reviews were conducted in a thorough and consistent manner.

                                                                                               ***

8(a) Program

The SBA’s 8(a) Business Development (BD) Program was created to assist eligible small disadvantaged
business concerns to compete in the American economy through business development. Previously, the
SBA did not place adequate emphasis on business development to enhance the ability of 8(a) firms to
compete, and did not adequately ensure that only 8(a) firms with economically disadvantaged owners in
need of business development remained in the program. Companies that were “business successes”
were allowed to remain in the program and continue to receive 8(a) contracts, causing fewer companies
to receive most of the 8(a) contract dollars and many to receive none.

The SBA has made progress towards addressing issues that hinder its ability to deliver an effective 8(a)
BD Program. For example, the SBA expanded its ability to provide assistance to program participants
through its resource partners—small business development centers, service corps of retired executives,
and procurement technical assistance centers. In addition, the SBA has taken steps to ensure business
opportunity specialists assess program participants’ business development needs during site visits. The
SBA also revised its regulations, effective March 2011, to ensure that companies deemed “business
successes” graduate from the program. These regulations also establish additional standards to address
the definition of “economic disadvantage.” Agency officials stated that the rule-making process served
as an adequate proxy to objectively and reasonably determine effective measures for economic
disadvantage, and were not aware of any reliable sources of data to determine economic disadvantage.

However, for the second consecutive year, the SBA has not completed updating its SOP for the 8(a) BD
Program to reflect the March 2011 regulatory changes. In addition, we continue to maintain that the
SBA’s standards for determining economic disadvantage are not justified or objective based on the
absence of economic analysis. In December 2011, the SBA awarded a contract to develop and deploy a
new IT system by December 2012 to assist the SBA in monitoring 8(a) program participants. However,
the new system has not been deployed, and its delivery date and capabilities are undetermined at this
time.

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.