Senator bashes SBA and challenges its small business contract numbers

By Dena Levitz
Federal News Radio

The nation’s small businesses are being “cheated” because of serious flaws within the federal procurement process, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said this week.

In a letter that Vitter wrote to Maria Contreras-Sweet, administrator of the Small Business Administration, he slammed her agency for discrepancies within the recent annual procurement scorecard, which outlines the proportion of federal contracts going toward small businesses.

The Small Business Act requires that, of the federal government contracts awarded each year, 23 percent must go to small businesses. But, in Vitter’s estimation, a number of ineligible firms are being factored in to hit the requirement. He also accuses the SBA of skirting any explanation of the figures and putting off an event to release the latest scorecard.

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“Serious flaws undoubtedly exist in calculating and accurately reporting the number of government contracts annually awarded to small businesses,” writes Vitter, who is also chairman of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee. “Simply ignoring the problem does nothing to help small businesses. Without transparency and accountability in the process, the numbers are meaningless.”

His letter recounts that in 2013, the Obama administration reportedly met the 23 percent benchmark, the first time that goal was reached in eight years. Yet later it was discovered that $400 million in federal contracts were awarded to firms that are not eligible to be considered small businesses under the law.

For the fiscal year 2014 numbers, the federal government’s “Small Business Dashboard” indicates that a whopping 25 percent of government-wide contracts went to small businesses. That percent would be a record amount.

However, according to Vitter’s letter, the SBA has ducked any official announcement on this.

“Media sources speculated that you planned to officially announce this milestone at the White House earlier this month but cancelled at the last minute after learning that questions would be asked about how that number was achieved,” he writes.

Tiffani Shea Clements, a public affairs specialist for the SBA, said in a May 6 email to Federal News Radio that her agency planned to announce the results of the 2014 Small Business Federal Procurement Scorecard at the White House two days later. However that event did not take place.

In response to Vitter’s criticisms, Clements said in an email Thursday that the SBA had received the letter.

“We are looking forward to addressing the questions it raises and we fully plan to release the Scorecard in the very near future — once we resolve some scheduling issues,” she continued.

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