Small Business? Better be able to prove it

The Small Business Administration has contracting assistance programs, in place, to help small businesses by limiting competition for certain government contracts. Additionally, they work to ensure at least 23 percent of all federal contracting dollars goes to small businesses. (JD Supra August 13, 2021)

The current SBA programs are:

  • The small business set-aside program
  • 8(a) Business Development (8(a)) Program)
  • Service-Disabled Business (WOSB) Program
  • Historically-Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) Program (ibid)

It has come to light that some of these programs have had issues certifying and monitoring participants of the programs. Recently, two inspectors general audited the HUBZone and SDVOSB programs. The audits showed 15 of 39 firms receiving HUBZone certification and a HUBZone contract. Of the 15, three were improperly certified to participate in the program. The SBA had not made an eligibility determination for four others participating in the program. (ibid)

The Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Inspector General (DoD-OIG) recently issued a report that turned up concerns with how DoD confirms eligibility for SDVOSB contract awards. In the report, 29 SDVOSB contractors were audited. 16 contractors at issue received 27 contracts, together with values at $827.8 million. Those 16 contractors “did not have a service-disabled veteran as the owner and the highest-ranking officer of the company or whose publically available information and contract documentation did not support that the contractor met the requirements for SDVOSB status.” (ibid)

Since the issues have come out, both criminal and civil enforcement has increased. There have been four federal indictments or guilty pleas from business owners who misrepresented their status as a small business, women-owned business, service-disabled veteran-owned business, or minority-owned business. These are all clear-cut cases of misrepresentation and fraud. Recently, a construction company obtained $250 million in government contracts set aside for SDVOSBs. The owner of the company put a disabled veteran as the apparent owner of the construction company to qualify the company as an SDVOSB. The true owner turned out to be a non-service-disabled business partner who controlled both the financial and operational control of the company. This type of fraud is known as a “rent a vet” scheme. (ibid)

The government may use the False Claims Act (FCA) (31 U.S.C 3729-3733) to root out contractors who violate small business compliance laws. The FCA has a whistleblower aspect allowing for whistleblowers to obtain a percentage of the government’s recovery from a successful resolution of the matter. The FCA is a civil enforcement statute that does not require specific intent to defraud. The reach of the FCA is broad and not to be taken lightly. (ibid)

In 2020, there were 8 key settlements, rulings, and filings regarding various small business fraud scheme allegations and five settlements in 2021 already. Just last month a Virginia-based consulting group and the president of the company agreed to pay a $4.8 settlement regarding FCA allegations. The recent civil enforcement should be a flashing light of warning to small business government contractors that inspectors general and the DOJ are actively pursuing contractors who know their actions are in violation of small business contracting rules. (ibid)

To stay compliant and reduce risk, the following guidelines should be followed:

  • Establish a company culture of compliance, with every employee understanding the rules
  • Work with subject matter experts to stay informed
  • Continuously verify the company eligibility in the program
  • Assess the eligibility of subcontractors or affiliates
  • Perform comprehensive and thorough compliance risk assessments (ibid)

Following the guidelines will allow small businesses to spend their resources on participating in government contracts and not on criminal/civil violations.

Trying to determine if you meet the guidelines? Give us a call.

 

 

 

$355M for Women Owned Small Businesses

Over the past 20 years, the government has aimed to award at least 5 percent of contracts to Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs). In FY2020, WOSBs received $561.7 million in contracts. However, GSA has only set aside $354.9 million for WOSB contracts in FY2021. (ExecutiveGov, March 4, 2021)

According to GSA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, 10.47 percent of the total FY2020 contracting obligations for women-owned vendors were prime awards. To lend a hand to these vendors, GSA provides support through training resources and Forecast of Contracting Opportunities. These tools and other activities earned GSA a grade of A+ from the Small Business Administration in FY2019 for their work to support small businesses. (ibid)

Are you a Small or Woman-Owned Small Business looking to prime or sub on an upcoming procurement? Give us a call.

FY 2021 SubK Reporting Deadline Extended

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is extending the period for subcontract reporting for fiscal year 2021. The extension allows Federal Contractors (FCs) extra time to correct any issues experienced during the pandemic as well as Federal Agencies (FAs) extra time to review the reports. This will be the final Subcontract Reporting extension. The timeframe for FCs to revise rejected reports is not extended and remains unchanged. (Small Business Administration Notification March 5, 2021)

Extensions provided by the SBA include:

  • 15 days for FC’s report submission due dates and for  the FA’s review periods for the FY 2021 ISRs and SSRs
  • 45 days after the end of the reporting period for FCs to submit their ISR and SSR and 45 days after contract completion if applicable
  • 75 days from the reports’ ending dates for FAs to acknowledge receipt or reject the initial reports
  • 30 days after receipt of a rejection notice, per FAR § 52.219-9(l), for FCs to revise rejected reports
  • 30 days after submittal for FAs to review revised reports

The subcontract report extensions are effective immediately. This pdf contains the formal notice SBA provided for the extension notification. (ibid)

Have questions concerning your ISR or SSR or a rejected report notice? Give us a call.

Civilian Agencies: Showing You the $$$

Fiscal year 2020 was actually good for something — Civilian agency spending. Civilian agencies spent a record $228 billion in fiscal 2020, up 17 percent from fiscal 2019. The increase can be directly attributed to the Coronavirus pandemic. (Government Executive, October 8, 2020)

According to this report, published by Bloomberg Government, Health and Human Services (HHS), Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Energy drove the increased spending. Small businesses saw a 26 percent increase, or $59.4 million spent. The Department of Defense numbers, due to security purposes, see a 90 day lag in reporting; we likely won’t see those totals before the end of the calendar year.

Here’s a quick look at the spending breakdown:

  • Health and Human Services accounted for $41.2 billion or 44  percent of the overall $33.5 billion. The bulk of the spending came from vaccines, research, ventilators, and efforts related to the pandemic.
  • Veterans Affairs came in at $33.1 billion in fiscal 2020. The spending is likely attributed to community care.
  • The Department of Energy spent upwards of $35 billion on two nuclear research labs. Of note is the fact that each lab houses “supercomputers” performing coronavirus research.
  • Small Business Administration spending went from $177 million in fiscal 2019 to over $1.5 billion in fiscal 2020. Part of this is due to an RER Solutions Inc. contract being approved for a $500 million increase without competitive bidding, as disaster recovery loan applications inundated the SBA. (ibid)

Other transaction authority contracts, which are allowed a great deal of flexibility outside of the traditional procurement limitations, are increasing year after year as well. We expect to see this continue well into the future. (ibid)

Questions about the “other transaction authority contracts” and how to take advantage of their flexibility? Give us a call.

Just the Facts FAS, Please

Earlier this week, a GSA watchdog discovered erroneous reporting of small business contracts by the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). (Government Executive September 17, 2020)

The General Service Administration (GSA) inspector general (IG) recently provided a report that focused on the data entered into the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation, which is managed by GSA. The Small Business Administration (SBA) uses the system data provided to determine if the federal government is achieving its annual goal of awarding 23 percent of contracts to small businesses. An IG review of FAS procurements from fiscal 2016 and 2017 and shows that small business procurements have been grossly overstated.

“We found that FAS’s reporting of small business procurements contained significant inaccuracies. We identified $89 million in procurements erroneously recorded as small business in the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation. Additionally, FAS’ small business procurement reporting does not identify the extent of the work performed by large businesses. We found approximately $120 million of small business procurements in which large businesses performed a portion of the work.” (ibid)

After interviewing small business contractors and GSA officials as well as analyzing agency contracting data, the IG determined many of the issues to be out of GSA’s control. For instance, the IG found that classification codes  often “pre-populate” for task orders; due to the nature of the software, officers cannot override the system to update the task order codes. In addition, no mandate exists for FAS or small businesses to report how much of the work completed on a contract is subcontracted to large businesses. This leads to inaccuracies when assessing FAS’s small business procurements. Many believe the inaccuracies will never be fully fixed due to the competing policy issues and marketplace anomalies. (ibid)

The IG recommended the following:

  • Fix the limitations of the contracting system to enable accurate reporting
  • SBA and the commissioner discuss how subcontracting and reseller agreements are reported

How does this affect your contract or an upcoming proposal? Give us a call.