Feds earn low grades from SBA
Half of all agencies received failing marks on first rating of small-business contracting
Most agencies did not fare well on the Small Business Administrations new score cards for rating their progress on meeting small-business contracting goals. In fact, half of the agencies received the lowest possible grade.
On the score cards released Aug. 17, SBA gave 12 of 24 departments the lowest rating: a red. Those agencies included the Defense Department and the General Services Administration the federal governments biggest buyers. SBA issued five yellow scores, and seven agencies earned the top score of green. SBAs scoring system is based on the Presidents Management Agenda score card.
SBAs score card will bring attention to small-business contracting, said Steven Preston, SBAs administrator, during a teleconference with reporters.
Sticking a big red on an agency thats not hitting their target
is an important motivator, he added.
An agency earns a red score if it misses its goal for awarding a certain overall percentage of contracts to small businesses or if it doesnt reach companies in at least two out of four socioeconomic categories, such as woman-owned and veteran-owned businesses.
An agency receives a yellow score if it achieves its overall goal and hits its target for two of the four socioeconomic categories. An agency earns a green score if it achieves its overall goal and its target for three of the four socioeconomic measures. SBA will issue score cards every six months.
Experts applauded SBAs effort, but some say they are concerned about the accuracy of the data.
These numbers should still be viewed with caution, said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, in a statement.
Kerry and other experts said their concerns stem from SBAs use of the Federal Procurement Data System, which many have criticized as unreliable.
Through various directives, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy is pressuring agencies to validate their information and ensure that data is coded correctly when it is entered into the system.
Accurate data is of vital importance for the score cards, Preston said. Transparency is a huge motivator in getting data right, he said, adding that there has never been this level of scrutiny in the past.
The large number of clerical workers who key in data are not as careful as they should be, Preston said. I think its carelessness and a lack of focus at the lowest level, he said.
The score cards visibility could get some agency leaders attention, said Anthony Martoccia, director of DODs Office of Small Business Programs. He recently transferred to DOD after working on the score card project at SBA. Getting senior-level support for small-business initiatives is important, he added.
One question people have is how will SBA help the agencies meet their goals and eventually hit green, said Scott Denniston, director of the Veterans Affairs Departments Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. What do we do with it now to move forward?
Preston said the score cards will raise the profile of agencies small-business representatives so they can openly discuss the small-business issue with agency executives.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), the Small Business Committees chairwoman, said the government must address the heart of the problem: the lack of opportunity in the federal marketplace for small businesses.
Matthew Weigelt is a former FCW senior writer who covered acquisition and procurement.