Congress questions SBA spending

House Small Business chairman voices concern that "core functions" could suffer while money is spent on unnecessary travel and activities.

Karen Mills

SBA Administrator Karen Mills has some questions to answer about agency spending. (File photo)

The House Small Business Committee is concerned about Small Business Administration officials' spending plans as sequestration hits budgets. Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) wants to make sure officials focus spending on the agency's core mission: to help companies.

In a letter sent April 3, Graves asked SBA Administrator Karen Mills pointed questions about employee travel and the usefulness of some websites. (Read the letter.)

"The committee remains concerned that core functions of the agency may be curtailed by sequestration," Graves wrote. "This is particularly problematic if the SBA continues to fund activities not specified [by current statute] or unnecessary travel by SBA employees."

To get a better look into agency's budget plans, Graves is seeking responses about expected travel costs for the fiscal year and the cost of the National Small Business Week event. SBA's major annual conference, scheduled for June, highlights entrepreneurs and business owners' efforts in various areas.

He questions the need for Regional Innovation Clusters that connect small and large businesses, including networking with potential industry partners abroad. He questions its future since it isn't authorized by law.

Graves also wants information on the cost of hosting the website to apply for two awards, but specifically the "Tibbetts Award." The awards are for companies that have participated in the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, and the second one, for individuals who advocate on behalf of the programs.

As for the conference, clusters, and the awards, Graves wants a breakdown of the costs SBA will pay and those absorbed by non-governmental organizations. Officials should protect funds for SBA's guaranteed loan programs, according to Graves. Congress appropriates money for the programs and, with budget as they are, the programs likely will face cuts.

"It is important for the SBA to have contingency plans in place," Graves added.

The committee plans for a hearing April 24 to question Mills about the spending as SBA faces sequestration.

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