IG pushes SBA on data accuracy

SBA audit report (.pdf)

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Small Business Administration officials and the SBA Office of Inspector General’s auditors may be at odds over getting contract information entered correctly into a database.

Auditors found some information was not entered into SBA’s Servicing and Contracting System/Minority Enterprise Development Central Office Repository (SACS/MEDCOR), according to a May 10 report. They also found that some of the data that was entered was incorrect. Moreover, they said Michael Pappas, SBA’s associate administrator for field operations, did not sufficiently respond to their report’s recommendations for improving data.

“The completeness of data in SACS/MEDCOR has been a continuing problem,” the report states.

They found more than half of 8(a) small-business contracts they reviewed were not reported to SBA or not entered by SBA staff into its data system, which is in line with previous reports.

The auditors reviewed 60 8(a) small-business contracts worth more than $1 million each that were issued by either the Defense or Homeland Security departments, which accounted for about 80 percent of contracting dollars that went to small businesses for Gulf Coast reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Auditors found that information on 31 of the 60 contracts was unreported or reported but not entered into the repository, according to the report.

The auditors recommended SBA give more employees training on using the repository and formulate a plan to ensure information entered into the system is accurate and verified.

According to the auditors’ summary of Pappas’ comments, he determined that SBA had no need for training because it is installing an interim Oracle tracking system, although he gave no date as to when that would happen. Additionally, the auditors believed Pappas failed to respond to their recommendation for a plan to get accurate information. Although SBA plans replace its 17-year-old data system with a new one, auditors wrote that it won’t work unless good data gets into the system.

“Deploying a new database alone will not ensure that the same data integrity issues that plagued [the current system] will not be repeated with the new system,” the report notes.

Despite the auditors’ perception of Pappas, SBA Administrator Steven Preston has called for better information to track the contracts going to small businesses and has been meeting with agency heads to encourage them to share their information.

“It is a very big part of how we are trying to improve what we do,” he said in a speech June 4 at the 2007 Management of Change conference in Richmond, Va. “The data has not been clean historically.”

SBA auditors also found that information is being inaccurately entered by SBA’s district offices. Some people the auditors interviewed blamed the shortage of employees and a lack of controls over data entry, the audit states.

Top procurement officials and agency heads have called for better information in the government’s data systems. Paul Denett, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, has said that without good information, the government cannot manage well.


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