How many hats can an OSDBU director wear?

Tom Leney

Tom Leney, executive director of VA's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.

Two House subcommittee chairmen have taken the Department of Veterans Affairs to task for not complying with small-business statutes.

VA has what Reps. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) and Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) consider an inappropriately dual-hatted official: Tom Leney is executive director of the department's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), a job that also involves overseeing the VA organization that verifies companies' ability to compete for contracts.

However, in a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Hanna and Coffman wrote that the Small Business Act requires the OSDBU director to carry out that job exclusively and not hold any other title or position.

They noted that the department is required to verify the status of small businesses owned by veterans, including those owned by service-disabled veterans, and that VA has assigned those functions to the Center for Veterans Enterprise, which falls within Leney's purview.

Although the act allows for adding duties if they are necessary, Hanna and Coffman wrote that Leney's dual responsibility "belies the inherent conflict between the advocacy role assigned to the OSDBU and the auditing function now associated with CVE."

Hanna is chairman of the Small Business Committee's Contracting and Workforce Subcommittee, and Coffman is chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. At a joint hearing on March 19 to examine disparities between the VA's and the Small Business Administration's contracting programs for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, Leney said he could perform both sets of duties because he is ultimately an advocate for veterans.

"I can do both because the act of verifying [companies] enabled 5,400 veteran-owned small businesses to participate in a program that has distributed more than $3.8 billion" in contracts, he told the subcommittees. "This is real money to real vets, and it is a program that benefits veterans.... So I personally do not have any issue with a conflict of interest because we are helping vets."

In the letter, Hanna and Coffman asked Shinseki to document how the department intends to achieve compliance with the Small Business Act. VA officials had no comment on the letter but plan to formally respond to the subcommittees.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Sat, Apr 27, 2013

Its clear that they have personnel over at the CVE, that are truly unqualified to manage, and administer the program fairly. We need individuals who understand business, and not a jealous government employee managing the program, that clearly hate to see SDVOB's become successful. The stress of the program, is wondering if they will be biased against you for some personal, or psychological reason that never has anything to do with service, or business. Court of Federal Claims, will clearly show that there is a problem, and abuse done to small SDVOB's nationally. They need to separate the responsibility, and send it back to SBA, and let the OSDBU attempt to act as an advocate then.

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 David Ready Virginia Beach, VA

You cannot properly audit or conduct compliance reviews to assure the qualification and proper documentation of a small, Veteran-Owned business and be an Advocate for the business at the same time. It is an inherent conflict of purpose and guarantees that the audit and oversight will be probably be compromised due to the advocacy role generating personal interaction that goes beyond technical compliance issues. A good advocate must learn the objectives, weaknesses and strengths of the client to provide effective guidance and support. The combining of roles is not advisable for proper program management.

Thu, Mar 28, 2013

At Public Forums in the past the government personnel at the VA CVE have stated that they are not "advocates" for Veterans. Their job is to keep veterans out of the Veterans First and SDVOSB Programs.

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 Olde Sarge DC

Nothing more than Tea Party congress people looking for feather in their cap for ferriting out bureaucratic evil at the VA. The small business ombudsman for the VA is precisely who should be vetting and qualifying as many vetran owned small businesses as possible to compete for VA small business contracts. I wonder which congress critter's constituent small businesse lost VA contracts to vetran owned small businesses.

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