SBA Ombudsman Grades Agencies On Responsiveness

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit are the laggards when it comes to responsiveness to regulatory and compliance issues faced by small businesses during fiscal 2007.

The Office of the National Ombudsman at the Small Business Administration released its annual report (pdf) today rating federal agencies on how they respond to small business concerns.

Each agency received a grade from Ombudsman Nicholas Owens based on timeliness and quality of response, presence of a non-retaliation policy, degree of regulatory enforcement compliance assistance to small firms, participation in regulatory fairness hearings and how the agency informs small businesses about their rights outlined in a 1996 law, the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.

In the 80-page report, federal agencies overall improved their compliance efforts, with most receiving a grade of A or B overall. The NRC and ICE both received a rating of C. No agency received a grade lower than a C.

The report also commended six agencies for their excellent work: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the departments of Transportation and Commerce. These agencies were specially recognized for their regulatory compliance assistance and willingness to work with the ombudsman's office on enforcement fairness.

By Sharon McLoone |  July 11, 2008; 5:41 PM ET Data Points
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REGULATING THE REGULATORS

The Fairness in Procurement Alliance (FPA) commends the SBA Ombudsman Office's efforts to rate Federal Agencies, on their responsiveness to regulation complaints, however, no-one is reporting on the complaints against the government's own regulators and they are the ones responsible for the interpretation of the laws!

What's needed is for the Media to investigate and report on the regulators own screw-ups!

FPA has leveled very serious charges against the FAR Exemptions, which are regulations, which illegally exclude small businesses from their own statutory rights to government contracts. Even the SBA - in their historic September 4th, 2007 legal opinion - has ruled that the GSA Schedule exemption was illegal, but the regulators have done nothing about changing it!

Frankly, the government has a procurement crisis in its hands, as far as how it has handled the 23% of the contracts, which, by statute, small businesses must receive.

The SBA Scorecard for FY07 is more than 6 months late in making its appearance. The only two SBA Scorecards that have been published (for FY05 and FY06) proved that most Federal Agencies flunked at meeting their own small business goals. The FY07 Scorecard is expected to show that the results for 2007 were even worse than the previous two years and this is only due to better data gathering efforts not anything else.

We're now learning - thanks to Congressional efforts to create more transparency in government procurement - that Agencies (i.e., Interior and DHS) have been misrepresenting their own achievements and/or double counting their own contracts to show better results. Additionally, a recent lawsuit has pointed to the fact that the government has continued to award set-asides to large businesses. And all of these revelations come at a time when FPA has resurfaced its GAO challenge against the 'legality' of the regulators' GSA Exemption.

These alleged 'illegal' exemptions - written without alleged statutory basis - have been responsible for the diversion of $640 Billion in contracts away from small businesses over the last decade. Need to say more?

FPA urges for the media to investigate the subject matter and for both Presidential contenders, Senator Obama and Senator McCain, to articulate what their Administration - if they are elected - intend to do for small businesses to bring fairness in public procurement.

Raul Espinosa
Founder and Spokesperson
Fairness in Procurement Alliance (FPA)

Posted by: Raul Espinosa, Founder, Fairness in Procurement Alliance | July 12, 2008 1:20 PM

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