WIPP Statement Regarding the SBA Inspector General’s Audit Report on the WOSB Procurement Program

The SBA Inspector General (IG) issued an audit report late last week that found 50 of the 56 sole source awards the IG chose to review were done incorrectly, either by the contracting officer or the woman-owned business.  They found paperwork problems, such as self-certifying WOSBs that did not have all of their required documentation in place, contracting officers that awarded a sole source with a NAICS code that was not in the WOSB program or awarded a sole source under a NAICs code that the WOSB had not indicated they were eligible to perform the work.

To read the full report visit:  https://bit.ly/2tyir3G

To those of us who have been involved with the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Procurement Program from the inception, this is not the first time the SBA Inspector General has aggressively advocated to do away with self-certification in the WOSB program. The Congress passed legislation in 2015, instructing the SBA to stand up a certification program, replacing self-certification. The SBA has stated that it is in the process of putting together this directive sometime later this year.

There is history behind this effort – when the program was put in place in 2011, it would have taken decades and further delays for an SBA certification program to be put into place.  Therefore, the SBA opted to allow self-certification and third-party certification in its stead.  The IG was directed to aggressively investigate fraudulent companies, but we are not aware of any such efforts or reports from the IG issued with that focus.  In fact, WIPP sent a letter to the IG asking for status of investigations into fraudulent companies and is not aware of a response.

Specifically, the IG makes the following recommendations:

  1. Conduct eligibility reviews for the firms identified in this report that lacked the required documentation in Certify.SBA.gov and require those firms to remove their designation in the System for Award Management.
  2. Initiate debarment proceedings, if warranted based on the results of eligibility reviews in Recommendation 1.
  3. Implement a Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program certification process as required by the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2015.
  4. Conduct quarterly reviews of firms with newly obtained WOSB or EDWOSB status, to ensure that they have the required documentation in Certify.SBA.gov, until SBA implements a Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program certification process.
  5. Conduct quarterly reviews of Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation data for Program set-aside contracts to ensure Federal agencies’ contracting officers used the appropriate North American Industry Classification System codes and take the necessary action(s) with identified exceptions.
  6. In coordination with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the General Services Administration, strengthen controls in the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation to prevent Federal agencies’ contracting officers from using ineligible North American Industry Classification System codes.

SBA Response

At the end of the report, the SBA provides a rebuttal to the IG’s recommendations.  The SBA reiterates its intention to establish a certification program sometime this year with implementation next year.  The SBA questions the IG’s data conclusion saying that miscoding on FPDS does not necessarily mean that the sole source contract was improperly awarded and rejects the recommendation that SBA should check quarterly reviews on women new to the program and on contracts awarded through the program, ensuring contracting officers used the proper NAICs codes.  The SBA also disagrees with the IG interpretation that sole source contracts should only be awarded when SBA has a certification in place.

WIPP Perspective

WIPP led a 13- year effort to put in place the WOSB Procurement Program garnering the support of women-owned companies nationwide.  The SBA’s IG audit found much of what we already know antidotally – that the program is complex, that contracting officers and women alike are confused by the requirements, and more education is needed.  We do not agree with the IG that it was the intention of Congress to require an SBA certification before any sole source awards could be issued.  We know this to be true because we were there when it happened – leading the charge on this effort. Furthermore, we find the recommendation that WOSBs should be monitored quarterly for compliance as demeaning given the recommendation is specific to WOSBs only.

We agree that the WOSB program should be better utilized by the contracting community.  The government has only met its 5% women-owned goal once.  Since 2013, WIPP has educated tens of thousands of women on federal contracting opportunities via the WOSB procurement program through our ChallengeHER and Give Me 5 programs.  We call on Congress and the SBA to encourage federal agencies to use the WOSB program and simplify the requirements, which have proven to be confusing.  We will continue to promote federal contracts to women-owned companies both in our advocacy and our programming.

If you have any questions regarding this report, please contact WIPP’s Chief Advocate, Ann Sullivan at asullivan@madisonservicesgroup.com.

Federal Government Falls Short of Meeting Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Goal in FY2017

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) released their FY2017 Small Business Procurement Scorecard this week, which shows that the federal government failed to meet the 5% goal of prime federal contracts awarded to woman-owned small businesses (WOSBs).  Only 4.71% of prime contracts – down from 4.79% in FY2016 – went to women-owned small businesses, though the amount of contracting dollars slightly increased from $19.7 billion to $20.8 billion.

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The Small Business Procurement Scorecard is released annually by SBA as a tool to measure how well federal agencies reach their small business and socio-economic prime contracting and subcontracting goals as well as report agency-specific progress.  The only year the federal government met the 5% goal of prime contracts awarded to WOSBs was in FY2015.  

On a positive note, SBA highlighted that the federal government overall met its 23% small business federal contracting goal for the fifth consecutive year, awarding 23.88% in federal contract dollars to small businesses totaling $105.7 billion.  Additionally, the 5% goal on subcontracting to woman-owned small businesses was exceeded, with 6.2% of subcontracts going to WOSBs, up from 5.7% in FY2016.

Learn more here.

 

Real Experience and Tips from Transition Music and Media on Federal Contracting

Interview with Donna Ross Jones, Founder and CEO of Transition Music and Media Corporation

Donna Ross Jones1. Tell us a little about your company and its mission.

Music is the heartbeat of our culture and our hand is forever on the pulse. We are passionate about music and the people who create it. Transition Music was originally formed with the mission to create new opportunities for artists, songwriters and composers. This became especially important when technology hit the industry, causing a massive music industry decline.

Today Transition is one of the top 100 music publishers in the world, with more than 1 million music performances globally each year. We unite music with some of the most watched content on the planet. We own a global music library and have a staff of award winning music creators and executives working daily to provide music and manage music process’s for all forms of visual media, from TV series, feature films to corporate productions to webisodes. Our first national production for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children went viral and ignited a global conversation increasing awareness about wandering and the dangers facing children with autism.

2. Have you always planned on doing business with federal government?

No we had not always planned on doing business with federal government. In our continual goal of expansion and creating more opportunities for music creators, we routinely look at new markets. Knowing that the Federal Government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the US we began exploring how and if there was an opportunity for us.

3. How have you proceeded with pursuing Federal Contracts?

We decided to invest in educating ourselves as to how and if the federal market place was a match for us. I began going back and forth to DC, working with the SBA and the Department of Commerce to understand the market and how Transition could be successful. We decided to invest the time and resources needed to obtain certifications when we learned Transition Music Corporation was the only WOSB music library of our size and scope, who was also an MBE and an 8a. We saw an opportunity to bring our “Hollywood” brand of expertise to the federal government through music and visual content creation, while assisting them in reaching their diversity goals.

How has this shaped your business?

It is still shaping our business. I keep going back to our mission “to create new opportunities for our creative community”. Pursuing business opportunities outside of mainstream entertainment creates new revenue streams making it possible for producers, writers, musicians, artists and so on to make a living using their gifts and doing what they love.

4. How do you think can ChallengeHER and Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) program help women-business owners in the process?

Working in the government space, like working any other market sector, is about investing time learning, making new contacts and building relationships. ChallengeHER and the Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) program give women the opportunity to make contacts and connect to resources to get the information needed to make informed decisions on all aspects of their business.

How has it helped your business?

Our efforts have resulted in contracts to produce marketing videos, and PSA’s for government agencies. Our music library is competing for music contract in multiple federal agencies and awards in recognition of our work, including Transition Music and Media being named the Minority Media Firm of the Year for the City of Los Angeles, by the Department of Commerce and the MBDA.

5. Could you share the key takeaways you took from the event?

I’ve attended several ChallengeHER and Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) events, and the key takeaways are always the same; come prepared knowing
who you want to talk to and why. Listen, you never know who you will learn from.

6. If you have won contracts under WOSB would you be willing to share size of the award? How has it impacted/grown you business? Hired new employees?

Transition holds multiple certifications; 8a, WOSB, and WMBE. Our contracts to date have been based on our 8a certification, however being a WOSB has been a part of every conversation, and people are probably checking that box too!

7. What percentage of your revenue comes from government contracts?

For YE 2016 we have forecasted 15%.

8. What contracts are you currently working on?

We are currently in production on 5 videos for the MBDA a division of the Department of Commerce. The videos being produced will tell the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) story, and educate the public, employees and stakeholders on MBDA products and services.

9. What have you worked on in the past?

More than 26 television series & 6 networks rely on Transition Music as their exclusive source for “ALL” things music; from composers, to production music, to licensing, to new artist, music supervision & building music revenue streams. Specifically, in the federal market Transition Music and Media has provided video production services and music for the SBA, MBDA, Center of Exploited and Missing Children (Funded by the DOJ).

10. What would you recommend other WOSBs doing business with federal government?

Do your research to determine the feasibility of opportunities, their size and scope and how long it typically takes to get a contract awarded to an incumbent. Over and over business owners say the certifications did not work for them and they wasted their time. It is critical to know that with our without any certifications, the federal government consists of people and people buy from who they like, so if you go into this with an expectation that the certifications will get you on a list, and the list will bring business opportunities to you, you will be disappointed and waste your company time and resources.

Critical Updates to WOSB Procurement Program

If you are women-owned small business in the federal contracting arena, please take a look at the following critical updates to the WOSB Procurement Program.

You Need to Know: WOSB Program Update
SBA Certify.gov siteThe WOSB procurement program website is undergoing a facelift. A new website, called SBA ONE, will allow for the electronic submission of SBA forms, as well as a streamlined location to monitor all certifications for your company including the repository. With the change, there are three things you need to know:
  1. All WOSBs will need to create a new login for the new system. The new website is actually an entirely new system and as such all WOSBs will need to create a new account and login (but not reload all documents – see next). The SBA is also asking that after creating a new account, all WOSB/EDWOSB companies submit new Form 2413 (WOSB certification) and/or Form 2414 (EDWOSB certification) electronically. Businesses should do this as soon as possible.
  1. The repository is being migrated, but is currently closed. This is important for two reasons: 1) your documents previously submitted should move to your new account and not require resubmission (except as mentioned above a new electronic Form 2413/2414); and 2) Contracting officers will not be able to view your repository documents for WOSB awards. Instructions for you to provide to a CO about how they can confirm your eligibility is available at the end of this document. This only impacts WOSB/EDWOSBs about to win EDWOSB or WOSB set-aside or sole source awards.
  1. The new site supports self-certification. Self-certification for WOSB/EDWOSBs remains an option until SBA finalizes new certification requirements. The website supports companies electing this option by allowing for the electronic submission of required documents. Third-party certifications can be uploaded as well.

SBA ONE, located at certify.sba.gov, will eventually house all program certifications, but is beginning with the WOSB program. Additional programs will be incorporated onto the site on the following projected timeline: 8(a) Business Development Program (Fall 2016), HUBZone Program (Spring 2017) and Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) (Spring 2017).

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 Information to Share with Contracting Officers
(Direct from SBA)

If you are working with a contract officer on a pending award requiring them to review your status, the following is information provided directly from SBA which you may share with contract officers.

Due to the system upgrade, access to the WOSB Federal Contract Program Repository will be temporarily unavailable for contracting officers (CO), starting on Wednesday, March 23 at 1:00 EDT.  This may be down for several weeks.   During this time, in order to comply with the WOSB Program requirements at 13 CFR 127.301 and FAR 19.1505(e) (specifying that a CO shall verify that an apparent successful offeror has provided all the required documents set forth in 127.300(e) to the WOSB Repository), SBA will review the Repository on behalf of a CO.

A CO may request that SBA review the Repository on their behalf by sending an email to wosb@sba.gov (link sends e-mail) with the following in the subject line:

“PENDING AWARD UNDER FAR 19.505(e) VERIFICATION REQUEST- SOLICITATION NUMBER [insert solicitation number].”

In the body of the email, the CO should provide the following: provide the apparent successful offeror’s DUNS, EIN, FIRM NAME, OWNER NAME; indicate whether the pending award is a WOSB or EDWOSB set-aside or sole source award; specify the NAICS code assigned to the procurement; and identify the State where the CO is located. Within 2 business days, SBA will perform the necessary check to determine whether the apparently successful offeror has filed all the required eligibility documents and provide the CO with an email response which either: (a) notifies the CO that all required documents have been provided or (b) identifies which documents are missing in order to allow the CO to file a status protest in accordance with SBA regulations and the FAR.

Emails for this information will be processed only for Contracting Officers.

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LEARN MORE
  • Upcoming Webinar:  WIPP is working to arrange for a special webinar with experts from the SBA’s Office of Government Contracting to further review the new site and re-registration process.  More details will follow.
  • If you have any questions about the certification program, or comments on improving the site, please email certify@sba.gov. More details on the transition of repository documents are available atwww.sba.gov/wosb.

Federal Government Meets 5% Federal Contracting Goal for Women-Owned Small Businesses for the First Time in Twenty Years

Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) is thrilled to celebrate the U.S. Government’s achievement of awarding five percent of its annual federal contracts to women-owned small businesses for the first time since the goal was set more than twenty years ago. The five percent goal was put in place as part of the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 and led to the creation of the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract program in the Equity in Contracting for Women Act of 2000.

WIPP, and our partner American Express OPEN are longtime champions of women entrepreneurs in the federal contracting space, creating the Give Me 5 program in 2008 to give women-owned small businesses access to knowledge and resources to help win federal contracts. At the time, just 3.4% of federal contracts were awarded to women-owned small businesses—roughly $13 billion of the approximately $400 billion awarded annually.

In April 2013, WIPP, American Express OPEN and the Small Business Administration (SBA) launched ChallengeHER, a national initiative to boost government contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses. ChallengeHER delivers free workshops, mentoring and direct access to government buyers. Now entering its fourth year, ChallengeHER has educated more than 5,400 women entrepreneurs at 39 workshops across the country and facilitated more than 1,900 meetings between women small business owners and government officials.

The contracting landscape for women-owned businesses has improved significantly as a result of strong public and private support and bipartisan efforts. In early 2013, due to the efforts of WIPP and their coalition partners, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which removed caps on eligible federal contract awards under the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract program. Before the law was put into place, awards to women-owned small business were capped at $4 million and $6.5 million under the program. WIPP had further success in improving the WOSB Federal Contract Program in 2014 with the passage of a new law that provided federal agencies with statutory authority to award sole-source contracts to women-owned small businesses. The WOSB program was the only major small business contracting program without this authority at the time – putting women entrepreneurs at a distinct disadvantage.

A hearty congratulations and thanks to the folks at SBA, American Express OPEN, the WIPP team, and all of the organizations and women business owners that have helped improve and increase access to the federal marketplace for women-owned small businesses.  Job well done!