Small Business Administration:
Status of Efforts to Address Previous Recommendations on the HUBZone Program
GAO-09-532T: Published: Mar 25, 2009. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 2009.
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This testimony discusses the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program. Created in 1997, the HUBZone program provides federal contracting assistance to small businesses located in economically distressed communities, or HUBZone areas, with the intent of stimulating economic development in those areas. In fiscal year 2007, federal agencies awarded contracts valued at about $8 billion to HUBZone firms. Firms that participate in the program must be located in a HUBZone and employ residents of HUBZones to facilitate the goal of bringing capital and employment opportunities to distressed areas. My statement today is based on work we performed to update the status of recommendations we made in our June 2008 report on the HUBZone program and reiterated in a July 2008 testimony. These recommendations called for SBA to improve its controls over the HUBZone program and assess the program's effectiveness. Specifically, this testimony discusses SBA's progress in (1) ensuring that the HUBZone map is accurate; (2) developing and implementing guidance to ensure that participating firms are eligible; (3) eliminating the backlog of recertifications; (4) formalizing and adhering to time frames for decertifying ineligible firms; and (5) developing measures and implementing plans to assess the effectiveness of the program.
At the time of the July 2008 testimony and in subsequent correspondence we received from SBA, we observed that the agency did not recognize the commitment required to address the HUBZone program's deficiencies and implement our recommendations. SBA officials told us that they recognize the commitment required to implement our recommendations. Consistent with this recognition, SBA is now working with a contractor to re-engineer its HUBZone program. In summary, SBA has initiated some steps to address the HUBZone program's deficiencies and implement our recommendations.