Small Business:

SBA's 8(a) Information System Is Flawed and Does Not Support the Program's Mission

RCED-00-197: Published: Jul 19, 2000. Publicly Released: Jul 20, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the Small Business Administration's (SBA) 8(a) program information system, focusing on: (1) whether the system meets the information needs of SBA field and headquarters staff; and (2) what plans, if any, does SBA have for improving the existing system.

GAO noted that: (1) SBA's 8(a) information system, while intended to be a comprehensive tool enabling SBA to monitor the program, does not meet the information needs of headquarters or district officials; (2) potentially useful information, such as the amount of training and assistance provided for participating firms, is not captured as part of SBA's information-gathering process; (3) this limits SBA's ability to assess whether its efforts have an impact on the ultimate performance goal of creating commercially viable and stable firms; (4) due to recent changes in the 8(a) contracting process, most federal agencies are required to submit quarterly contracting data to SBA's headquarters instead of submitting copies of contracts to SBA's district offices; (5) some federal agencies have not submitted the quarterly information, and some of the information that has been submitted has not been in a usable format, so it has not been entered into the system or provided for the district offices, according to SBA's headquarters officials; (6) these problems have severely undermined the completeness and accuracy of the information in the system on contracts; (7) SBA plans to update the 8(a) information system as part of an agencywide information systems modernization initiative, but it is not expected to be completed for some time; (8) in the meantime, SBA has begun to develop a strategic information technology plan that combines and updates recommendations from the SBA's earlier business process reengineering studies, including efforts to update the information; and (9) these studies include an April 1999 review that recommended that SBA: (a) develop automated applications for firms wishing to enter the program; (b) consolidate all program information sources into one system; and (c) use another federal information system--the Federal Procurement Data System-as-a-source for 8(a) contract data.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SBA completed the design for its new 8(a) information system, and it includes a method to systematically track the training and assistance provided to 8(a) firms. On October 6, 2003, SBA let a contract to develop the system.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, SBA, should ensure that her staff, upon entering the planning phase of the 8(a) information systems modernization effort, design an integrated information system that provides a method for collecting data on appropriate performance measures, focusing on the assistance provided for 8(a) firms in addition to the number of 8(a) contracts awarded.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The design for the new information system includes a feature to take advantage of links to the Federal Procurement Data System. This will minimize the reporting responsibilities of the contracting agencies and data entry duties at the SBA district office level.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, SBA, should ensure that her staff, upon entering the planning phase of the 8(a) information systems modernization effort, design an integrated information system that takes advantage of the links to existing federal contract information sources, such as the Federal Procurement Data System, to minimize (1) the reporting responsibilities of contracting agencies and (2) data entry duties required at the district office level.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In completing the planning and design of the 8(a) information system modernization effort, SBA has ensured that the new system, the automated 8(a)/Small Business Development application and Management Information System will allow maximum flexibility and ease of use by all levels of staff.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, SBA, should ensure that her staff, upon entering the planning phase of the 8(a) information systems modernization effort, design an integrated information system that is designed in light of current software and data management development procedures and business processes and allows maximum flexibility and ease of use by all levels of staff.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In planning for and designing the 8(a) information system, SBA has addressed security controls to protect the system at all levels. In addition, the plans call for appropriate security controls to be addressed in SBA's standard operating procedures.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, SBA, should ensure that her staff, upon entering the planning phase of the 8(a) information systems modernization effort, design an integrated information system that is protected at all levels by appropriate security controls, which are specifically addressed in up-to-date Standard Operating Procedures. In the interim, SBA should not continue to require 8(a) district staff to enter contracting information into the current system.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

 

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