Women's Business Center Program:

Incomplete Program Records and Financial Data

RCED-99-277R: Published: Sep 15, 1999. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1999.

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GAO provided information on the limitations of the data it obtained during its review of the Small Business Administration (SBA) Women's Business Center Program, focusing on: (1) the problems with the records maintained by the Office of Women's Ownership and the Office of Procurement and Grants Management; and (2) whether the Office of Women's Ownership or the Office of Procurement and Grants Management is responsible for the collection and review of financial status reports.

GAO noted that: (1) historical program documentation is not consistently maintained; (2) although GAO was asked to provide information for the 10-year period from 1989 through 1998, GAO's analysis of top-scoring centers was limited to 5 program years, because the program staff was unable to provide this information for other years; (3) financial data from the Federal Financial System showing amounts of funding available and disbursed to the women's business centers were incomplete; (4) consequently, GAO was unable to fully determine the centers' funding status; (5) GAO could not provide information on years 1989 through 1995 because the data were incomplete; (6) SBA staff are unclear about their responsibilities regarding the financial reports; (7) the 1998 monitoring guide for the Office of Women's Business Ownership lays out the roles and responsibilities of the Office of Women's Business Ownership and the Office of Procurement and Grants Management; (8) the guide states that the Office of Women's Business Ownership is responsible for receiving and reviewing electronically transmitted semiannual data, collection/progress reports, and other items requiring a grant officer's approval; (9) in June, for all currently funded centers, GAO reviewed program files for the Office of Women's Business Ownership and grant files for the Office of Procurement and Grants Management; (10) 11 of the 35 files GAO reviewed did not contain the required semiannual financial reports; (11) GAO informed the program staff that it was unable to find the necessary financial reports and requested their assistance in locating the missing documents; (12) after several weeks, staff from both offices were unable to provide the necessary reports, and GAO informed the management of both offices of its concerns about the financial reports; (13) the following day, the Grants Management Deputy Assistant provided the missing financial reports; and (14) the difficulty in locating the financial reports that GAO requested revealed a lack of understanding between the Office of Women's Business Ownership and the Office of Procurement and Grants Management regarding their responsibilities for the financial reports.

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