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    Subject Term: "Small business assistance"

    8 publications with a total of 14 open recommendations including 2 priority recommendations
    Director: John Neumann
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure full compliance with SBIR and STTR spending and reporting requirements and improve participation in the administrative pilot program, the SBA Administrator should review SBA guidance regarding when an agency is required to start up an SBIR or STTR program, and if necessary, update the guidance to provide greater clarity to agencies with research or research and development (R&D) obligations greater than the thresholds for participating.

    Agency: Small Business Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to SBA officials, as of April 2017, SBA is working to develop language to update its policy directives to provide guidance on when an agency must start an SBIR or STTR program.
    Recommendation: To ensure full compliance with SBIR and STTR spending and reporting requirements and improve participation in the administrative pilot program, the SBA Administrator should complete the required reporting on the administrative pilot program for fiscal year 2014, which could include an evaluation of the potential constraints that may hinder agencies' participation and any steps to address these constraints.

    Agency: Small Business Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, SBA officials said that SBA is in the process of completing its follow-up with agencies to document agencies' utilization of the administrative pilot program. Specifically, officials said they requested that agencies that planned to participate in the pilot program complete and return a template with information on the pilot program. Once SBA receives that information, officials said they will draft a report. As of April 2017, a formal date for completing and submitting the report has not been established.
    Director: William B.Shear
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve SBA's administration and oversight of the HUBZone program and reduce the risk that firms that no longer meet program eligibility criteria receive HUBZone contracts, the Administrator of SBA should establish a mechanism to better ensure that firms are notified of changes to HUBZone designations that may affect their participation in the program, such as ensuring that all certified firms and newly certified firms are signed up for the broadcast e-mail system or including more specific information in certification letters about how location in a redesignated area can affect their participation in the program

    Agency: Small Business Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, SBA improved its notifications to newly certified firms but not to other certified firms. For example, SBA's certification letter to firms with principal offices in a redesignated area specifically states that the firm is in a redesignated area, explains the implications of the designation, and notes when the redesignated status will expire. However, we found in March 2016 that SBA had not yet implemented changes to better ensure that all currently certified firms would be notified of changes that could affect their program eligibility. It is important that all certified firms potentially affected by such changes receive information about the changes or are made aware in a timely fashion of any effects on their program eligibility. As of February 2017, SBA had begun to improve its notifications to all firms. According to SBA officials, the agency has started sending program notices to all the firms in its portfolio. They told us that for its most recent notice in February 2017, the agency copied all the e-mail addresses in its HUBZone database and placed them in the e-mail distribution system. According to SBA officials, SBA intends to repeat this effort with subsequent notices. We will continue to monitor SBA's implementation of this activity.
    Recommendation: To improve SBA's administration and oversight of the HUBZone program and reduce the risk that firms that no longer meet program eligibility criteria receive HUBZone contracts, the Administrator of SBA should conduct an assessment of the recertification process and implement additional controls, such as developing criteria and guidance on using a risk-based approach to requesting and verifying firm information, allowing firms to initiate the recertification process, and ensuring that sufficient staff will be dedicated to the effort so that a significant backlog in recertifications does not recur.

    Agency: Small Business Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, SBA officials told us that they began automating the process to notify firms that were due for recertification. According to the officials, since September 2015, notification e-mails have been sent daily (compared with the former cycle of two times a year). Each firm due for recertification within the next 30 days would receive the notice. SBA sends a second e-mail to firms that have not responded within 45 days of the first notification. According to SBA officials, as of February 2017, this change has not yet eliminated the backlog. SBA officials informed GAO in May 2017 that they have developed risk-based guidance for conducting recertification reviews and requesting supporting documentation. According to SBA, any certified HUBZone small business concern that has received $1 million or more in HUBZone contract dollars since its initial certification (or its most recent recertification) must submit the following: (a) a list of all current employees, identifying the name of the employee, the employee's address, the number of hours worked per month, and the location where the employee performs his/her work; and (b) payroll documentation. SBA intends to complete the implementation of this policy by the third quarter of 2017.
    Director: Frank Rusco
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve compliance with the Small Business Act and enhance SBA's ability to provide oversight of the programs, the SBA Administrator should revise the language in the SBIR and STTR policy directives to accurately summarize the statutory provisions that describe the program spending requirements.

    Agency: Small Business Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2016, SBA proposed an update to its SBIR and STTR policy directive to state that each participating agency must spend (obligate) the required amounts on the programs, which is consistent with the statutory provisions for program spending requirements. However, according to SBA officials, in January 2017, the policy directive was withdrawn from the Office of Management and Budget and is under further internal consideration in light of a recent executive order. As of April 2017, SBA has not established a time frame for publication of the final policy directive.
    Director: Kimberly Gianopoulos
    Phone: (202) 512-8612

    2 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve federal-state collaboration in providing export promotion services in accordance with the National Export Initiative, and the Export Enhancement Act of 1992, the Secretary of Commerce, as Chair of the TPCC, should take steps consistent with key practices to enhance, where possible, federal information sharing with state trade offices on Commerce's export promotion activities. This could include more formal guidance to Commerce staff regarding the circumstances, in light of legal restrictions, in which information can be shared with state trade offices and other nonfederal entities, and exploring ways for clients to give permission to release information useful to such nonfederal entities.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Commerce (Commerce) notified GAO that it did not fully concur with GAO's May 2014 recommendation, preferring instead to maintain a case-by-case approach rather than issuing more formal guidance on federal information sharing with state trade offices. According to Commerce, as of March 2016, the agency was in the process of implementing a new client relationship management system. Commerce officials said that as future iterations of this system and public websites come online, they would seek to identify ways for clients to give permission to release information useful to other federal agencies, state trade offices, and other local service providers. In February 2016, Congress passed The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, Public Law 114-125, which requires that within a year of the act's passing, Commerce must develop a federal-state export promotion coordination plan that addresses, among other things, information sharing between federal and state trade offices. The act also requires Commerce and state trade promotion agencies to develop a framework to share information on export successes, and report to Congress on this framework within a year of the law's enactment. Later in 2016, Commerce officials began holding monthly calls with SIDO and state trade offices to share information on topics such as client intake, performance measures, and new federal export promotion activities. In March 2017, Commerce officials informed GAO that after further review of information-sharing limitations under the Trade Secrets Act, Commerce has determined that Written Impact Narratives (WINs) that have been approved for public use by the clients can be shared with State trade agencies. Commerce is currently developing a policy to ensure they are shared in a timely manner. In addition, the newly formed Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC) state and federal export promotion working group is expected to create a framework for information sharing. Without greater information sharing in the provision of similar services, Commerce will likely be limited in its ability to help ensure that export promotion services are efficiently managed across federal and state efforts, and that resources are appropriately leveraged.
    Recommendation: To improve federal-state collaboration in providing export promotion services in accordance with the National Export Initiative, and the Export Enhancement Act of 1992, the Secretary of Commerce, as Chair of the TPCC, should take steps consistent with key practices for collaboration to enhance TPCC agencies' partnering on export promotion with nonfederal entities, such as State International Development Organizations and Global Cities. This could include reassessing and strengthening the TPCC's intergovernmental partnerships by clarifying expected outcomes, defining roles and responsibilities, monitoring results, and planning resource needs.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Commerce (Commerce) and the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), which is responsible for providing a unified national framework for export promotion, have taken some steps to enhance federal-state collaboration in export promotion, as GAO recommended in May 2014 and as called for in a subsequent law. In February 2016, Congress passed The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, Public Law 114-125, which according to the State International Development Organizations (SIDO), contained provisions intended to enhance federal-state collaboration in export promotion. First, the act directs the President to establish a state and federal export promotion coordination working group as a subcommittee of the TPCC and appoint at least one representative from a state trade promotion agency to the TPCC. Second, beginning in February 2017, the act requires Commerce to annually submit to the TPCC a federal-state export strategy for each state that submits its export strategy to Commerce for that year that, among other things, addresses efforts to reduce duplication. Third, the act requires Commerce and state trade promotion agencies to develop a coordinated set of performance metrics, and report to Congress on these metrics within a year of the law's enactment. Fourth, the act mandates an annual survey and analysis, in coordination with state trade promotion agencies, of the overall effectiveness of federal-state coordination in export promotion. In April 2016 Commerce and SIDO signed a memorandum of intent to develop joint strategies and implement activities to enhance federal and state agency coordination and cooperation . In September 2016 Commerce issued a Federal Register Notice announcing the establishment of a state and federal export promotion coordination working group under the TPCC. The Secretary of Commerce appointed 14 members to this new working group in January 2017, which has met several times according to Commerce officials. The working group is developing a federal-state export coordination strategy that is expected to define roles and responsibilities, among other things. Successfully completing these activities is important, because without joint federal-state planning, programs at different levels of government will likely continue to be duplicative, and effective resource planning will likely be hampered.
    Director: Rusco, Franklin W
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that participating agencies and SBA comply with spending and reporting requirements for the SBIR and STTR programs, the SBA Administrator should provide Congress with a timely annual report that includes a comprehensive analysis of the methodology each agency used for calculating the SBIR and STTR spending requirements, providing a clear basis for SBA's conclusions about whether these calculations meet program requirements.

    Agency: Small Business Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to SBA officials, as of April 2017, SBA had completed a draft of its report to Congress for fiscal year 2014 and planned to send it to the participating agencies and Office of Management and Budget for review after SBA completed its internal review. The officials said that the report for fiscal year 2015 is being drafted, and SBA is in the process of reviewing the participating agencies' data for fiscal year 2016, which was due to SBA in March 2017. As of April 2017, SBA did not have an anticipated issuance date for the reports to Congress for fiscal years 2014, 2015, or 2016.
    Director: St James, Lorelei
    Phone: (214)777-5719

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To know whether its data on committed spending can be relied on to determine state DOTs' progress in meeting goals, to enhance FHWA's ability to know whether state DOTs meet their DBE goals, and to help increase transparency in the reporting of spending on DBEs, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FHWA Administrator, in the information it provides to decision makers, including Congress, to include statements about potential limitations of the data it uses to determine state DOTs' progress towards goals.

    Agency: Department of Transportation
    Status: Open

    Comments: An official from the Department of Transportation said that the agency expects the recommendation to be met with a final rule regarding disadvantaged business enterprises, which will be signed by the Secretary of the Department of Transportation by the end of the calendar year.
    Director: Shear, William B
    Phone: (202)512-4325

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To more fully evaluate the effectiveness of their mentor-protege programs, the OSDBU and Mentor-Protege Program Directors of DHS, DOE, DOS, EPA, FAA, GSA, HHS, SBA, Treasury, and VA should consider collecting and maintaining protege postcompletion information.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To more fully evaluate the effectiveness of their mentor-protege programs, the OSDBU and Mentor-Protege Program Directors of DHS, DOE, DOS, EPA, FAA, GSA, HHS, SBA, Treasury, and VA should consider collecting and maintaining protege postcompletion information.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency: Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
    Status: Open

    Comments: Following issuance of the report, EPA established a working group to review mentor-protege policies and procedures and determine the viability and relevance of the program at EPA. The working group recommended that EPA maintain the mentor-protege program and suggested other program improvements. EPA has since suspended implementation of the working group recommendations pending finalization of SBA's revised mentor-protege program guidance. In addition, EPA noted in May 2015 that the agency did not have any mentor-protege agreements in place and thus no need to develop and implement a systemic methodology for tracking program results. EPA added that it anticipates taking steps necessary to implement program tracking in accordance with SBA's revised mentor-protege guidance once it is finalized.
    Recommendation: To more fully evaluate the effectiveness of their mentor-protege programs, the OSDBU and Mentor-Protege Program Directors of DHS, DOE, DOS, EPA, FAA, GSA, HHS, SBA, Treasury, and VA should consider collecting and maintaining protege postcompletion information.

    Agency: Department of Energy: Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Shear, William B
    Phone: (202)512-8678

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better address the purpose of the 8(a) program, meet the needs and expectations of the firms in the program, and improve SBA's ability to determine how well the program is working, the Administrator, SBA, should periodically perform a nationwide sample survey of 8(a) firms to obtain measurable program data. At a minimum, the survey should assess whether SBA assistance is meeting the firms' expectations and needs.

    Agency: Small Business Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SBA drafted a plan for providing individualized business development assistance to 8(a) firms, along with an assessment tool--the 8(a) Business Development Assessment Tool (BDAT). A subsequent evaluation of BDAT revealed that the tool would not provide the expected outcome. Consequently, the Office of Government Contracting and Business Development launched a more broad modernization effort in December of 2011. One of the outcomes of that effort was the conceptualization of the One Track Certification Management System (One Track CMS), which included many of the requirements from the BDAT. However, SBA experienced some delays regarding the contract for development and the ultimate implementation of the One Track CMS. On June 3, 2015, SBA and GAO staff met to discuss the status of open SBA 8(a) program recommendations. This recommendation was mentioned, but, no updates on the current status of this recommendation were provided. The One Track CMS was not yet operational as of the date of that meeting.
    Recommendation: To better address the purpose of the 8(a) program, meet the needs and expectations of the firms in the program, and improve SBA's ability to determine how well the program is working, the Administrator, SBA, should provide a method for collecting data on each firm's training needs for tracking the assistance provided.

    Agency: Small Business Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: With the deployment of the Business Development Management Information System on July 28, 2008, along with an 8(a) Business Development Assessment Tool (BDAT)--which will entail an enhancement of SBA's Business Development Management Information System--SBA stated that it will be able to annually collect data that will be used to assess an 8(a) participant's needs for technical assistance and training. A subsequent evaluation of BDAT revealed that the tool would not provide the expected outcome. Consequently, the Office of Government Contracting and Business Development launched a more broad modernization effort in December of 2011. One of the outcomes of that effort was the conceptualization of One Track Certification Management System (One Track CMS), which included many of the requirements from the BDAT. However, SBA experienced some delays regarding the contract for development and the ultimate implementation of the One Track CMS. On June 3, 2015, SBA and GAO staff met to discuss the status of open SBA 8(a) program recommendations. This recommendation was mentioned, but no updates on the current status of this recommendation were provided. The One Track CMS was not yet operational as of the date of that meeting.