The Small Business Administration (SBA) uses the 8(a) procurement program to assist socially or economically disadvantaged small businessmen to achieve a competitive position in the financial marketplace by entering into procurement contracts with Federal agencies and, in turn, subcontracting the work to these small businessmen. Twenty-eight 8(a) applications in SBA's region IX in fiscal year 1977 were reviewed. Three basic conclusions on 8(a) program eligibility were reached: (1) the eligibility criteria were vague and not applied in a uniform and consistent manner; (2) region IX was not complying with program procedures because its files did not identify specific criteria used to approve eligibility, and it did not document the connection between an applicant's social or economic disadvantage and the inability to successfully compete in the economic mainstream; and (3) different offices can reach different decisions on eligibility in the same case. One example of the differing interpretations of eligibility criteria involved a particular architect/engineering firm. Although one district office approved the firm as being eligible for the 8(a) program, another office refused to recommend the company when the application was transferred to its district; the regional committee found the applicant ineligible, whereas the Regional Director, interpreting the criteria differently, admitted the firm to the program.
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