Contract Management:

Reporting of Small Business Contract Awards Does Not Reflect Current Business Size

GAO-03-704T: Published: May 7, 2003. Publicly Released: May 7, 2003.

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David E. Cooper
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According to information in the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), in fiscal year 2001, small businesses received approximately 23 percent of federal contract dollars awarded. However, concerns have been raised that large companies are receiving federal contracts intended for small businesses.

According to FPDS, five large companies that we reviewed received contracts totaling $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2001, including $460 million as small business awards. To understand why awards to these large companies were listed in FPDS as small business awards, we focused our review on 131 individual contract actions awarded to these companies by four federal buying activities. The predominant cause for the misreporting of small business achievements is that federal regulations generally permit a company to be considered as a small business over the life of the contract--even if they have grown into a large business, merged with another company, or been acquired by a large business. In today's federal contracting environment, contracts can extend up to 20 years. In addition, agencies relied on various databases containing inaccurate information on current business size. The General Services Administration, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, and the Small Business Administration have taken or proposed a number of actions aimed at requiring small businesses to re-certify and not retain their small business status for the life of the contract. While these proposals do not directly address the database problems we identified at the four federal buying activities, there are a number of initiatives under way designed to improve federal contract databases.

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