Small Business Contracting:

Better Documentation and Reporting Needed on Procurement Center Representatives

GAO-20-462: Published: Jun 30, 2020. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 2020.

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Contact:

William B. Shear
(202) 512-8678
shearw@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
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The Small Business Act seeks to help small businesses win federal contracts. For example, it requires large contractors to set goals for using small businesses as subcontractors. The Small Business Administration uses procurement center representatives to advocate for small businesses when agencies are procuring goods and services.

SBA does not maintain complete records on representatives’ activities—which could be used to assess how well they’ve carried out their jobs. It has also not submitted required activity reports to Congress.

We recommended that SBA create a central repository for representatives’ records and submit required reports.

Small Business Administration

Small Business Administration

Additional Materials:

Contact:

William B. Shear
(202) 512-8678
shearw@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

The Small Business Administration (SBA) does not maintain complete documentation to support data on the activities of procurement center representatives (PCR), which is information used to oversee PCRs and assess their performance. PCRs are responsible for helping small businesses gain access to federal contracting and subcontracting opportunities—for example, by making set-aside recommendations to federal agency contracting officers. SBA area offices generate a monthly report that summarizes data on PCRs' activities and accomplishments, and SBA procedures require PCRs to maintain these reports and the supporting documentation. GAO found that they do not consistently do either. According to SBA officials, in some cases the supporting documentation, which PCRs store on their individual computers or in their offices, either was destroyed or was not maintained after PCRs left their positions. Officials told GAO that SBA recently implemented a new database and established a policy requiring the monthly reports to be maintained in the database. However, SBA has not established a centralized means of maintaining the supporting documentation. A central repository for PCRs to store their supporting documentation would provide greater assurance that the documentation is maintained as required and help SBA verify the accuracy of the data PCRs report on their activities.

SBA assigns PCRs to buying activities, divisions in federal agencies that purchase goods and services based on geographic coverage and other factors. Specifically, PCRs are assigned

within one of six regional areas to ensure geographic coverage,

at specific federal agencies, and

at buying activities that have significant opportunities for small business contracting.

However, SBA has not submitted required reports to Congress on its rationale for assigning PCRs to cover buying activities. The Small Business Act, as amended, requires that SBA submit a report (1) identifying each area for which SBA has assigned a PCR, (2) explaining why SBA selected the areas for assignment, and (3) describing the activities performed by PCRs. SBA was required to submit the first report to Congress by December 26, 2010, and subsequent reports every 3 years thereafter. SBA officials told GAO they were not aware of the reporting requirement. As a result, Congress lacks the information these reports were intended to provide, information that could be useful for its oversight of PCRs.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Small Business Act establishes tools to enhance procurement opportunities for small businesses, such as set-asides and requirements that large contractors set goals for using small business subcontractors. SBA's PCRs advocate for the inclusion of small businesses during the procurement process.

GAO was asked to examine how PCRs help small businesses gain access to federal contracting and subcontracting opportunities. This report addresses, among other objectives, (1) documentation SBA maintains on the activities of PCRs and (2) how SBA assigns PCRs to cover buying activities and its requirement to report to Congress on these assignments. GAO reviewed SBA policies and procedures, data on PCR assignments, and selected data reported by PCRs and related documentation. GAO also interviewed agency officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that SBA (1) develop a central repository for PCRs to store the supporting documentation for the data they report on their activities and (2) ensure that it submits required reports to Congress on PCRs' assignments and activities. SBA concurred with both recommendations.

For more information, contact William B. Shear at (202) 512-8678 or shearw@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: SBA's Associate Administrator for Government Contracting and Business Development should develop a central repository for PCRs to store the supporting documentation for the data they report on their activities. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: SBA's Associate Administrator for Government Contracting and Business Development should ensure that SBA submits required reports to Congress on PCRs' assignments and activities. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

 

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