The Women's Business Center (WBC) Program provides training and counseling services to women entrepreneurs, especially those who are socially and economically disadvantaged. In fiscal year 2007, the Small Business Administration (SBA) funded awards to 99 WBCs. However, Congress and WBCs expressed concerns about the uncertain nature of the program's funding structure. Concerns have also been raised about whether the WBC and two other SBA programs, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and SCORE programs, duplicate services. This report addresses (1) uncertainties associated with the funding process for WBCs; (2) SBA's oversight of the WBC program; and (3) actions that SBA and WBCs have taken to avoid duplication among the WBC, SBDC, and SCORE programs. GAO reviewed policies, procedures, examinations, and studies related to the funding, oversight, and services of WBCs and interviewed SBA, WBC, SBDC, and SCORE officials.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Small Business Administration||1. To ensure that oversight of the WBC program is efficient and effective the Administrator of SBA should evaluate and modify, as appropriate, the responsibilities assigned to District Office Technical Representatives (DOTR) to ensure that DOTRs can conduct appropriate and effective monitoring of the centers.|
|Small Business Administration||2. To ensure that oversight of the WBC program is efficient and effective the Administrator of SBA should establish a communication strategy to ensure that WBCs have access to up-to-date information on program requirements and help the centers better understand how they are performing.|
|Small Business Administration||3. To improve coordination and facilitate the efficient use of federally funded resources, the Administrator of SBA should direct the Associate Administrator of the Office of Entrepreneurial Development (OED) to develop guidance or information for SBA's district offices and WBCs, SBDCs, and the former Service Corps of Retired Executies (SCORE) that will facilitate successful coordination of services. This guidance or information could be developed by identifying promising practices currently in place in some geographic areas or by developing case studies or examples of successful coordination models. The guidance should also assist district offices, WBCs, SBDCs and SCORE in providing sound advice on how to coordinate services when doing so could conflict with meeting individual program requirements or initiatives.|