This testimony discusses the results of our prior investigation of the Small Business Administration's (SBA) 8(a) Business Development Program. SBA's 8(a) program, named for a section of the Small Business Act, is a development program created to help small, disadvantaged businesses compete in the American economy and access the federal procurement market. To participate in the program, a firm must be certified as meeting several criteria, including: be a small business as defined by SBA; be unconditionally owned and controlled by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who are of good character and citizens of the United States; and show potential for success. Upon certification, firms can obtain federal contracts without competing fully and openly for the work. For example, agencies are permitted to enter into sole-source contracts after soliciting and negotiating with only one 8(a) company. They also can participate in restricted competitions for federal contracts, known as set-asides, open to only 8(a) companies. In March 2010, GAO issued two companion reports on the 8(a) program, one focused on internal control procedures and processes that SBA has implemented to ensure that only eligible firms participate in the program and one focused on fraud prevention. This testimony is based on the latter report, and addresses three issues: (1) whether ineligible firms were participating in the 8(a) program, (2) the results of our proactive testing of the application process, and (3) strengths and weaknesses in SBA's fraud prevention system.
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