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Highlights

A mentor-protege program is an arrangement in which mentors--businesses, typically experienced prime contractors--provide technical, managerial, and other business development assistance to eligible small businesses, or protege. In return, the programs provide incentives for mentor participation, such as credit toward subcontracting goals, additional evaluation points toward the awarding of contracts, an annual award to the mentor providing the most effective developmental support to a protege, and in some cases, cost reimbursement. Overall, mentor-protege programs seek to enhance the ability of small businesses to compete more successfully for federal government contracts by furnishing them with assistance to improve their performance. We identified 13 federal agencies that currently have mentor-protege programs including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of State (DOS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), General Services Administration (GSA), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Small Business Administration (SBA), Department of the Treasury (Treasury), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 required that we conduct a study on federal mentor-protege programs to determine whether they are effectively supporting the goal of increasing small business participation in federal government contracting. This letter summarizes a March 2011 briefing we provided to congressional staff on the results of this work. It also includes updated information on the number of active mentor-protege agreements reported by each agency as of March 2011 and additional audit work we conducted following the briefing on protege postcompletion information. Our objectives were to (1) describe the policies and procedures for administering and monitoring federal mentor-protege programs; (2) identify controls used to help ensure that mentor-protege programs are beneficial to program participants and eligibility requirements are being met; and (3) determine if information is available on whether proteges have become able to compete for federal contracts without the assistance of a mentor.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization 1. To more fully evaluate the effectiveness of their mentor-protege programs, the OSDBU and Mentor-Protege Program Directors of DHS, DOE, DOS, EPA, FAA, GSA, HHS, SBA, Treasury, and VA should consider collecting and maintaining protege postcompletion information.
Closed - Implemented
In November 2011, DHS updated its mentor-protege program guidance to require protege firms to report on their progress annually for two years after exiting the program.
Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization 2. To more fully evaluate the effectiveness of their mentor-protege programs, the OSDBU and Mentor-Protege Program Directors of DHS, DOE, DOS, EPA, FAA, GSA, HHS, SBA, Treasury, and VA should consider collecting and maintaining protege postcompletion information.
Closed - Not Implemented
In August 2017, GSA confirmed that its current acquisition regulations do not require the collection of post-completion information from proteges. In addition, GSA notified the Small Business Administration (SBA) of its determination not to continue accepting applications into its mentor-protege program. GSA also sought SBA approval to continue with existing agreements until they reach the end of their terms.
Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization 3. To more fully evaluate the effectiveness of their mentor-protege programs, the OSDBU and Mentor-Protege Program Directors of DHS, DOE, DOS, EPA, FAA, GSA, HHS, SBA, Treasury, and VA should consider collecting and maintaining protege postcompletion information.
Closed - Not Implemented
In October 2016, the Department of State noted that it submitted a request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to discontinue the department's mentor-protege program, as a result of SBA's new All Small Mentor-Protege Program (a governmentwide mentor-protege program for all small business concerns that SBA began accepting applications for in October 2016). OMB approved the department's request in October 2016.
Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization 4. To more fully evaluate the effectiveness of their mentor-protege programs, the OSDBU and Mentor-Protege Program Directors of DHS, DOE, DOS, EPA, FAA, GSA, HHS, SBA, Treasury, and VA should consider collecting and maintaining protege postcompletion information.
Closed - Implemented
In September 2011, Treasury implemented a mentor-protege post completion reporting requirement that is designed to assess the progress of protege firms 24 months after exiting the program.
Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization 5. To more fully evaluate the effectiveness of their mentor-protege programs, the OSDBU and Mentor-Protege Program Directors of DHS, DOE, DOS, EPA, FAA, GSA, HHS, SBA, Treasury, and VA should consider collecting and maintaining protege postcompletion information.
Closed - Not Implemented
According to HHS, the department's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization disbanded its mentor-protege program slightly before the Small Business Administration established the All Small Mentor-Protege Program in 2016. As a result, HHS has no active or pending mentor-protege agreements on file.
Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization 6. To more fully evaluate the effectiveness of their mentor-protege programs, the OSDBU and Mentor-Protege Program Directors of DHS, DOE, DOS, EPA, FAA, GSA, HHS, SBA, Treasury, and VA should consider collecting and maintaining protege postcompletion information.
Closed - Implemented
In July 2011, VA issued mentor-protege program guidance that required the protege to submit a report on their ability to compete on federal procurements without the assistance of a mentor one year after completing the program.
Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization 7. To more fully evaluate the effectiveness of their mentor-protege programs, the OSDBU and Mentor-Protege Program Directors of DHS, DOE, DOS, EPA, FAA, GSA, HHS, SBA, Treasury, and VA should consider collecting and maintaining protege postcompletion information.
Closed - Implemented
In February 2018, the Small Business Administration (SBA) approved the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plan to retire its mentor protege program. EPA stated that the agency has started using SBA's All Small Mentor Protege Program. Under SBA's program, a protege must report whether it believed the mentor-protege relationship was beneficial and describe any lasting benefits to the protege at the completion of the mentor-protege relationship.
Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization 8. To more fully evaluate the effectiveness of their mentor-protege programs, the OSDBU and Mentor-Protege Program Directors of DHS, DOE, DOS, EPA, FAA, GSA, HHS, SBA, Treasury, and VA should consider collecting and maintaining protege postcompletion information.
Closed - Implemented
In February 2018, the Small Business Administration (SBA) approved the Department of Energy's (DOE) plan to administer a separate Mentor-Protege Program for five years commencing on February 20, 2018. DOE noted that the department reports annually to SBA regarding its program. DOE will determine program success by collecting information on protege performance after the first year and again after the second year proteges participate in the program. In addition, proteges must submit a lessons learned evaluation to the DOE Mentor-Protege Program Manager at the conclusion of the mentor-protege agreement.
Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization 9. To more fully evaluate the effectiveness of their mentor-protege programs, the OSDBU and Mentor-Protege Program Directors of DHS, DOE, DOS, EPA, FAA, GSA, HHS, SBA, Treasury, and VA should consider collecting and maintaining protege postcompletion information.
Closed - Implemented
In September 2015, FAA revised its mentor-protege program guidance to include a requirement that the protege submit a post-completion report annually for two years after the completion of their agreement that indicates lessons learned concerning the material benefits of the program to the protege as well as any successes attributed to the program.
Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization 10. To more fully evaluate the effectiveness of their mentor-protege programs, the OSDBU and Mentor-Protege Program Directors of DHS, DOE, DOS, EPA, FAA, GSA, HHS, SBA, Treasury, and VA should consider collecting and maintaining protege postcompletion information.
Closed - Implemented
In August 2016, SBA amended the regulations for its mentor-protege program and added a requirement that proteges report to SBA whether the mentor-protege relationship was beneficial and describe the lasting benefits of the relationship upon completion of the agreement. In addition, the amended regulations state that SBA will not approve a second mentor-protege agreement if the protege has not provided SBA with the required report regarding the protege's previous mentor-protege agreement.

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