Federal small biz advocates should take it to the top


Small business program directors at seven federal agencies have been asked by a House subcommittee to explain why they are sidestepping reporting requirements.

The directors of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) at the Agriculture, Justice, State, Commerce, Treasury and Interior departments as well as the Social Security Administration were not reporting directly to their agency heads, as required by the Small Business Act, according to a June Government Accountability Office report.

The reporting requirement is meant to ensure that OSDBU directors have direct access to their agencies’ top decision makers to advocate for small businesses in procurement activities.

OSBDU directors at the seven noncompliant agencies were either delegating the reporting requirement to other staff in their office or reporting to lower level officials, not their agency heads, according to the report, which was created at the request of Senate Small Business Committee chairwoman Mary Landrieu.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, chair of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce, sent letters late Friday to the noncompliant agencies asking them to explain how they plan to comply with the reporting requirements and to detail what other positions their OSBDU directors hold.

Some of the OSBDU directors also head the agency’s procurement office, which is a conflict of interest because the small business office is supposed to be a check on the acquisition functions of the agency, Mulvaney said in his letters.

Committee staff said they expect agencies to respond by the end of the month, and a mid-September hearing is being planned to discuss the issue.

OSDBU directors that reported directly to their secretaries or deputy secretaries told the GAO that relationship showed “top-level support for small business efforts that sent a message to the rest of the agency.”

However, many of the noncompliant agencies said they did not see negative effects on their small business activity because they delegated reporting responsibilities or reported to lower level officials.

The seven noncompliant agencies were also cited by the GAO for similar reporting problems in 2003. Since problems still exist, the GAO asked those agencies to explain to Congress if they believe the requirement should be changed.


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