Federal Womens Owned Small Business Program in Need of Oversight

The US Small Business Administration’s women-owned small business program, which begun in 2012 with the intent to funnel federal dollars to small businesses owned by women, has been failing to certify that only eligible business are awarded contracts according to a report issued by the US Government Accounting Office.

In order to take part in the WOSB program, a small business must be 51 percent owned and controlled by a woman which it must prove through financial documentation. The program went into effect in 2012 after the government failed to continue to meet a 15-year goal of awarding at least 5 percent of its prime and subcontract dollars to business owned by women. According to many The WOSB program has had limited effect on federal contracting opportunities available to WOSBs. Set aside contracts under the program represent less than 1 percent of all federal obligations to WOSBs.

“Without ongoing monitoring and oversight of the activities and performance of third-party certifiers, the Small Business Administration cannot reasonably assure that certifiers fulfill the requirements of the agreement,” claims the GAO. “As a result of inadequate monitoring and controls, potentially ineligible businesses may continue to incorrectly certify themselves as WOSBs, increasing the risk that they may receive contracts for which they are not eligible.”

Contracting officers, business owners and industry experts identified challenges and suggested potential modifications to influence proper program uses including: allowing sole-source contracts rather than requiring two businesses to compete, along with expanding the list of 330 industries that WOSBs are eligible for set asides.