The 8(a) Business Development Program helps small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals gain business skills and access to federal contracting opportunities so that they can better compete in the open marketplace. We set out to determine to what extent SBA measures and monitors an 8(a) firm’s progress and ensures 8(a) firms receive the help needed to meet their goals. We also examined whether the program adapted successfully during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic to help firms. We reviewed the business development assistance SBA provided 8(a) program participants from 2011-2020, which included reviewing the files for 40 of the firms assigned to 5 district offices. We also reviewed applicable public laws, regulations, policies, and procedures and interviewed program officials. We found that 15 of the 40 firms we tested did not have approved business plans, making these firms ineligible to receive $93 million in 8(a) awards. We also found SBA did not consistently document that its staff assessed the needs, counseled, or conducted field visits with 8(a) firms to ensure they received the assistance needed to be prepared to compete for contracts without further 8(a) assistance. However, we found SBA program officials offered program flexibilities to all 8(a) participants during the pandemic, adapting business development assistance to help firms stay in business and remain in the program. We made eight recommendations for the agency to measure, monitor, and better deliver training and other business development assistance to 8(a) firms.
Monday, February 14, 2022
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