Small Business ContractingOpportunities to Improve the Effectiveness of Agency and SBA Advocates and Mentor-Protege Programs Gao ID: GAO-11-844T September 15, 2011
In summary, we found the following and made recommendations for improvement: (1) Nine of the 16 agencies we reviewed were in compliance with the Small Business Act's requirement that OSDBU directors be responsible only to and report directly to the agency or deputy agency head; however, seven were not. We recommended that the seven agencies act to comply with the requirement. The Social Security Administration (SSA) agreed with the recommendation, and the Department of the Interior agreed to reevaluate its reporting structure. The Departments of Commerce, Justice, State, and the Treasury disagreed, stating they were in compliance. We maintained our position on these agencies' compliance status. The Department of Agriculture did not comment. (2) While controls existed at all 13 federal agencies with mentor-protege programs to help ensure that participants met eligibility criteria and benefited from the program, the agencies generally did not track protege achievements after program completion. We recommended that 10 agencies consider doing so. Six of the 10 agencies--DHS, Energy, GSA, HHS, Treasury, and VA--generally agreed with our recommendation. We clarified the wording of the recommendation in response to SBA's comment that the wording in our draft report would lead to the conclusion that all mentor-protege programs have the same objective. State partially agreed with our recommendation, citing concerns about the impact that postcompletion reporting could have on the department, mentor firms, and protege firms. EPA and FAA did not comment. (3) Although SBA had some measures to assess the effectiveness of PCRs and CMRs, select data these staff reported were not reliable and report controls and reviews had weaknesses. We recommended that SBA take measures to improve data reliability and internal controls. SBA agreed with our recommendations and has been updating guidance for the PCR and CMR programs to provide clear instructions for reporting. SBA also said it would implement a method to verify and review the PCR and CMR documentation.