Over-stretched SBA fails to hit US targets

8 December 2008

8 December 2008 | Jake Kanter

The US government has been unable to engage with small suppliers effectively, attract them to bid and offer them contracts because of "resource constraints".

According to a study conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), staff and budget cuts at the Small Business Administration (SBA) - a government agency that helps small suppliers access public sector contracts - have limited its ability to work with buyers and SMEs to make deals accessible. This has "significantly reduced" the resources available to SBA staff.

The organisation employs procurement centre representatives (PCR) - who review proposed departmental purchases, recommend suppliers and monitor SME contracting levels - and commercial market representatives (CMR), who monitor subcontracting opportunities. Some of the 59 PCRs working for the SBA complained they could not collaborate effectively with public sector buyers because they were "stretched too thin," while CMRs told the GAO they were "unable" to meet all their responsibilities.

A lack of resources has also hampered the SBA's "8(a)" programme, which helps develop small companies so they are able to win government business. The research showed that in four separate years between 2000-06, the government failed to reach its target of awarding 23 per cent of all contracts to small suppliers.

The GAO recommended the SBA review workloads of its employees and develop a strategy for allocating its limited resources effectively to help the government meet goals of small business contracting.

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