Business Regulation and Consumer Protection:

Information on the Number of Small Business Set-Asides Issued and Successfully Challenged

GAO-03-242R: Published: Nov 1, 2002. Publicly Released: Nov 1, 2002.

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The Small Business Act requires small businesses to have the maximum practicable opportunity to participate in the performance of federal government contracts. Congress directed the President to set a governmentwide goal of at least 23 percent of the total dollar value of the federal government's prime contract awards to be awarded to small businesses each fiscal year. The small Business Administration's (SBA) Procurement Center Representatives (PCRs) work with federal agencies and procuring activities by reviewing proposed acquisitions to determine whether they can be set aside for small businesses. GAO found that the number of PCR-recommended small businesses set-asides has declined by almost one-half since fiscal year 1991. Overall, contracting officers accepted 76 percent of the set-aside recommendations. Of the 24 percent rejected, SBA did not pursue 85 percent. Of the 15 percent appealed, 26 percent were successful. SBA officials attributed the decline to several factors, including (1) downsizing the number of PCRs; (2) assigning other duties to PCRs, such as requiring some PCRs to be Commercial Marketing Representatives, further reducing available PCR resources; and (3) fewer set-aside opportunities due to increasing size and individual federal procurements. SBA officials also explained that PCRs take different approaches to filing set-aside recommendations--some choose to influence contract actions informally, without filing set-aside recommendations. SBA does not keep track of information PCR actions.

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