GAO: Energy trails other agencies on small biz goals

The Energy Department has fallen short of its small business prime contracting goals in four of the last five years and should take prompt action to improve its small business program management, according to a report released this month by the Government Accountability Office.

The Energy Department spends more than $20 billion a year on goods and services, and has taken steps to increase the prime contract awards to small businesses, according to the report. Those steps include identifying more contracting opportunities for small companies, expanding development and outreach activities, and increasing program management and oversight.

But the agency needs to work on its program management; specifically, it must identify what it needs to do to reach its small-business prime contracting goal, the GAO report said.

It also needs to collect better information to assess its small business program efforts, identify problems, and implement changes that could further increase prime contracting opportunities for small firms, the GAO report said.

Energy set its small business contracting goal at 5 percent in 2001, but only awarded 2.89 percent of its contracts to small companies. In 2002, the department lowered its goal to 3.7 percent, and still missed, with only 3.11 percent of its contracts going to small companies.

In 2003, Energy passed its goal of 3.7 percent, by awarding 4.08 percent of all its contracts to small firms. But the department increased its 2004 goal to 5.06 percent, and fell short by contracting only 4.18 percent of its projects to small companies.

In 2005, the department set its goals even higher, at 5.5 percent of contracts awarded, and fell short again, with only 4.15 percent of all projects going to small companies.

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