Dems charge feds again fall short on small-biz contracting

For the sixth year in a row, the federal government failed to meet its goal of awarding 23 percent of all federal prime contracts to small businesses, according to a report released by Democrats on the House Small Business Committee.

Though the Small Business Administration recently announced that the federal government awarded small companies more than 25.3 percent of all prime contracts in fiscal 2005, House Democrats found that many of the contracts classified as going to small companies actually went to large businesses.

After factoring in $12 billion in miscoding errors, just 21.6 percent of all prime contracts went to small businesses, the Democrats said in "Scorecard VII," a report prepared by the Democratic staff of the House Small Business Committee. The committee has released a series of reports over the past few years judging how small businesses are doing in federal contracting.

While the overall federal contracting marketplace expanded by 7 percent in fiscal 2005, dollars awarded to small companies increased just 2 percent, "showing that opportunities for small firms are not keeping pace," the report stated.

The report follows SBA's assertion that $314 billion in federal contracts were awarded in fiscal 2005. That claim has been refuted by independent research company Eagle Eye Publishers Inc., Fairfax, Va., which compiled its own 2005 small-business contracting report using data produced by the General Services Administration and Defense Department. It found that $377 billion was awarded in federal contracts in fiscal 2005.

Democrats on the small-business committee called on the General Accountability Office to investigate whether the large companies were intentionally certifying themselves as small. Federal contracting rules allow self-certification and self-policing of size qualifications, and include no government oversight of the process.

The committee also requested that the inspector general of each of the four poorest performing federal agencies ? the departments of Treasury, Transportation, State and Education ? investigate if their contracting officers had intentionally miscoded companies to meet their small-business contracting goals.

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