The federal government is shutting down its self-certification of women-owned small businesses — again. We’ve been hearing about this since 2015, so we’re not holding our breath yet.
In a program that was begun in 2010, NASA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reported in 2013 that 35% of the WOSBs it contracted with “may not have met the criteria for a woman-owned small business”. The self-certification process allows anyone to register their business in SAM (System for Award Management), provide proof of citizenship or permanent residency, minimal documentation on the company structure and an optional resume. We wrote a blistering blog post in July of that year over our feelings about the people who “… falsely self-certify. But there it is … these companies and people are lying to the federal government. Their lies could well be viewed as theft of taxpayer dollars and theft of opportunity from legitimate WOSBs.”
In September 2011, the SBA engaged with a variety of partners to verify WOSB certification applicants (El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Women Business Owners Corporation, US Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council). Oddly, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 ended the self-certification program and provided sole source authority. Self-certification continued and the program was expanded to allow sole-source contracts for WOSBs.
Then, in 2018 an SBA OIG review of 2016 and 2017 sole-source WOSB federal contracts “… awarded to self-certified women-owned companies showed that 50 out of 56–worth as much as $52 million—did not follow regulations.” Yet, self-certification persists. In the spring of 2019, the SBA issued a proposed rule (84 Fed. Reg. 21256) to overhaul its regulations; followed in February 2020 with an announcement that its revised regulation will be published on June 30th, 2020 going into effect by the end of July.
With these changes seemingly moving forward (fingers crossed!), we want to make sure those currently holding WOSB or EDWOSB status are ready for when it is time to renew their certification.