“35 Agencies Not Following New Rules” Says Rep. Sam Graves

medium Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., House Small Business Committee Chairman, stepped up pressure on agencies Tuesday. He attacked delays in efforts to comply with new rules requiring them to elevate their Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization offices as a means for giving more businesses a leg up in competing for contracts.

In letters to the Defense Department and 34 other agencies, Graves said a recent hearing revealed that too many are ignoring new amendments to the Small Business Act enacted in January with passage of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. Seems to me DOD would be the last to miss language tied to their primary guidance legislation! Graves, always the gentleman, tries in his statement on the issue, to give the folks who are in slow-mo a bit of plausible deny-ability for their inaction:

“It has come to my attention that some agencies were either unaware of recent changes . . . or had not yet implemented the changes,” Graves wrote.

The requirements include new priorities in the small and disadvantaged business offices’ work, prohibitions on the offices’ leaders from holding other positions, and improvements to the reporting relationship between small business specialists and the offices. With the DOD “reorg” centric model for improvement, this would seem the perfect excuse to again shuffle the cards and deal everyone a new organizational hand…

All the fuss was actually the fault of the Veterans Affairs Department folks – the agency that triggered Graves’ interest in a very public way. It all got rolling when the VA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization director, Thomas Leney, was testifying March 19 on the VA’s efforts to verify eligibility of disabled veterans for preferred small business loans, acknowledged that he also directs the VA’s Center for Veterans Enterprise. Leney, the committee noted, saw no conflict of interest. It sure seems to explain why my SDVOB clients get rubber stamp service on their requests for certification and absolutely no help with business development efforts!

But later, A Veterans Affairs spokeswoman told a Government Executive correspondent that Leney does not have two titles. He is executive director of the department’s OSDBU, which includes the Center for Veterans Enterprise, whose director is Michelle Gardner-Ince. Oh, that fixes everything (wink wink).

So lets hope they don’t start looking too deeply into DOD conflicts of interest in Small Business offices. I suspect that we have more to explain than just the top level conflict VA uncovered… And I suspect that SBA could use a good look from the Congressman as well. Just saying…

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