Senators Olympia J. Snowe [R-Maine, pictured], Mary Landrieu [D- La.], Scott P. Brown [R-Mass.], Jeff Merkley [D-Ore.], and Mike Enzi [R-Wyo.], have introduced bipartisan legislation to combat contracting fraud at the U.S. Small Business Administration [SBA]. Their initiative comes on the heels of several vulnerabilities and abuses in nearly all of SBA’s contracting programs, as identified in multiple reports by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office [GAO].
"Exercising thorough oversight to ensure SBA’s contracting programs are efficient, effective, and accountable is a top priority," said Sen. Snowe, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. "This legislation is a critical step towards ensuring all of our nation’s small businesses compete fairly in the federal marketplace."
Citing a March 12 Washington Post report that "Government officials were not monitoring contracts for compliance with rules," Sen. Snowe called SBA’s current oversight efforts deficient. "As I told the deputy administrator of the SBA at a recent Small Business Committee hearing," she noted, "the ultimate authority for monitoring fraud lies with the SBA when it comes to government management of hard-earned taxpayer dollars."
"When ineligible firms are awarded federal government contracts through fraudulent means," declared Senate Small Business Committee Chair Sen. Landrieu, "this reduces the number of opportunities available to honest, qualified small businesses.
"Government contracts are perhaps one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways the federal government can help immediately increase sales for America’s entrepreneurs, giving them the tools they need to keep our economy strong and create jobs. This legislation gives the SBA and the inspector general the tools necessary to combat fraud. We intend for the SBA to hold firms accountable."
"With our nation facing record debt and deficits, it is absolutely critical that taxpayer dollars are used judiciously to ensure that small-business contracting programs benefit the rightful recipients," said Sen. Brown, a member of the Senate Small Business Committee. "This bipartisan legislation is a strong step toward ensuring that our contracting programs are operating effectively and efficiently."
"Small businesses are the backbone of our community and the drivers of economic growth," said Sen. Merkley. "The programs that support and assist them should not be diverted or diluted because of waste, fraud of abuse. This bill will help refocus SBA programs like a laser on the needs of our small-business owners."
"We have a situation now where bad actors are snapping up opportunities that would greatly benefit legitimate small businesses," added Sen. Enzi. "This bill would help ensure that those who provide real jobs and quality goods and services are the ones getting the contracts."
Specifically, the Small Business Contracting Fraud Prevention Act of 2011 [S. 633] would provide a comprehensive oversight framework within SBA to execute effective certification, surveillance and monitoring, as well as robust enforcement of its entire contracting portfolio. The bill would also increase criminal penalties for businesses awarded contracts through fraudulent means.
SOURCES: GovTrack.us, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
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