WASHINGTON, D.C. –At a U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing today, Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) questioned Small Business Administration (SBA) officials and other witnesses about the agency’s efforts to combat waste, fraud, and abuse in its contracting programs.  Of specific concern to Senator Snowe, the SBA Office of the Inspector General has referred 26 contractors for suspension or debarment since Fiscal Year 2009, yet the SBA has suspended just three contractors.  Additionally, in March of 2010, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report detailing extensive fraud within the 8(a) program, revealing that 14 ineligible firms received $325 million in sole-source and set-aside contracts.

“I find it unconscionable that the SBA has dragged its feet when it comes to debarring or suspended contractors who have deceived the Federal government – and the American taxpayers – by fraudulently obtaining contracts,” said Senator Snowe.  “Our Committee’s utmost responsibility to the American taxpayer is to provide stringent oversight of all of the SBA’s programs, and I will use any opportunity I can to probe instances of waste, fraud, and abuse, and hold officials accountable for their efforts to eradicate any form of exploitation.”

Senator Snowe also commented on the Federal government’s efforts to promote entrepreneurship among underserved and minority communities.  According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, minority-owned firms generate $1 trillion in economic output to the U.S. economy and create 5.9 million jobs.

Specifically, Senator Snowe highlighted her efforts to enact parity among the SBA’s contracting programs in light of the super preference that was previously afforded to the Historically Underutilized Business, or HUBZone, program.  Her legislation, the Small Business Contracting Programs Parity Act (S. 1489), was included as part of the Small Business Jobs Act that was signed into law last September.

“Ensuring that minority-owned businesses have fair access to federal contracting opportunities is one way that our government can help foster minority entrepreneurial success,” said Senator Snowe.  “That’s why I was proud to introduce legislation last year to level the playing field so that contracts to service-disabled veterans, 8(a), HUBZone, and women-owned firms may be awarded with equal deference to each program.”