The Integrity of Federal Women-Owned Contracting Program At Risk; Thousands of Self-Certified Firms May Not Be Eligible for Set-Asides

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2014 – Today, the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce (http://www.uswcc.org) issued a report finding that over one-half of the firms denied certification for the women-owned WOSB/EDWOSB federal contracting set-aside program by the Women’s Chamber have claimed self-certified women-owned status in the federal database of contractors.

flash_reportThe report found 39% of original women-owned WOSB/EDWOSB certification applications have been found ineligible (denied) by the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, which serves as an authorized third-party certifier for the program. 27% of firms originally denied made corrections to their legal control, management or financial situation, re-applied and successfully secured certification. However, 53% of firms denied certification by the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce are currently represented as WOSB or EDWOSB in the federal database through self-certification claims allowing them to compete against legitimate women-owned WOSB/EDWOSB firms.

“The regulations and resulting processes for the federal WOSB/EDWOSB set-aside program have failed to assure that legitimately women-owned and economically disadvantaged women-owned firms are protected from competing against ineligible firms,” said Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses that are ineligible due to the failure of the women owner(s) to legally own, control and operate the firm may be denied by an approved third-party certifier and then simply self-certify in the federal database,” added Dorfman.

“This issue is exacerbated by another problem with the set-aside program,” continued Dorfman. “The self-certification option of the WOSB/EDWOSB program requires contracting officers to serve as de-facto certifiers – personally reviewing a firm’s legal and financial documents to determine women-owned status and eligibility.  Given the low usage rate of the program by contracting officers, the high rate of certification denials and potentially false self-certification claims, there can be no doubt that contracting officers have hesitation in use of the program.”

“The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce calls upon policy makers to bring accountability to the certification of WOSB/EDWOSB firms so contracting officers can trust and use WOSB/EDWOSB set-asides and so that legitimately women-owned firms are not left competing for women-owned set-aside opportunities against male-owned firms and fronts with pass-through arrangements.”

The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce unifies the collective strength of women in the U.S. economy. Using a platform of influence, innovation, and opportunity, the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce works with and for its members to grow successful businesses and careers. For additional information, go to http://www.uswcc.org or call 888-418-7922.

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