Certifications Process for WOSBs Delayed

The wait for formal certifications for women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) in federal contracting has become longer.  Congress, as part of the fiscal 2015 national defense authorization, approved sole-source authority for WOSBs, but also ordered the establishment of a formal certification process and removed the authorization for self-certification of WOSBs for federal contracting.

The law authorized the Small Business Administration to establish a regulation to create a formal certification process for WOSBs.  The idea was to create parity with other SBA programs, which offer the sole-source option but also require government certifications.  The WOSB program is the only SBA set-aside program that uses third-party certifications, which can charge substantial fees. Those certifications continue.  The SBA also has continued to allow self-certifications, despite the apparent lack of legal authorization.

But the wait for the new certification process became longer in recent weeks. White House officials on Jan. 20 ordered 60-day delays on all new regulations–including the pending SBA rule that would set up a new SBA certification program for WOSBs in accordance with the 2014 law.  According to John Shoraka, former SBA associate administrator for government contracting and business development, the SBA has completed a draft of the rule for WOSB formal certification.

“For the WOSB certification process, we had drafted a rule, which is now on hold. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking has not been issued,” Shoraka told Set-Aside Alert in an exclusive interview on Feb. 13.  The delay “has a potential negative impact” on WOSBs, Shoraka added.

While the White House’s 60-day delay reportedly ended on March 20, the wait may not be over. President Trump in January said two regulations must be removed for each new regulation, and he ordered new ways to determine the costs of new regulations. Those factors may slow the release of the SBA rule on the new WOSB certifications process further. It also may result in changes to the draft rule.

SBA officials did not respond to a request for comment.

~from the Set-Aside Alert, March 31 2017