Why the federal government lacks Black business


(NNPA)—The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. We are going into 47 years of this great law but the memo has never been circulated around to federal employees who deal with the massive procurement system of the federal government. From one presidential administration to the next nothing of substance seems to happen in terms of Black businesses winning procurement dollars. There is a lot of corruption, discrimination, and bullying that disallows a small Black business to get a foothold. There needs to be a massive overhaul in how diversity in federal procurement should be set up. Here is some food for thought to change this pitiful state of affairs.

Forty-seven years and we cannot do more than two percent of the total for Black owned businesses in any given fiscal year. There is a lack of accountability. Growth and robust activity should rest on the shoulders of agency secretaries — the President’s Cabinet. It should affect their bonuses and annual evaluations. Likewise, Deputy Secretaries should bear the same burden. If this were to happen you would see a great amount of attention given to the issue. Procurement officials would be pushed into good performance and pitiful performance would not be tolerated.

The Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization is at every agency. However, I have been in D.C. for 19 years and may have met eight of them at best. They hide behind their desks and just count the years before their retirements. This position should change from a career type hire to a political hire. Each OSDBU would have four to eight years to make his mark and set his legacy. The political hires should have a good amount of entrepreneurial experience and understand what the Black business owner is going through. Laziness and corruption should not be tolerated and the Secretary of each agency must watch and measure the activity of his respective OSDBU.

“Small Disadvantaged Business”? I was shocked when my sons requested a SDB certification application for one of their companies. The Small Business Administration wrote them back saying that they no longer certify companies for SDB status. Their reason was that SDB’s probably wouldn’t win any federal contracts anyway. Isn’t it confusing that we have an office there in each agency to help SDB’s and the SBA is eliminating any certification for them. Thus, they are going to rely on self-certification and that will open the door to mass fraud and corruption. It will contaminate the reporting process.

In regards to reporting, there is much room for updating. The SBA and federal agencies love to aggregate their contracting numbers. They want to hide the paltry performance they do in Black business procurement. They don’t want to directly answer any inquiries about Black business procurement by announcing or reporting what minorities per se are doing. “We are doing 10 percent with minorities or 15 percent with minorities and are meeting our goals.” We want to know exactly what they are doing with Black firms not Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians, etc. They love to hide their anemic performance with Black firms.

Then we need to stop the games played by major federal contracting firms. How much SBA is in on this is yet to be determined. Are they that corrupt or that stupid? Contracts, many of them no bid, are let out in amounts of billions of dollars. Before the contract is awarded the SBA comes in and does a review of the subcontracting list for utilization of small businesses inclusive of minority and disabled veteran owned businesses. The prime contractors will go out and verbally agree with Black businesses to utilize them on the massive contract. The SBA comes in and sees the printed list of small and minority owned businesses and approves the contract. Funny thing, after the prime contractor has the contract he never speaks to the Black contractor again. It was all a written sham. Does the SBA include these forecasted numbers in their reports like they actually happened? Right now I have two such complaints against Lockheed and Fluor corporations on Department of Defense projects. We may file suit, if the SBA won’t “buck up”.

One of the worst agencies is the Department of Transportation. An example would be their Federal Highway Administration that does less than 1.2 percent with Black businesses (their figures). We can’t get business at airports like we used to and the new high speed rail they are proposing will not have a minority business program at all. Yet, the SBA awards this agency with their “Agency of the Year Award” for the last three consecutive years. What are they thinking?

The above would be a start to improvement. What if the Congressional Black Caucus would form a taskforce and analyze quarterly reports from each agency? Would Pelosi put them in “time out”?

(Harry Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org www.twitter.com/nationalbcc.)

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