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SBA Takes Over the WOSB Program

The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) changed the certification process for woman-owned small businesses (WOSB) and economically disadvantaged woman-owned small businesses (EDWOSB). Specifically, Section 825 replaces self-certification with a certification program run by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Simultaneously, it beefs up the sole source contracting opportunities by increasing the contract value ceiling. Combined, this gives the WOSB/EDWOSB contracting programs credibility while adding motivation for potential contractors to get involved. These updated regulations make it easier for qualified small businesses to participate in the WOSB Federal Contracting Program by improving the customer experience. At the same time, SBA is strengthening oversight and maintaining the integrity of the certification process.

If you are a WOSB or an EDWOSB and you want to capitalize on set-asides or sole source opportunities to win government contracts, you can no longer rely solely on third party certification or self-certification.

Do not ignore this if the WOSB or EDWOSB set-asides are part of your business strategy. And, if you have not already completed your SBA certification, you are late. The SBA’s old self-certification program died on October 15, 2020. The new certification is free. No need to pay for external certification or consultative support unless those benefit you in other ways.

JetCo Federal is a WBENC-certified, SBA-certified WOSB. The application and approval process with the SBA was seamless and quick. We were in the know about the changes, thanks to strong communication from the SBA and Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP). From a marketing perspective, we lead with capabilities and allow the WOSB status to be a secondary added value.

WOSB Resources

There are many resources for WOSBs in the government contracting industry. Here are our favorites:

We discovered the SBA Certification Process through WIPP webinars and interaction with the SBA directly. SBA has it TOGETHER on this program. The program managers and regulation authors have been tireless in the program rollout and the external communication. Kudos to them.

WOSB Program Self-Certification Changes

To participate in the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) Program, a company must either self-certify through the Small Business Administration (SBA) website or through a third-party organization. However, the program is making some changes in the near future. Effective October 15, 2020, WOSBs will no longer be able to self-certify.

As part of the 2015 The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress eliminated self-certification for WOSB set asides and sole source. Despite the change, the SBA insisted that WOSB self-certification remain a viable option while they figured out how to address the change. Now, that change is coming.

According to reports by the SBA Office of Inspector General (OIG), 89% of all WOSB sole source contracts were awarded improperly. It was determined that federal agencies, contracting officers, and firms did not comply with the federal regulations for 50 out of a total 56 sole source contracts, which are valued at a total of $52.2 million.

Before awarding a WOSB or EDWOSB contract, the contracting officer is required to confirm that WOSBs/EDWOSBs have provided supporting certification documentation in the SBA system. Yet, SBA OIG found that contracting officers awarded 18 contracts valued at $11.7 million on a sole source base to companies with no documentation in the system. Additionally, 32 sole source contracts were awarded to companies with incomplete documentation in the system.

SBA OIG pointed out that the 2015 NDAA, which allowed WOSBs to receive sole source contracts, also required the SBA to implement a certification program for these businesses. Though the SBA implemented the sole source authority in October 2015, they have not issued regulations pertaining to a certification process for the program. The SBA estimated another year of implementing a certification process. This is not the first time that an oversight body has questioned whether WOSB self-certification may be causing ineligible companies to win set asides and sole source contracts.

With self-certification going away, WOSBs must turn to third-party organizations for certification. There are currently four organizations approved by the SBA to provide third-party certification:

  • The National Women’s Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC);
  • The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC);
  • The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce;
  • And the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (EPHCC).

Companies certifying for the first time must either certify through one of the third-party organizations mentioned above or through https://certify.sba.gov/, which will be offering a free online certification program. SBA will also allow participation from firms certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Center of Verification and Evaluations, provided they meet all eligibility requirements.