WASHINGTON - The U.S. Small Business Administration is in
the throes of its own big-time management crisis, according to the Ohio member
of Congress who oversees its operations.
House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot of
Cincinnati held a series of hearings this week on reports of widespread
management deficiencies at the independent agency founded in 1953 to help
Americans start and build small businesses.
report from Congress' investigative arm – the U.S. General Accounting
Office (GAO) - found that high personnel turnover at SBA's top levels has kept
it from resolving longstanding management challenges, including securing its
GAO's Director of Financial Markets and Community
Investment, William B. Shear, on Wednesday told Chabot's
committee that SBA had implemented just 7 of the 69 recommendations it made in
"We found that senior SBA leaders have not prioritized
long-term organizational transformation in areas such as human capital and
IT," Shear told Chabot's committee. "This raises questions about
SBA's sustained commitment to addressing management challenges that could keep
it from effectively assisting small businesses."
At a hearing the following day, Chabot told SBA
Contaras-Sweet that the problems have produced "a failure of
confidence in the SBA."
"From information technology and security to staff
management issues, from disaster response to fraud in your lending and
contracting programs, it's a safe bet that the small businesses in our
districts are paying the price for the agency's failures," said Chabot.
The committee's top Democrat – New York's Nydia Velazquez –
agreed with Chabot that the agency faces "a wide range of frankly very
troubling management challenges, many of which have persisted for years."
"I do fully recognize that many of these problems took
root before Administrator Contreras-Sweet's tenure – and that furthermore, she
has demonstrated a commitment to addressing them," Velazquez continued.
"With that said, there is still much work that needs to be accomplished in
terms of addressing GAO recommendations."
Contraras-Sweet, who has headed the agency for 20 months,
acknowledged problems, and said she agrees with many of the GAO's
recommendations. During 2015, she said her agency resolved 14 recommendations
made by the GAO.
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