In a recent post about the incidence of fraud in federal contracting programs for small businesses, the Small Business Administration came in for some criticism from the agency’s inspector general, Peggy E. Gustafson. Ms. Gustafson, whose office is independent from the rest of the agency, testified before Congress recently that the agency needed to “change its culture” and become more aggressive in punishing contractors who misrepresent themselves as small companies in order to win government work.
Joe Jordan, the agency’s associate administrator for government contracting and business development, sees it differently. He thinks the criticisms are out of date. “That may have been true two or three years ago,” he said, “but there is absolutely a culture throughout S.B.A. of ridding our programs of fraud, waste and abuse.” Government officials often try to disassociate themselves from the work of their predecessors, but Mr. Jordan does have some numbers on his side.
He began by discussing suspension and debarment, a process for banning businesses from receiving government contracts, often permanently, in cases of fraud or other misconduct. This was in fact what the inspector general was referring to when she called for a culture change — agency employees, she told legislators, were reluctant to pull this trigger. Mr. Jordan argued that the shift had already occurred.