Is the District Employing Small Businesses? Probably Not Enough, But Who Knows!
Several weeks ago, when now-mayor-elect Vince Gray came to visit City Paper HQ, I asked him a simple question: Given that he thinks the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development relies too heavily on RFPs for awarding contracts, what’s the alternative?
His answer: Give more to the little guys.
“I'm concerned that it appears there is a receding commitment to small businesses in the District of Columbia,” Gray said. “I think if you look at the numbers–and I don't have the numbers in front of me–we have fewer dollars going to our own small businesses than we did before this administration came along. I think every jurisdiction should work to try to make sure it recycles its dollars within the city, and I don't know that that has been a priority.”
I wondered about this. Gray said he didn’t have the numbers—were fewer District dollars actually routed to certified small businesses under the Fenty administration?
Turns out it would have been difficult for Gray to know. Legislation passed in 2005 requires every District agency to devote half its budget for goods and services to small businesses, but the unit tasked with keeping tabs on their compliance only became active on October 1 of last year. In the first review cycle—as with a recent audit of First Source requirements—results were abysmal.
According to a report by the D.C. Auditor issued on September 3rd, only eight out of the District’s 62 agencies met their small business contracting goals. Twenty six agencies didn’t meet their goals, and the rest hadn’t provided enough data to the Department of Small and Local Business Development for the auditor to assess whether they did or not.
The report is written in a tone of barely-contained exasperation. The lack of information, it reads, constitutes a “breakdown in DSLBD’s reporting process.” In the future, reports will go directly to the auditor, skipping the DSLBD, meaning we’ll get a better picture of who’s hitting their targets.
Who got gold stars? The agencies that hit their 50 percent target include: The Chief Technology Officer, D.C. Public Libraries, Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Child and Family Services, Fire and Emergency Services, Office of Property Management, and the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.