GAO Audit of the 8(a) Program Provides Insight into How SBA Verifies Applicants Claiming Tribal Associations

Photo of Olivia Lynch
Photo of Olivia Lynch

In early January 2022, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report on the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 8(a) Business Development Program’s procedures for verifying whether tribes identified by program applicants were federally or state-recognized Indian tribes.

As is well known, the ability of a small business to participate in the 8(a) Program can be very beneficial. For example, per GAO’s report: In fiscal year (FY) 2020, 3,364 8(a) participants were awarded federal 8(a) contracts with federal 8(a) contract obligations for the overall program totaling about $19.7 billion; and

Each year, the federal government awards about 10 percent of all federal contract dollars, or roughly $50 billion, to 8(a) participants.

GAO’s report was in response to a request that it evaluate the effectiveness of the SBA in verifying tribal recognition of Indian tribes associated with applicants to the 8(a) Program.

While GAO reported that SBA has no formal procedures for verifying whether the tribes listed on 8(a) applications are recognized, it nonetheless described the manner in which SBA collects the necessary documentation to support tribal recognition. As described in GAO’s report: Individually owned businesses are not required to provide proof of their tribe’s recognition status but must submit a copy of the owner’s tribal membership card, which is used to verify whether the owner’s tribe has been federally or state-recognized.

A tribally owned business must submit evidence of federal or state-recognition of the tribe that owns the business.

In either case, SBA must verify that the Indian tribe is federally or […]

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