(Washington)—A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers, led by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) have expressed their concern to the Small Business Administration (SBA) over plans to conduct a privatization review of employees in Washington, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. The workers are responsible for determining whether businesses are eligible for certification as 8(a) and Small Disadvantaged Businesses. The letter—signed by 19 senators and representatives—insists that the determination of eligibility is an inherently governmental function, one which always should be performed by reliable and experienced federal employees.
“We are grateful for the strong, bipartisan opposition to SBA’s attempt to turn over this important function to contractors,” said Keith Lucas, president of AFGE Local 2532, which represents the threatened workforce. “According to SBA’s own job descriptions, the positions under review for privatization require considerable intellectual ability and wide-ranging expertise, and the employees being reviewed for privatization also must use significant discretion—all of which makes this job function inherently governmental.
“Sen. Mikulski and her colleagues are absolutely correct that ‘eligibility determinations are a matter of great significance to the businesses that apply for such programs as well as the overall American economy,’ and that contracting out this work could undermine the public interest through the creation of dangerous conflicts of interest,” he added.
“Two broader points also need to be made about this privatization review,” Lucas continued “As is often the case with the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) wholesale privatization push, the workforce to be reviewed is made up largely of women and minorities. In fact, all of the employees based in Washington, D.C., are either women or minorities or both and have a pending lawsuit with SBA over workplace discrimination issues. This raises serious questions about whether the A-76 process is being used as a form of retaliation against equal employment opportunity complainants.
“Also, the work in question is clearly inherently governmental. The notion that a contractor should determine which contractors should have preferences for lucrative government contractors is nothing less than laughable. When OMB officials insist that the A-76 process is being used to improve the efficiency of clearly commercial functions like grass-cutting, they aren’t being honest. The truth is that the A-76 process is being used to substitute the private interests of OMB’s contractor constituents for the public’s interest in reliable and honest federal services,” said Lucas.