Audit: 'Small Business' Money Given to Big Business
"Washington Watchdogs," a periodic feature of the Post's Investigations blog, looks at the findings of the federal government's official investigators.
Investigators from the Department of the Interior found that $5.7 million in contracts that were supposed to go to "small businesses" were actually given to several Fortune 500 companies.
The department's inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, launched the investigation after complaints came in about the reliability of data entered into the department's computer system.
Contractors told investigators that some government workers "often click through mindlessly when entering" contract info into the computer system and that if contract officers "did their job, (errors) wouldn't happen."
Some of the companies that benefited include Home Depot, John Deere, Dell, Sherwin Williams, Starwood Hotels and Waste Management Inc.
The amount of money incorrectly given to those companies -- nearly $6 million -- represents about .35 percent of the $1.6 billion given to small businesses last year. Investigators analyzed 472 contracts over a two-year period, representing about .3 percent of the contracts awarded.
Several other businesses, many of them state agencies and public universities, also got funds which they were ineligible to receive. Among them was the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, a Fort Defiance, Ariz., company that supplys electricity, water, natural gas, wastewater treatment and solar power services to residents throughout the 26,000 square-mile Navajo Nation, which received $3.9 million in small business contracts in 2006 and 2007.
The report is unclear about whether the money will be returned.
Top five "small business" contract amounts given to ineligible Fortune 500 companies in 2006 and 2007:
John Deere Co. -- $618,018
Dell Inc. -- $401,976
Waste Management Inc. -- $244,355
GTSI Inc. -- $172,684
Xerox Co. -- $75,154
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