oversight

Small Business Administration: Information on the Women's Business Center Program

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-09-02.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

i
         Accountability * Integrity * Reliabilii
United States General Accounting                   Office                                       Resources, Community,    and
Washington,  DC 20548                                                                      Economic Development    Division



                  B-283476

                  September 2,1999

                  The Honorable Christopher Bond
                  Chairman
                  The Honorable John Kerry
                  Ranking Minority Member
                  Committee on Small Business
                  United States Senate

                  The Honorable James M. Talent
                  Chairman
                  The Honorable Nydia M. Velazquez
                  Ranking Minority Member
                  Committee on Small Business
                  House of Representatives

                  Subject: Small Business Administration: Information on the Women’s Business Center
                           Program

                  The Small Business Reauthorization Act of 1997 created the Small Business Administration’s
                  (SBA) Women’s Business Center Program.’ This program was intended to remove the
                  barriers to creating and developing small businesses owned and controlled by women. The
                  program provides grants for private sector organizations to establish business training
                  centers for women-often focusing on those who are socially and economically
                  disadvantaged. The women’s business centers are financed by SBA funds and matching funds
                  from nonfederal sources. The grants are awarded through a competitive process for periods
                  of up to 5 years. The amount of the nonfederal match increases over the life of a grant, going
                  from $2 of federal money for each $1 of matching funds the first year to $1 of federal money
                  for each $1 of matching funds by the fifth year. As of program year 1999,58 centers were
                  receiving SBA funding.

                  In preparation for reauthorizing this program, you requested (1) a description of the women’s
                  business centers, including their funding status, their experiences in raising matching funds,
                  the types of services offered in a women’s business center’s first and last year of grant
                  funding, and the differences between “parent” and “satellite” centers; (2) a determination of
                  the extent to which SBA’s award criteria predict long-term success or failure of women’s
                  business centers; and (3) our comments on the Office of Women’s Business Ownership’s


                  ‘The Congress passed the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 mandating that the SBA create and administer what was
                  then called the Women’s Business Owner Demonstration Program. The 1997 Reauthorization Act made the program permanent.
                  SBA’s Offke of Women’s Business Ownership administers this program.




                                                                                GAO/BCED-99-2’78R    Women’s Business Center    Program
B-283476


compliance with legislative reporting requirements and the inherent difficulties with
obtaining the required data from the women’s business centers. This letter summarizes the
information presented to your staff at our briefings on August 5 and August 11, 1999, and
formally transmits the briefing charts.

In brief, we found that the women’s business centers that have received SBA grants differ in
their statuses and circumstances. Over two-thirds of the centers that currently receive grant
funds or that received funding from SBA in the past continue to operate as women’s business
centers. Most of these centers reported in a survey we conducted that they were able to raise
the required level of matching funds. Of those centers whose grants had expired, most
continued to offer the same types of services after SBA funding ended as they had in the first
and last year of their grant funding. Satellite centers reported providing the same types of
services to their clients as those provided by parent centers.’ Satellite status offered
advantages and disadvantages, with some parent centers providing their satellites with office
space and furniture, while other parent centers used their satellites only to generate income
for the parents’ benefit.

In our review of SBA’s program records, we did not find a link between a center’s scoring
well on the criteria for awarding funds and the center’s continued operation. Our analysis
revealed that of the top-scoring centers in a given year, about as many are currently open as
are closed.3 We found that after an SBA grant term expired, the primary reason a center
closed was the inability to raise funds. In terms of the characteristics of successful centers,
we did not find major differences between centers that continue to operate and those that
have closed.

Women’s business centers End it easier to meet some mandated reporting requirements than
others. For example, the centers said that they could provide SBA with data on the number
of clients who receive assistance but that it is much more difficult to provide information on
clients’ gross incomes. Additionally, some centers expressed dissatisfaction with SBA’s
computerized data tracking system, saying that it is prone to errors. The Office of Women’s
Business Ownership recognizes the problems with the tracking system and is in the process
of establishing a new one. The women’s business centers also made suggestions that they
said would improve the program, such as extending the grant period beyond 5 years and
reducing the amount of matching funds they are required to raise.



In performing our work, we were unable to fully respond to your request for some data for
program years 1989 through 1998 because of limitations in SBA’s records and databases.
First, many of the program data on amounts available and disbursed to grantees prior to 1996
were incomplete or unavailable, having been archived or destroyed. Although we were able
to obtain financial information for program years 1996 and 1997 (see enc. I), we had to
perform follow-up and additional analysis because the initial data provided were not

‘“Parent” women’s business centers receive grant funding directly from SBA, while satellite centers receive funding from parent
centers instead of directly from SBA.
“We looked at the top three scorers for the program years 1989through 1998 for which SBA was able to provide data.




                                                                   GAO/RCED-99-278R       Women’s Business     Center   Program
 B-283476


 complete. Second, our review of top-scoring centers was limited to 5 program years of data
 (1991,1993,1995, 1997, and 1998) because SBA was unable to provide this information for
 other years.4 SBA officials told us that some of the requested information was destroyed due
 to federal paperwork reduction standards, but this does not explain why data were available
 for 1991 and 1993 but not 1992. Finally, during our review of program files, and even with the
 help of program staff, we could not find all the financial information for the last completed
 program year that centers are required to submit. After we discussed this latter problem with
 the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership and the Deputy
 Assistant Administrator for Procurement and Grants Management at the end of our audit
 work, the Deputy Assistant was able to provide us with the missing financial information that
 we requested for the last program year.

 We conducted a telephone survey of centers that previously received or are currently
 receiving SBA grant funds. Although the primary purpose of our telephone survey was to
 gain a comprehensive perspective from the women’s business centers of program operations
 and issues, we incorporated questions into our survey to obtain missing program information.
 We will provide additional details about the program’s data limitations in a separate letter to
 SBA’s Administrator.

 The briefing slides are presented in enclosure I and the additional geographic information you
 requested in enclosure II. We performed our work from May through August 1999 in
 accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Our scope and
 methodology is presented in enclosure III.

 We provided SBA with a draft of our report for its review. We met with SBA officials,
 including the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership and the
 Deputy Associate Deputy Administrator for Entrepreneurial Development to obtain their
 comments. SBA generally agreed with the information presented in the briefing charts and
 provided technical changes and suggestions for clarification, which we made as appropriate.

 We are also sending copies of this report to the Honorable Aida Alvarez, Administrator, Small
 Business Administration. Please contact me at (202) 512-7631 if you or your staff have any
 questions. Major contributors to this report were Thomas Barger, Ginger Kellar, Mike
 Mgebroff, Cheri Truett, Kathryn Wilke, and Carol Anderson-Guthrie.




&ZW
 Associate Director, Housing and
   Community Development Issues

 Enclosures - 3



‘The Office of Women’s Business Ownership did not issue a request for proposals for new centers in 1994, and officials told us
that in 1996, they did not issue any competitive awards.




3                                                                   GAOLRCED-99-278R       Women’s Business Center      Program
Enclosure I




 GAO



                     Small Business Administration
              The Office of Women’s Business Ownership

                     Women 3 Business Centers




                                GAO/BCED-99-278R   Women’s   Business   Center   Program
Enclosure I




GAo           Objectives

        l     What is the status of women’s business
              centers (WBC)?

        l     Is there a link between award criteria and the
              centers’ continued operations?

        l     What difficulties does the Small Business
              Administration’s (SBA) Office of Women’s
              Business Ownership (OWBO) have in meeting
              mandated reporting requirements?




                                   GAOfRCED-SS-278R   Women’s   Business   Center   Program
Enclosure I




GAo           Results in Brief


         l    Most centers continued to be active, raised
              matching funds, and provided the same level
              of services throughout the program and after
              graduation.

         l    No link was identified between SBA’s award
              criteria and the centers’ continued operation.

         l    Reporting requirements are difficult for both
              the centers and OWBO to meet, and
              communication problems exist.




                                    GAO/RCED-SS-278R   Women’s Business   Center   Program
    Enclosure I




        GAo       Methodology

              l   We interviewed:
                  l OWBO Director and staff,

                  l SBA Grants Management staff,
I



                  l First OWBO Director,

                  l Representatives of Association of Women

                    Business Owners,
                  l SBA Inspector General staff, and

                  0 District Office Technical Representative -
                    Washington, DC




    7                                  GAOIRCED-99.27SR   Women’s   Business   Center   Program
Enclosure I




GAo           Methodology (Cont.)

         l    We reviewed program files and data for current
              and graduated centers from:
                 l OWBO and

                 l Grants Management.



         l    We visited the Washington, DC., WBC.

          l   We conducted a telephone survey with 76
              currently funded and graduated centers that
              have received WBC funds.




                                   GAO/RCED-99-278R   Women’s Business   Center   Program
Enclosure I




    GAo                Objective 1 - Status of
                       Women’s Business Centers
                                                            Number of centers as of FY 1998
                                                                       GAO’s
                                                           OWBO’s     review of
                                                            annual     OWBO
                                                            report  documents
       Currently funded                                           37                           36
       Graduated active                                           22                           22

       Inactive or closed                                        23                            26

      Total                                                       82                           84

    Note: OWBO’s and GAO’s numbers differ because OWBO did not count 3 centers that had received WBC
    funding and counted 1 center that had not actually received WBC funding. As a result, GAO’s total is 2 higher
    than OWBO’s initial count. All but 8 of these centers responded to our survey.




9                                                                             GAOfRCED-99-278R          Women’s’hsiness   Center   Program
Enclosure I




GAo 42 Centers No Longer Receive OWBO
    Funding
                         Number of centers

                                  6


                                                                 LIStill   a WBC


                                                21
                                                                 n Operating          as other
                                                                    than    a WBC
                                                                     Inactive    or closed




 Source: GAO’s survey results.




 10                                          GAO/RCED-99-278R   Women’s    Business   Center   Program
Enclosure I




 GAo                  Most Available Grant Funds Were
                      Disbursed to Grantees



                          ._        _

                         $2,500,000

                         $2,000,000

                         $1,500,000

                         $1 ,ooo,ooo

                            $500,000

                                        $0
                                                      FY 1996                        FY 1997


     Note: FY 1996 and 1997 were the only years for which OWBO could provide sufficient data; we performed additional analysis to
     make the data usable. The 1998 program year had not ended at the time of our review.


     Source: Analysis of data provided by OWBO.




11                                                                           GAO/RCED-99-278R        Women’s     Business    Center   Program
Enclosure      I




GAo Most Centers Raised Required Matching
    Funds for Full Federal Share
                               Number of centers

                                                                                                        0 Raised      match      for full
                                                                                                          federal     share


                                                                                                          Did not intend to
                                                                                                          raise match for full
                                                                                                          federal share
                                                                                                        H Did not raise match
                                                                                                          for full federal share

                                                                                                        0 Did not respond




 Note. Some survey respondents told us they did not raise or did not intend to raise their full match
 and as a result did not receive the full federal share.

 Source: GAO’s survey results.




 12                                                                             GAOfRCED-99-2’78R        Women’s    Business   Center   Program
Enclosure I




 GAo                 Experiences Raising Matching Funds in
                     First Year Was Mixed
                         Number of centers

                        18
                        16
                       14
                        12
                        10
                         8
                         6
                         4
                         2
                         0
                                   Very easy   Somewhat   easy    As easy as    Somewhat   difficult    Very difficult
                                                                    difficult




 Source:   GAO’s survey results.




13                                                               GAO/RCED-99-278R   Women’s      Business Center         Program
Enclosure      I




GAo                Most Graduated Centers Offered All
                   Services in First and Last Grant Years
                           Number of centers
                         25I




  Note: In conducting our telephone survey, we found no indication that the level of
  services offered changed after a center’s graduation.


  Source: GAO’s survey results.




  14                                                                              GAO/BCED-99-278R   Women’s   Business Center   Program
Enclosure I




 GAo                   Satellite and Parent Centers’ Services
                       Did Not Differ
                 l    OWBO does not have an official definition of a
                      satellite center.

                 l    A satellite can be described as a center that is
                      not directly funded by OWBO.

                 l    Little difference exists between parent and
                      satellite centers because almost ail satellite
                      centers provide all services.



     Note: Of the 15 satellite centers responding to our survey, 12 offered every identified service.




15                                                                                 GAOAZED-99-278R      Women’s Business   Center Program
Enclosure   I




GAo             Being a Satellite Center Has Advantages
                and Disadvantages
                Parent centers may provide in-kind support-
                e.g., office space, furniture, assistance with
                funding.

                Parent centers may provide donor contacts or
                lend their “name recognition” to their satellites.

                Parent centers may not be supportive-e.g.,.
                may charge for overhead costs or use
                satellites as “cash cows.”




 16                                     GAO/RCED-99-278R   Women’s   Business   Center   Program
Enclosure      I




GAo Objective 2 - Link Between Award Criteria
    and Continued Operation

      We did not find a link between award criteria and the
      centers’ continued operation.
      l    Criteria included programmatic approach,
           understanding of the problem or need, organizational
           qualifications, and cost.
      l    From OWBO, we requested the names of the three
           top-scoring award proposals for each program year.
      l    OWBO was able to provide data for only 5 of the
           program years-l 991,1993, 1995, 1997, and 1998.


Note: OWBO did not issue a proposal for new centers in 1994, and OWBO officials told us that in 1996, they did not issue any competitive awards.
Officials also said that information prior to 1993 should have been destroyed due to federal paperwork reduction standards.




                                                                           GAOIRCED-99-278R          Women’s    Business    Center    Program
Enclosure       I




  G&o                 Status of 23 Top-Scoring Centers


                       Number of centers




      Note: The number of top-scoring centers surpasses 15 for 5 program years because some of the parent centers were operating more
      than one satellite. With the exception of the 1997 program year, at least one top scorer is classified under “graduated active,
      “closed,”or the status is uncertain. No major difference exists between 1997 criteria and 1998 or 1995.


      Source: GAO’s analysis of data provided by OWBO.




 18                                                                           GAOfRCED-99-278R         Women’s     Business Center Program
Enclosure       I




GAo                  Inability to Raise Matching Funds Was
                     Major Reason for Closing


                    Reasons given                                                           Number of centers
                    Unable to raise matching funds                                                 14
                    Lack of a strong fund-raising strategy                                         7
                    Lack of state or municipal funding                                             5
                    Lack of community sudport         -                                            4
                    Board members not actively involved in                                         4
                    fund-raising




  Note: A total of 21 inactive, closed, or terminated centers responded to this question.


  Source: GAO’s survey results.




                                                                              GAO/RCED-99-278R   Women’s Business Center   Program
Enclosure    I




GAo              Possible Characteristics of Successful
                 Centers
 We spoke with:
       l    OWBO staff,
       l    Representatives of the Association of Women’s
            Business Centers, and
       l    Women’s business centers staff.

 They provided us with a list of likely characteristics of
 successful centers tied to:
    l Executive director’s prior experience,
    l Composition of center’ s board of directors, and
    l General characteristics (e.g., level of community

      support or a strong fund-raising strategy).




 20                                   GAOIRCED-99-2’78R   Women’s Business   Center   Program
Enclosure I




     GAo      Characteristics   of Successful Centers


              Our survey found no link between these
              characteristics and the success of the centers.

              For example, the composition of a center’s
              board of directors was not an indicator of
              success.




21                                 GAO/RCED-99-278R   Women’s   Business   Center Program
Enclosure I




 GAo No Relationship Between Makeup of Board
     of Directors and a Center’s Success
                     Directors’ professions
                     25




                              community   Banker              Fund raiser       Marketer        Accountant     Attorney
                               advocate



                                            0 Number   of graduated         active    centers
                                            H Number   of inactive     or closed           centers




   Source: GAO’s survey results.




                                                            GAO/RCED-99-278B           Women’s Business      Center   Program
Enclosure I




GAo                Objective 3 - OWBO Difficulties in Meeting
                   Mandated Reporting Requirements
Able to report:
  l Number of individuals receiving assistance and
  l Number of start-up businesses formed.

Difficulties in reporting:
  l Gross receipts of assisted businesses,

  l  Increases or decreases in profits of assisted
     businesses, and
  l  Increases or decreases in employment at
     assisted businesses.


  Note: OWBO officials said that some difficulties in reporting are due to problems that centers have in getting this type of information from
  businesses in their formative years.




                                                                              GAO/RCED-99-278P           Women’s     Business     Center   Program
Enclosure I




     GAo Three Issues Limiting OWBO’s Reporting
         to the Congress
 l    Centers reported that communication lapses occur within
      the program-e.g., redundant requests for information from
      headquarters and the district office and delays in
      reimbursements to the centers,

 l    Centers reported’having difficulty with OWBO’s
      computerized tracking system (OWBOTrack)-e.g.,                                                                           it is not
      compatible with some centers’ software.

 l    Centers and OWBO report that clients are reluctant to
      divulge financial information because of privacy concerns;
      hence, the centers’ records may not be complete.

     Note: SBA has designed a new client tracking system that the agency plans to implement in FY 2000.




24                                                                            GAO/RCED-99-278P            Women’s   Business   Center   Program
Enclosure I




 GAo          Open-Ended Survey Responses: WBCs’
              Suggestions to Improve Program
              Improve OWBOTrack.
              Extend the grant cycle beyond 5 years.
              Reduce the nonfederal match.
              Allow the centers to recompete.
              Ensure the success of currently funded centers
              before funding new centers.
              Improve communication among OWBO, district
              office, and the centers.
              Reduce redundant data requests.




                                  GAO/RCED-99-278R   Women’s Business   Center Program
Enclosure II

                                        Women’s Business Centers:
                                         Matching Funds Raised



                                                                                                          Did not
                                                                             Raised       Did not        intend to
                                                                              full       raise full      raise full
 State          City           Center                                        match        match”           match’


 Alabama        Mobile         Women’s Business Assistance       Center        X


 Alaska         Anchorage      YMCA Women’s      Fund                           X


 Arizona        Phoenix        Self-Employment    Loan Fund                     X


 California     Long Beach     American Women’s Economic                        X
                               Development Corporation


                Orange         American Women’s Economic                        X
                County         Development Corporation


                Palos Verdes   Women’s Business Owners                          X
                               Corporation


                Fort Bragg     Women’s Economic      Self-Sufficiency           X
                               Training


                Oakland        Women’s Initiative for Self-.                    X
                               Employment


  Colorado      Denver         Mi Casa Resource Center for Women,               X
                               Inc.


                Wilmington     YWCA of New Castle County                        X


  District of                  National Women’s    Business Center              X
  Columbia


  Georgia       Atlanta        Women’s Economic      Development                X
                               Agency


  Illinois       Chicago       Women’s Business      Development                X
                               Center




 26                                                       GAOfRCED-99-278R     Women’s   Business     Center   Program
Enclosure        II


                                                                                                              Did not
                                                                                      Raised     Did not     intend to
                                                                                       full     raise full   raise full
     State            City          Center                                            match      match”        match*


                      Joliet        Women’s    Business    Development                  X
                                    Center


                      Rockford      Women’s   Business     Development                  X
                                    Center


     Iowa             Iowa City     Institute of Social and Economic                    X
                                    Development


     Kentucky         Ashland       Venture Concepts                                    X


     Louisiana        New Orleans   Women Entrepreneurs        for Economic             X
                                    Development


     Maine            Wiscasset     Coastal Enterprises,    inc.                                                 X


 Maryland             Baltimore     Women Entrepreneurs        of Baltimore             X


 Massachusetts        Boston        Center for Women and Enterprise                     X


 Michigan             Ann Arbor     Center for Empowerment          and                 X
                                    Economic Development


                      Detroit       Excel                                               X


                      Grand         Excel                                               X
                      Rapids


                      Grand         Grand Rapids Opportunities         for              X
                      Rapids        Women


 Minnesota            Bemidji       Women in New Development                                        X


                      Fosston       The People Connection                               X


                      Mahnomen      Women’s   Business     Development                  X



                                                       .

27                                                                 GAO/RCED-99-278R    Women’s Business Center Program
Enclosure      II


                                                                                                          Did not
                                                                                  Raised     Did not     intend to
                                                                                    full    raise full   raise full
 State              City          Center                                          match      match”        match*


 Mississippi        Mound         Mississippi Women’s Economic                       X
                    Bayou         Entrepreneurial Project


 Missouri           St. Louis     National Association    of Women’s                 X
                                  Business Owners


 Montana            Helena        Career Training Institute                          X


                    Helena        Montana Capital Fund                               X


                    Missoula      Montana Community       Development                X
                                  Corporation


 Nevada             Las Vegas     Nevada Self-Employment        Trust                X


 New                Portsmouth    Women’s Business       Center Inc.                 X
 Hampshire


 New Mexico         Albuquerque   Women’s Economic       Self-Sufficiency                        X
                                  Team


                    Farmington    Women’s Economic        Self-Sufficiency                       X
                                  Team


                    Las Cruces    Women’s    Economic     Self-Sufficiency                       X
                                  Team


                    Santa Fe      Women’s Economic        Self-Sufficiency                       X
                                  Team


                    Taos          Women’s Economic        Self-Sufficiency                       X
                                  Team


  New York          New York      Women’s Venture Fund                               X
                    City


                     New York     Asian Women in Business                                                      X
                     City




 28                                                            GAO/RCED-99-278R     Women’s Business Center   Program
Enclosure        II


                                                                                                               Did not
                                                                                Raised      Did not          intend to
                                                                                 full      raise full        raise full
     State            City           Center                                     match       match”             match”


     North Carolina   Fayetteville   Women’s Center of Fayetteville               X


     North Dakota     Fargo          Women’s Business Institute                   X


 Ohio                 Akron          Women’s Business Resource Network            X


                      Athens         Women’s Business Resource Network            X


                      Canton         Women’s Business Resource Network                         X


                      Cincinnati     Women’s Business Resource Network            X


                      Cleveland      Women’s Business Resource Network            X


                      Columbus       Women’s Business Resource Network            X


                      Elyria         Women’s Business Resource Network            X


                      Hillsboro      Women’s Business Resource Network            X


                      Toledo         Women’s Business Resource Network            X


                      Yellow         Women’s Business Resource Network            X
                      Springs


 Oklahoma             Oklahoma       Working Women’s Money University             X
                      City


 Oregon               Portland       Native American’s   Business Network         X


                      Medford        Southern Oregon’s Women’s Access                          X
                                     to Credit


 Pennsylvania         Philadelphia   Women’s Business Development                 X
                                     Center




29                                                           GAO/RCED-99-278R    Women’s Business   Center     Program
Enclosure      II



                                                                                                              Did not
                                                                                Raised        Did not        intend to
                                                                                  full       raise full      raise full
 State              City          Center                                        match         match”           match”


                    Pittsburgh    National Association   of Women’s                              X
                                  Business Owners


 Puerto Rico        San Juan      Women’s Business Institute                                     X


 South Carolina     Columbia      Columbia College                                 X


 South Dakota       Watertown     Entrepreneur    Network for Women                X


 Tennessee          Nashville     National Association   of Women’s                X
                                  Business Owners


 Texas              Fort Worth    Fort Worth international   Center                X


                    Mercedes      Rio Grand Valley                                 X


                    San Antonio   Southwest Resource                               X


                    Austin        Texas Center for Women’s      Business           X
                                  Enterprise


                    Dallas        Texas Center for Women’s      Business           X
                                  Enterprise


                     Houston      Texas Center for Women’s      Business           X
                                  Enterprise


  Utah               Salt Lake    Utah Tech Financial Corporation                  X
                     City


                     Salt Lake    Women’s Business Center at the                   X
                     City         Chamber


  Washington         Seattle       Community     Capital Development                X


  West Virginia      Charleston    Center for Economic Opportunities                X




 30                                                          GAO/RCED-99-278R      Women’s   Business     Center Program
Enclosure II


                                                                                                                            Did not
                                                                                              Raised        Did not        intend to
                                                                                               full        raise full      raise full
     State              City               Center                                             match         match”           match”


     Wisconsin          Madison            Wisconsin Women’s Business                            X
                                           Initiative Corporation


                        Milwaukee          Wisconsin Women’s Business                            X
                                           Initiative Corporation


“Some survey respondents told us they did not raise or did not intend to raise their full match and, as a result, did not receive the full
federal share.

Source: GAO’s survey results.




31                                                                     GAO/RCED-99-278R        Women’s Business     Center Program
Enclosure III

                                       ScoDe and Methodoloerv

To obtain an overview of the history, funding, organizational structure, and issues associated with the
Women’s Business Centers Program, we conducted interviews with the Director and staff of the
Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Women’s Business Ownership, SBA Grants
Management staff, and the first Director of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership. We also
visited a women’s business center in Washington, D.C. We interviewed officials of the SBA Office of
Inspector General about their work on the program. To obtain data showing funding for all the
centers, we reviewed and analyzed files and financial data from the Office of Women’s Business
Ownership and SBA Grants Management. We discussed the results of our analyses with officials from
the Office of Women’s Business Ownership and SBA Grants Management.

To document the status and issues concerning women’s business centers and the factors that may
affect the centers’ operations and funding, we developed a telephone survey instrument. To identify
all centers that received grants, we reviewed the Office of Women’s Business Ownership’s March 31,
1999, Women’s Business Centers Programs. Renort on Bistorv of Grants, FY 1989 Through FY 1998.
Working with the Office’s officials, we confirmed the contact information for all currently and
previously funded centers. To identify factors that should be used in the survey, we interviewed
representatives of the Association of Women’s Business Centers, the SBA District Office Technical
Representative in Washington, D.C., and officials of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership. We
tested and modified the survey instrument and conducted the telephone survey of the identified
centers during June 1999. Of a total of 84 centers, 76 responded to the survey.

To determine whether there is a link between the criteria for awarding funding and continued center
operations, we reviewed and analyzed the Office of Women’s Business Ownership’s award criteria
and discussed changes in the criteria with program officials. In addition, we identified the three top-
scoring centers for 5 years and determined whether these centers were open or closed. We also
analyzed our survey results to determine if there were differences in the characteristics of centers
that remained open and those that closed.

To determine whether the Office of Women’s Business Ownership experienced difficulties in meeting
legislatively mandated reporting requirements, we reviewed the Office’s annual reports and discussed
the reporting requirements with officials. In addition, we analyzed our survey responses to identify
specific reporting difticulties encountered by the centers.




(385823)


32                                                         GAOIRCED-99-278R   Women’s   Business   Center   Program
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