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Sizing Things Up Under fire for giving too many contracts to big business, the SBA fights back.

By Christopher Moraff

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Depending on whom you talk to, Texas-born small-businessadvocate Lloyd Chapman is either a modern-day Cesar Chavez or aconspiracy theorist with a grudge. Either way, as the SBA haslearned, he's become hard to ignore.

In late 2004, Chapman and his organization, the American Small BusinessLeague, spearheaded an investigation into a series of flaws inthe SBA's contract procurement process, culminating in alawsuit. Since the end of 2004, at least five reports from threedifferent government agencies--the Government AccountabilityOffice, the SBA Office of Advocacy and the SBA Office of theInspector General--have noted irregularities in the SBA'ssystem of awarding small-business contracts, prompted in part byChapman's incessant lobbying. The agencies' findings allegecomplacency at best, borderline fraud at worst.

The ASBL complaint focused on the SBA's refusal to offer upa draft of a 2003 report that highlights serious discrepancies inthe awarding of federal contracts. Chapman sued for the data,claiming the agency was hiding blatant contracting fraud byreleasing only an edited version of the original document. The SBAinitially appealed a judge's order to release the paper, buteventually acquiesced in June. The draft report, conducted byresearch firm Eagle Eye Inc., shows that in 2002, "$2 billionin contracts coded as small-business awards went to 39 firmsdesignated as large businesses," and lists possible vendorfraud as one of the causes.

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