New OIG Audit of the DBE and ACDBE Program is in the Works

ThinkstockPhotos-122413037In August 2015 the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General announced that it would be conducting an audit to 1) determine the number of new and existing DBE/ACDBE firms receiving contracts or leases at the Nation’s largest airports in fiscal year 2014 and 2) assess certification factors that aided and hampered new DBE/ACDBE firms pursued contracts or leases at these airports.  You can see a copy of the letter here.

As early as September 2015, firms that had been denied DBE certification or that had been decertified received an email from the OIG asking several questions regarding the applicants’ experience in applying for DBE/ACDBE certification. The following are the questions that were asked:

  1. How long did it take the certifying agency to notify your firm that it was not qualified to become a certified DBE and/or ACDBE?
  2. Were there any deficiencies with your application that needed remediation? If so, how were you notified? What timeframes were you given to correct the issue?
  3. You were denied DBE/ACDBE certification on [state the date]. What reasons were provided to you for the denial by the certifying authority?
  4. Please explain your process when applying for your DBE and/or ACDBE certification. Did this process play a factor in the denial?
  5. Did you appeal your denial with the certifying authority and/or the Departmental Office of Civil Rights? What actions were taken by the certifying authority and/or DOCR regarding your firm’s denial of certification?
  6. Was your firm assigned a liaison or a point of contact to check the status of application and/or discuss any concerns?
  7. Did your firm attend any training, outreach, etc., before requesting certification? Was any training offered?  If so, by who?

Responses were due October 9, 2015, so we hope this means the report will becoming out soon.

Why Getting Your Application Right the First Time Is So Important

102915172We receive calls every week from people whose DBE applications have been denied. Unfortunately, in about 95% (or more) of those cases it’s too late to help. That’s because once you’ve been denied, it’s too late to try to correct your application or provide the agency with any additional information. Once you been denied the process is closed and your only options are to wait a year to reapply (after you’ve corrected whatever issues were brought up in the denial)  or appeal the denial decision.

Under the regulations, once you are denied you have 90 days to appeal to the Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT can take up to 180 days (6 months) to make a decision. If the DOT sides with the Agency’s denial you have to wait an additional year before you can reapply for DBE certification.
So whether you choose to wait to reapply or you appeal, one small mistake can cost you up to a year or more wait for DBE certification. It gets worse.

We have seen cases where the DOT agrees the applicant is correct on one issue but provides the Agency with another reason upon which to base a denial. We have also seen cases where the DOT will send the application back to the Agency for further review. This costs you even more time without a DBE certification. Finally, we have seen cases where even after the applicant makes all of the changes brought up in the original denial and waits a year, they are denied either for the same reason or different reasons.

When you add up the lost opportunity costs, the costs of filing an appeal, the time it costs you to prepare your application, sometimes it makes more sense to retain a firm like ours to prepare your application. After speaking to individuals whose applications have been denied, they often comment that they wished they had spoken to us before they’d applied. My advice is don’t be one of those people. Get professional help before you apply not after you’ve been denied.