Rating Criteria for Federal Agencies
  1. Timeliness in responding to small entity comments.

  • 30 days or less = A

  • 31 to 60 days = B

  • 61 days to 90 days = C

  • 91 days to 120 days = D

  • Over 120 days = F

Response time is calculated from the day a specific comment is forwarded to the agency until a response is received by the ONO. If after 120 days no response is received a grade of ‘F’ will be assessed for ‘Timeliness’. If circumstances warrant, ONO may accept justified requests for additional time to respond and/or interim responses. In these rare instances, ONO will take into consideration the specific circumstances when calculating ‘Timeliness’. For Timeliness purposes ‘Days’ are business days.

  1. Quality of Response to small entity.

  • The agency addressed all of the applicable questions posed in ONO's letter and responded to the specific comment made by the small entity, providing sufficient detail information showing that they looked into the facts of the specific comment and the actions of the individual(s) agency personnel involved in the enforcement activity.

  • The agency response came from a high-level representative, i.e., someone from the SBREFA office at the agency or someone from the program office directly related to the comment.

Grade ratings will vary according to the level of specificity and detail provided in the Agency response. For example, to receive an “A” rating all applicable questions are addressed in complete detail by a high-level responder.

  1. Agency formal Non-retaliation policy.

  • The agency has adopted a written non-retaliation policy.

  • The agency ensures its employees are aware of its non-retaliation policy.

  • The agency ensures small entities are aware of and may access its non-retaliation policy.

  • Agency employees and small entities are aware of the consequences of not adhering to the agency non-retaliation policy.

Demonstrating that all elements exist will result in an “A” grade rating. Rating will be reduced by 1 grade level for each missing element. For purposes of the Office of the National Ombudsman ‘non-retaliation’ policies are those designed to prevent acts that punish a small entity for complaining about an Agency action. Agency must provide a copy of its policy and provide the specific web address (es) for those policies available to the public.

  1. Compliance Assistance: The agency provides measurable regulatory enforcement compliance assistance and explains how the compliance assistance is measured, year over year. In addition

  • The agency provides small entities with a compliance assistance telephone number.

  • The agency provides a compliance assistance website.

  • The agency makes a compliance assistance employee available to small entities.

  • The agency provides and is able to document compliance assistance education.

Demonstrating that all elements exist and that the Agency has a reliable system for measuring results will result in an “A” rating. Ratings will be reduced accordingly for missing elements and inadequate measurement of results.

  1. The agency participates in Regulatory Enforcement Fairness hearings and meetings when issues related to their mission are presented in testimony.

  • Does not miss any pertinent Hearings = A

  • Letter grades B, C and D will be determined by how many overall pertinent Hearings there are for your Agency.

  • Misses all pertinent Hearings = F

Agency contact is notified directly or information is made available through the ONO event web site at least 48 hours prior to the Hearing about issues relating to their Agency. Currently, participation may include in-person or through the Ready Talk conference call system. A rating of N/A will be posted when no Agency issues are presented at a Hearing.

  1. The Agency establishes a policy wherein it provides written and verbal notice to small entities when a citation or notice of regulatory violation is issued. Policy should include, but not be limited to:

  • The agency provides written notification of SBREFA rights, to small business concerns.

  • The agency informs small business concerns about their right to comment about the enforcement/compliance process to the National Ombudsman's office.

  • The agency provides to small entities in writing and/or on appropriate website locations the National Ombudsman's Internet address, www.sba.gov/ombudsman, and telephone and fax numbers.

Demonstrating that all elements exist and are implemented will result in an “A” grade rating.


National Ombudsman and Assistant Administrator

Brian Castro was appointed National Ombudsman and Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Enforcement Fairness at the U.S. Small Business Administration in August 2013.

When small businesses...

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