On January 6, 2003, the OIG issued Inspection & Evaluation Report 3-02, SBA’s Federal and State Technology Partnership (FAST) Program. This inspection was conducted in accordance with the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001 that requires the Inspector General to conduct a review of the extent to which FAST recipients were measuring the performance of their activities and the overall management and effectiveness of the FAST program. This inspection provided baseline information for the SBA to use in the early implementation stages of the FAST program.
The FAST program was a competitive grants program that allowed a state to receive funding in the form of a grant to provide an array of services in support of the Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) program. The purpose of the program was to foster economic development among small high-technology firms in the innovation and commercialization of new technology.
The OIG issued four findings. First, the FAST program announcement could provide better guidance on developing performance indicators and better explain how the program office use indicators to monitor, assess, and evaluate, post-award, to recipient activities. Second, the FAST Notice of Award required participants to present semi-annual performance reports, but did not provide guidance as to how participants should identify desired outcomes and results. Third, the SBA’s focus on outputs in guidance on performance indicators and related reporting requirements in the program announcement and Notice of Award contribute to an almost exclusive selection of output indictors by FAST recipients to measure performance. Lastly, too many FAST participants did not abide by SBA requirements to submit semi-annual performance reports.
The OIG recommended that the SBA improve guidance provided to program participants. Specifically, the SBA should assist prospective FAST applicants in narrowing their focus on fewer indicators by limiting the number of indicators on which they can report. Further, the OIG recommended that the Office of Technology contact each FAST recipient that did not submit a semi-annual report to encourage them to prepare and submit the report. If the reports are not forthcoming, appropriate steps should be taken to withhold funding. Lastly, the OIG recommended that the OT develop clear guidance for recipients on how performance measurement reporting should be linked to indicators presented in technical proposals. Such guidance would facilitate FAST program office assessments as to whether recipients are on track to achieve program goals and objectives.