M/WBE Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Under what guidelines does the Minority/Women Business Department operate?
Our guidelines are referred to as the Business Opportunity Program (BOP) and were developed in response to the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Minority/Women Board Policy, approved at its legislative meeting on April 24, 2002, as well as applicable federal and state regulations.
What is the objective of the Minority/Women Business Department?
The objective of this M/WBE Department, and its Business Opportunity Program, is to promote and encourage full and open competition in the procurement of goods and services by the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS); encourage all District personnel involved with procurement and contracting activities to maintain equitable and inclusive purchasing procedures; to protect the Board from becoming a passive participant in any unlawful discrimination; and to otherwise spur economic development in the public and private sectors of the local community. Our responsibilities include but are not limited to outreach, EBE vendor registration, EBE goal determination, contract compliance, monitoring, auditing, limited technical assistance, and conflict resolution.
What is the M/WBE Department’s role in relation to the procurements by the District?
The employees in all departments work very closely to ensure that all regulatory and policy requirements have been met prior to contract award. Members of the M/WBE department:
- establish individual contract goals for most procurements valued at $10,000 or more make recommendations for inclusion of potential EBE bidders
- assist any interested bidder in identifying potential EBE subcontractors
- assist in the determination of responsibility for proposers/bidders monitor the performance of the successful prime contractor to ensure that the commitment for EBE participation is attained
- make recommendations to impose sanctions against prime contractors that do not meet their contractual obligationsmediate disputes with prime and EBE subcontractors and/or primes that happen to be EBE firms
What is the difference between a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE), and a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)?
MBE certification is based solely on the ethnicity of the owner(s), WBE certification is based solely on the gender of the owner(s) and DBE certification is based on whether the owner(s) is/are socially and economically disadvantaged. In either case the for-profit entity must be at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more persons based on the requirement identified above. The DBE owners' personal net worth must not exceed $750,000, and the average gross sales receipts must not exceed $16.6 million for the past three fiscal years. For detailed requirements and more information contact one of the local certifying agencies.
Is it mandatory that my firm be MBE, WBE, DBE or 8(a) certified to do business with the PPS?
NO. Any business, no matter who owns it, may compete for any PPS contract, either as a prime contractor or as a subcontractor. However, if your firm is seeking receive EBE credit for work performed on a contract as an MBE, a WBE or a DBE, or 8(a) certified firm you must first obtain and provide proof of current certification.
What is an Eligible Business Enterprise (EBE) and how can I qualify?
An Eligible Business Enterprise is a firm that has completed and submitted the required documentation to take advantage of the affirmative action efforts established in this Business Opportunity Program. The firm must be certified by Allegheny County, Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services, the Pittsburgh Regional Minority Purchasing Council, the Small Business Administration’s Pittsburgh District or a sister agency within the country that provides certification services including an on-site visit.
What are the advantages of becoming certified?
Certification as an 8(a), DBE, MBE or WBE firm may open the door to opportunities for growing your business by making it easier for you to market to the PPS and other governmental and corporate entities. You will gain the advantage of having your business listed in the published directories for certifying agencies. Certification also gives businesses access to a variety of technical assistance programs throughout the region.
The M/WBE Department does not provide certification services however you may refer to our link of Community Partners to find an agency that will provide MBE, WBE, DBE or 8(a) certification services.
What are the advantages of becoming registered as an EBE?
Registration as an EBE provides greater exposure for contract opportunities on District projects. The names of all registered EBEs appear in the EBE Directory, which is widely disseminated via the web to members of the administration, contractors and to the general public.
Contract Specific Subcontracting goals – If you are a certified MBE, WBE, DBE or 8(a) vendor your firm may be used to meet EBE subcontracting goals on selected contracts awarded by the District. Prime contractors who respond to solicitations must make an aggressive effort to identify and contract with EBE firms to meet goals established by the District. Prime contractors and other business entities use this directory to identify EBEs for participation for projects/contracts that have EBE goals.
How do I apply for registration as an EBE in the Business Opportunity Program?
Once you have obtained proof of either MBE, WBE, DBE or 8(a) certification you may complete our one-page registration form then submit both documents to our offices for instant registration. The M/WBE staff reserves the right to reject registration for any certifications that are not supported by a site visit. Firms that have ‘self-certifications’ will not be accepted into the Business Opportunity Program.
Why is an EBE goal set on a project?
The M/WBE Department will establish contract goals only on those contracts with identifiable subcontracting or partnership opportunities to ensure that historically underutilized businesses have an equal opportunity to participate in the District’s purchases and contracts for services.
How are EBE goals set on individual contracts?
Contract-specific goals are established based, to a great extent, on the availability of the EBEs listed in the District’s directory that can provide the different types of services and/or products described in the scope of work. The Minority/Women Business staff consults with the Project Owner to identify practical subcontracting or partnership components. This process ensures that contract-specific goals are realistic and attainable.
What is meant by a 0% EBE goal determination?
A 0% goal indicates that, based on the potential subcontracting opportunities we could identify:
- There was not an ample amount of ready, willing and able EBEs registered in our database or identifiable
- Minimal or no subcontracting or partnership opportunities were available
The bidder is, however, still required to complete, sign and submit forms A-1, A-2 and A-3 with the bid or proposal submissions.
What are some of the ways to meet the established EBE goal?
Vendors are required to make an aggressive effort to meet the established EBE goal by subcontracting with MBE, WBE, DBE or 8(a) certified firms. Approved subcontracting opportunities are those where the identified firm provides a commercially useful function or provides a product or service that they are certified to provide and that is directly related to the scope of work for the solicitation the vendor is responding to.
What happens if the EBE goal cannot be achieved?
EBE goals are not mandatory however the vendor is required to demonstrate and document "good faith efforts" if the stated EBE goal can not be met in its entirety. No contract award shall be made until all matters relating to the EBE goal have been met and documented by the vendor submitting the bid or proposal.
If, after an aggressive effort, the vendor can not meet the EBE goal then he/she should document his/her efforts to do so. This method is called showing “good faith effort”. The criteria that we consider are outlined in the solicitation package on form A-5.
Does the prime contractor have any responsibility in the Business Opportunity Program?
Yes. The prime contractor must first meet the EBE goals established on the contract by seeking out and utilizing registered EBEs or documenting “good faith effort”. Once work begins, the prime contractor is responsible for all project activities including those of subcontractors. Regular monitoring assures that contractual items are performed in accordance with specifications. The prime contractor must submit monthly reports, such as vendor payment reports with invoices and copies of the front and back of cancelled checks for payments made to the identified EBEs. Any changes in EBE participation, previously identified and approved on a contract, must be approved before substitutions are made.
How are change orders/amendments handled with regard to the EBE goal?
The EBE goal established for the original contract award will remain intact for the life of the contract and is inclusive of any change orders. Simply stated, the EBE goal is applied to the entire contract amount. All change orders, approved by the Board of Directors, are monitored by the Minority/Women Business department for continued compliance with the Business Opportunity Program.
How will EBE contract compliance be monitored?
The M/WBE staff is responsible for and has the authority to conduct on-site inspections to confirm EBE compliance with the terms of the contract. The Minority/Women Business staff will conduct audits during the life of the contract to ensure that the prime contractor is achieving the EBE goal commitment made when the contract was awarded.
Once the contract has been awarded, we will review certified payroll, conduct scheduled and non-scheduled on-site investigations, audits, and verify payments made to EBE firms where applicable.
What happens when a prime contractor does not meet the goal after contract award?
Progressive administrative sanctions can be applied when contractors (EBEs and non-EBEs) have abused the Minority/Women Business Program. These sanctions include:
- A Determination of Non-Responsiveness
- Limited Suspension
- Rejection of Future Proposals
- Withholding Payment
- Cancellation of Contract
- Permanent Debarment
It is important that the prime contractor submit monthly EBE payment reports with documentation to verify participation by all EBE subcontractors.
NOTE: depending on the role of the EBE subcontractor(s), the goal may not be attained each month however it must be met by the end of the project.
How can I learn about upcoming contract opportunities with the District?
There are several ways to learn of upcoming opportunities:
- Visiting this section of the website
- Checking the classifieds in the New Pittsburgh Courier, Post-Gazette and the Tribune for formal bids expected to exceed $10,000
- Check the dodge report for upcoming projects
Do you conduct outreach and educational programs?
Yes, outreach/education programs are conducted on a regular basis and these efforts have increased. The M/WBE staff sponsor and participate in vendor conferences where certified firms can learn about upcoming contracting/procurement opportunities and speak directly with agency decision-makers.