Organization problems hinder Small Business Administration, report says

The Small Business Administration should look to other agencies for help in fixing problems with its organizational hierarchy, according to a new report from the General Accounting Office. Overlapping missions and internal communication problems are hindering SBA's ability to serve its customers, GAO said in its report, "Small Business Administration: Current Structure Presents Challenges for Service Delivery" (GAO-02-17). GAO talked to employees in 17 district offices as well as officials at SBA headquarters for its report. SBA headquarters officials told GAO that district offices lack clear missions, in part because prior restructuring efforts at the agency have resulted in mission overlap. "Organizational alignment is crucial if an agency is to maximize its performance and ensure its accountability," GAO said. At the same time, SBA district office managers told GAO about communications problems between field and headquarters offices, and expressed frustration with irrelevant information distributed agency-wide. "For example, district staff were notified of headquarters blood drives or job opportunities open only to headquarters staff, but said they were not formally notified when the former administrator left the agency," the report said. Such communication gaps resulted in confusion and lower morale in the field, the report said. GAO did not offer recommendations in its report. However, it noted that problems like SBA's were found in other agencies, including the Agriculture Department, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. SBA would benefit from reviewing those agencies' efforts to restructure, the report said. "Many agencies continue to struggle with clearly understanding [about] how what they do on a day-to-day basis contributes to agency results," GAO said.
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