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Audit of San Diego SLBE program finds inadequate support for MWBEs
Published on 01/04/2021

The City of San Diego's current small local business enterprise (SLBE) program was established in 2010 and has been operating since then, but a new audit of the program found that, among other things, the SLBE program was not doing enough to support minority- and woman-owned businesses (MWBEs). The audit may prompt changes to the program that are currently being discussed.

The SLBE program as it currently exists is race- and gender-neutral. Race- and gender-neutral policies as regards public procurement are required in California by state law. However, legally defensible exceptions can be made in such cases where a disparity study finds significant underutilization of MWBEs relative to availability. The disparity study for the City of San Diego is currently ongoing and expected to be completed in March 2021. However, the audit, a separate project, which has already been completed, found that 78 percent of construction contracts went to white-owned firms in fiscal year 2019.

In addition to possibly introducing race and gender preferences in city contracting, the audit recommended that the city do more direct outreach to businesses, set annual utilization goals for contractor diversity, and provide more transparency in how its program operates.

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