The District agency in charge of promoting small businesses broke D.C. law when it didn't spend enough with small businesses, a city audit has found.
D.C. Auditor Yolanda Branche said in a report that the Department of Small and Local Business Development was among 41 city agencies that failed to spend, as D.C. law mandates, at least half of its expendable budget with District-based small-business enterprises in 2011.
According to the audit, the department needed to spend $163,407 to meet its small-business spending goal. The agency, though, fell short and only spent $103,544 with such companies, missing the mark by 37 percent.SClBIn a telephone interview Wednesday from South Africa, the department's director said the audit could be misleading.
"While it does report information that they've been able to pull together ... it leaves out a lot of context," said Harold Pettigrew, who blamed a spending freeze and transitions in the department's leadership for the agency's missed goal.
The department's spending was a small part of a broader D.C. government effort to support small businesses, and District agencies were supposed to spend $241 million with such companies. The city fell short, though, and paid out only $108 million to small businesses.
Pettigrew, the municipal government's small-business champion, said the audit wasn't alarming.
"I don't know that there's tremendous cause for concern in light of the efforts we've put in to improve the process," Pettigrew said.
While some agencies spent far more than they needed to with small businesses -- the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency did more than 35 times more business with those companies than it had to -- others lagged behind.
Three agencies -- the Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, the Office of Finance and Resource Management and the Forensic Laboratory Technician Training Program -- didn't report achieving even 1 percent of their spending goals, auditors wrote.
Other offices performed better but still fell short, including the Department of Transportation (17 percent), the Department of Corrections (8 percent of goal reached) and the Department of Mental Health (2 percent).
The auditor also said 29 agencies overstated how much they spent with small businesses.
Although some agencies overreported by a few hundred dollars, 10 were off the mark by more than $1 million.