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Following repeated calls for her resignation and investigations into some of her dealings at the federal government’s premier contracting agency, Lurita Alexis Doan finally stepped down as administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration. Doan was the second African American (after Stephen Perry, who held the post from 2001 to 2005) and the first woman to head the agency when she was appointed in 2006.
Under the guidance of Deputy Administrator David L. Bibb, who is serving as acting administrator, the GSA is making efforts to ease some strained relationships due to Doan’s controversial departure. During her tenure, Doan came under fire on several occasions by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Last year, Doan was accused of abusing her authority by approving a $20,000, no-bid procurement order to a firm run by her former public relations consultant. According to reports, investigations also turned up evidence that Doan may have violated the Hatch Act by allegedly discussing with top GSA political appointees ways in which to help Republican candidates. Doan, who along with her husband, Douglas, had been a major contributor to the Republican Party by giving in excess of $200,000 to various Republican candidates and causes.
Just earlier this year, Doan was being heralded as one of the most influential black women in business. She came to GSA as an accomplished entrepreneur having successfully established a minority-owned, small business called New Technology Management Inc. The firm provided installation and integration of border surveillance technology to federal agencies. When Doan sold the company, it reportedly was raking in $200 million worth of federal government contracts a year.
Doan capably managed GSA’s $17 billion budget and 12,000 employees, leaving the agency when employee morale was at an all-time highpoint. GSA manages more than one-fourth of the government’s total procurement dollars and influences the management of $500 billion in federal assets, including 8,600 government-owned or leased buildings and 208,000 vehicles. In 2006, more than $1.7 billion, or 32% of all prime contract procurement dollars spent went to small businesses, which includes 8(a) certified minority businesses.
Are small African American-owned enterprises seeking government contracts likely to face any fallout resulting from the scandal surrounding Doan’s resignation? Former developer and builder Michael Pittman doesn’t think so. “I doubt if the departure of Lurita Doan will have any impact one way or another on blacks receiving government contracts,” says Pittman, founder of the Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce and owner of Capital City Courier newspaper in Springfield, Illinois.
Unfortunately, African Americans historically have been on the short end of the stick when it comes to these opportunities. Blacks do need to know that there are billions of dollars in procurement opportunities with governmental agencies and must recognize the importance of participating. We are the largest minority group in the United States, but we receive the least amount of contractual opportunities of any minority in the country.”
To increase one’s chances of being considered for these contracts, Pittman says, “It is important for blacks to organize their companies and complete