Investigators find abuse in small business program

WASHINGTON - Congressional investigators are blaming shoddy versight for the loss of millions of dollars in a program intended to help small businesses in poor neighborhoods.

A report released by the Government Accountability Office faults the Small Business Administration. It says the agency failed to weed out sham companies that took money under the so-called HUBZone program, which stands for Historically Underutilized Business Zone. The program was set up 12 years ago to help companies in distressed areas. But in some cases, owners funneled the money to outfits that weren't eligible.

In the report, investigators found 19 ineligible firms in Dallas, Huntsville, Ala., San Antonio and San Diego that received nearly $30 million in Pentagon and Housing and Urban Development contracts for environmental consulting, medical support and information technology designated for HUBZone businesses.

In one case, a Jacksonville, Ala., maintenance company touted a suite of offices in their address, which actually belonged to a trailer in a residential park. The sole occupant had nothing to do with the company.