United States Code

USC most recently checked for updates: Jul 13, 2024

§ 657.
Oversight of regulatory enforcement
(a)
Definitions
For purposes of this section, the term—
(1)
“Board” means a Regional Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board established under subsection (c); and
(2)
“Ombudsman” means the Small Business and Agriculture Regulatory Enforcement Ombudsman designated under subsection (b).
(b)
SBA Enforcement Ombudsman
(1)
Not later than 180 days after March 29, 1996, the Administrator shall designate a Small Business and Agriculture Regulatory Enforcement Ombudsman, who shall report directly to the Administrator, utilizing personnel of the Small Business Administration to the extent practicable. Other agencies shall assist the Ombudsman and take actions as necessary to ensure compliance with the requirements of this section. Nothing in this section is intended to replace or diminish the activities of any Ombudsman or similar office in any other agency.
(2)
The Ombudsman shall—
(A)
work with each agency with regulatory authority over small businesses to ensure that small business concerns that receive or are subject to an audit, on-site inspection, compliance assistance effort, or other enforcement related communication or contact by agency personnel are provided with a means to comment on the enforcement activity conducted by such personnel;
(B)
establish means to receive comments from small business concerns regarding actions by agency employees conducting compliance or enforcement activities with respect to the small business concern, means to refer comments to the Inspector General of the affected agency in the appropriate circumstances, and otherwise seek to maintain the identity of the person and small business concern making such comments on a confidential basis to the same extent as employee identities are protected under section 407 of title 5;
(C)
based on substantiated comments received from small business concerns and the Boards, annually report to Congress and affected agencies evaluating the enforcement activities of agency personnel including a rating of the responsiveness to small business of the various regional and program offices of each agency;
(D)
coordinate and report annually on the activities, findings and recommendations of the Boards to the Administrator and to the heads of affected agencies; and
(E)
provide the affected agency with an opportunity to comment on draft reports prepared under subparagraph (C), and include a section of the final report in which the affected agency may make such comments as are not addressed by the Ombudsman in revisions to the draft.
(c)
Regional Small Business Regulatory Fairness Boards
(1)
Not later than 180 days after March 29, 1996, the Administrator shall establish a Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board in each regional office of the Small Business Administration.
(2)
Each Board established under paragraph (1) shall—
(A)
meet at least annually to advise the Ombudsman on matters of concern to small businesses relating to the enforcement activities of agencies;
(B)
report to the Ombudsman on substantiated instances of excessive enforcement actions of agencies against small business concerns including any findings or recommendations of the Board as to agency enforcement policy or practice; and
(C)
prior to publication, provide comment on the annual report of the Ombudsman prepared under subsection (b).
(3)
Each Board shall consist of five members, who are owners, operators, or officers of small business concerns, appointed by the Administrator, after receiving the recommendations of the chair and ranking minority member of the Committees on Small Business of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Not more than three of the Board members shall be of the same political party. No member shall be an officer or employee of the Federal Government, in either the executive branch or the Congress.
(4)
Members of the Board shall serve at the pleasure of the Administrator for terms of three years or less.
(5)
The Administrator shall select a chair from among the members of the Board who shall serve at the pleasure of the Administrator for not more than 1 year as chair.
(6)
A majority of the members of the Board shall constitute a quorum for the conduct of business, but a lesser number may hold hearings.
(d)
Powers of Boards
(1)
The Board may hold such hearings and collect such information as appropriate for carrying out this section.
(2)
The Board may use the United States mails in the same manner and under the same conditions as other departments and agencies of the Federal Government.
(3)
The Board may accept donations of services necessary to conduct its business, provided that the donations and their sources are disclosed by the Board.
(4)
Members of the Board shall serve without compensation, provided that, members of the Board shall be allowed travel expenses, including per diem in lieu of subsistence, at rates authorized for employees of agencies under subchapter I of chapter 57 of title 5 while away from their homes or regular places of business in the performance of services for the Board.
(e)
Centralized website
Not later than 6 months after October 10, 2022, the Ombudsman shall maintain a publicly available website that includes—
(1)
hyperlinks to small entity compliance guides described under section 212(a)(1) of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996; and
(2)
with respect to each such small entity compliance guide, the contact information for an individual who can offer assistance to small entities with respect to the rules that are the subject of such guide.
(f)
Report on agency compliance

The Ombudsman shall include in the annual report required under subsection (b)(2)(C) an assessment of agency compliance with the requirements of section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 for the year covered by such annual report.

(Pub. L. 85–536, § 2[30], as added Pub. L. 104–121, title II, § 222(2), Mar. 29, 1996, 110 Stat. 860; amended Pub. L. 117–188, § 2, Oct. 10, 2022, 136 Stat. 2203; Pub. L. 117–286, § 4(b)(37), Dec. 27, 2022, 136 Stat. 4347.)
cite as: 15 USC 657