By Charles H. Green
A review by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Patriot Express loans, valued at $703 million, have a higher default rate than other loans under SBA’s other loan guarantee programs. The GAO report also said that losses for Patriot Express have exceeded its income.
“The Patriot Express program’s overall default rate was significantly higher for smaller loans, especially for loans below $25,000 (20 percent),” according to GAO. And it was revealed that one lender accounted for more than 64 percent of these smaller loans and experienced higher default rates than the remaining lenders.
From 2007 through 2012, losses in the Patriot Express program exceeded income by $31.1 million (not accounting for future fee revenues or funds recovered from loans in default). Patriot Express has continually operated in the red.
In 2010, SBA extended the Patriot Express pilot through 2013 to allow time to evaluate the effect of the program. To date, SBA has not evaluated the program or established a plan of what it intends to do to evaluate it. SBA officials reported to GAO that they “focused their resources on evaluating 7(a) loans because there are many more of them and, therefore, they pose a greater risk to SBA than Patriot Express loans.”
GAO also asserted that SBA’s internal controls over lenders may not provide reasonable assurance that Patriot Express loans are only made to eligible members of the military community and that only these members benefit from loan proceeds. This finding may lead to more direct consequences to participating lenders as this evaluation continues.