State law (RCW 39.34.030) allows for cooperative purchasing among two or more public agencies. In 2019, the Legislature amended the statute to allow any public agency to use the bid of another public agency for its own purposes if the awarding agency met their own bidding requirements. This is a change to how our Office looks at piggybacking and group purchasing arrangements. For audit purposes, we would expect local governments to evaluate group purchasing contracts as outlined below.
- Is the awarding entity a public agency?
According to RCW 39.34.020 (1), “public agency” means any agency, political subdivision, or unit of local government of this state including, but not limited to, municipal corporations, quasi municipal corporations, special purpose districts, and local service districts; any agency of the state government; any agency of the United States; any Indian tribe recognized as such by the federal government; and any political subdivision of another state.
- Is there documentation to support the awarding agency met its own statutory requirements?
- Was the bid posted on a website for a public agency, purchasing cooperative or similar service provider, or was an access link to the notice provided on the state’s web portal?
If the public agency met the above requirements, a local government can piggyback on the contract without further consideration to its own bidding requirements, even when the contract was awarded in a manner that does not meet the local governments own bid law requirements. For audit purposes, we would expect the local government to be able to demonstrate that it performed this analysis before using the contract.
Despite changes made to state law (RCW 39.34.030) that provide more flexibility in state law in certain situations, local governments using federal funding still need to ensure the most restrictive requirements of their local, state or federal laws were followed.
If the awarding agency is not a public agency, then we would continue to expect the local government to perform its due diligence to determine and demonstrate that all applicable state and federal laws and local policies have been met.
Looking for more resources?
Visit our Resource Database for a comprehensive resource on piggybacking, recently updated with these changes: https://portal.sao.wa.gov/PerformanceCenter/#/address?mid=6&rid=18522