Purchasing Guidelines for Required Competition

When is a Competitive Solicitation Required?

State of Washington and Federal purchasing rules require that purchases over the Direct Buy Limit be competitively solicited in the absence of a contract, funding source mandate, or a sole source justification. Procurement Service buying staff are responsible for issuing competitive solicitations. 

Competition requirements are met by Procurement Services issuing an RFx (Request for Quote, Request for Bid, Request for Quotations and Qualifications, or Request for Proposal). Completion time for the RFx varies based on complexity and value of the goods and/or services. Procurement Services works with the requesting department and other experts in developing the timeline, specifications, and/or statement of work (SOW) for the RFx, and in the evaluation process.

The solicitation process is typically determined by the risk associated with the dollar amount of the purchase.

Cumulative Purchases Over the Direct Buy Limit

Unless purchased from a contract vendor, purchases expected to exceed the Direct Buy Limit, regardless of the period of time, must be purchased competitively through Procurement Services. Such purchases are initiated by the campus customer by submitting a request to Procurement Services. 

MWBE (Minority and Woman Owned Business)

The University of Washington endeavors to promote inclusiveness for all business enterprises and especially to increase the level of participation for diverse businesses through many avenues, including the purchases made by UW. Procurement Services has a goal of spending 6% of campus goods and services expenditures with Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and 4% of campus goods and services expenditures with Woman Business Enterprise (WBE). Competitive solicitations are one method Procurement uses to meet these goals:

  • Informal solicitations are those solicitations between $10,000 and $100,000 that require limited competition and do not require advertising. Informal solicitations require quotes from a sufficient number of vendors to validate price reasonableness. Informal Solicitations should be sent to at least 3 vendors, and must include one (each) OMWBE certified MBE and WBE, in accordance with RCW 28B.10.029.
  • Formal solicitations are those solicitations over $100,000 that must be formally advertised and provide broad competition. These solicitations are posted in WEBS (Washington Enterprise Business Solution), both to comply with state law and to maximize opportunities for small and diverse businesses.







Solicitation is not required to be advertised The solicitation may or may not be advertised Advertising is required
Risk associated with purchase is low to moderate
Risk associated with purchase is moderate to high Risk associated with purchase
is high
Solicitation should take from
1-4 weeks*
Solicitation should take
4-6 weeks*
Solicitation should take
8-10 weeks or longer*
Item(s) specifications are clear Limited specifications and/or specifications need to be developed Many iterations to develop final specifications and evaluation criteria
Award is based on price and/or minimal non-price factors with little or no negotiations Evaluation team/criteria to be developed Significant involvement by campus customer(s), Purchasing, potential suppliers and successful supplier
Award based upon price as well as non-price factors/terms and conditions Long-term, campus-wide contract possible
Limited supplier negotiations Contract may be made available to other institutions

Award based upon price as well as non-price factors as well as other terms and conditions
Complex supplier negotiations


Time frame(s) may vary based on complexity of procurement and market.  This diagram is meant only to illustrate the sequence of steps in a typical procurement. State procurement policies require that a complex solicitation be available to suppliers for a minimum of 45 days.

Solicitations valued between 100k - 150k are required to be awarded  to the lowest responsive and responsible bid from a small business (as defined in RCW 39.26.010(22)(a) or veteran-owned business, unless none of these businesses are responsible and responsive to the solicitation.

Click here for guidance to roles for campus, Purchasing and suppliers during the solicitation process.