A sole source purchase means that only one supplier, to the best of the requester's knowledge and belief, based upon thorough research, is capable of providing the required product or service.


  • A sole source purchase is a method of acquisition. It is not to be used to avoid competition.
  • A sole source justification is required for every purchase over the Direct Buy Limit ($10,000 including shipping and handling, but excluding tax) unless the purchase is being made from an existing contract, the supplier is specifically named in the funding source award, or the purchase is being competitively solicited.
  • Sole source justifications must be approved by Procurement Services prior to an order being placed.
  • Price cannot be used as a factor in determining if a sole source exists because it indicates the existence of a competitive marketplace.

Sole Source Justification Criteria

A Sole Source justification describes the steps taken to determine that the chosen supplier is the only source available for your product/service. The following list of criteria may be used in determining if a sole source situation exists:

  1. Only one manufacturer makes the item meeting required specifications; that manufacturer only sells direct or exclusively through one regional/national distributor; Describe the steps taken to determine only one source exists.
  2. Item must be identical to equipment already in use to ensure compatibility with existing equipment or systems, and that item is only available from one source. Provide a previous po number or equipment inventory tag number in your sole source justification.
  3. Named in award: Supplier is specifically named by the funding source award documents, inter-agency agreement, or clinical trials agreement. Proposal documents are not considered an "award document".
  4. Maintenance or repair by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and the manufacturer does not have multiple agents to perform these services.
  5. Replacement or spare parts are required from the OEM, and the OEM does not have distributors for those parts.
  6. Patented items or copyrighted materials, which are only available from the patent or copyright holder.
  7. A medical/surgical decision by a medical/dental professional, where a specific brand is required for patient care, and the manufacturer has no distributors for the product.
  8. Consultants only: The chosen Consultant has unique expertise, background in recognized field of endeavor, the result of which may depend primarily on the individual's invention, imagination, or talent. Consultant has advanced or specialized knowledge, or expertise gained over an extensive period of time in a specialized field of experience.
  9. A Market Survey has been conducted to determine whether other suppliers capable of satisfying the requirements exist.   A list of all the suppliers contacted, along with the reason why each supplier could not meet the requirements should be provided with the sole source justification.

Federally funded sole source purchases are limited to the following categories:

  • the item is available only from a single source - describe the steps taken to determine there are no other suppliers
  • the public exigency or emergency for the requirement will not permit a delay resulting from competitive solicitation
  • the federal awarding agency or pass-through entity expressly authorizes noncompetitive proposals in response to a written request from the non-federal entity
  • after solicitation of a number of sources, competition is determined inadequate


Note: An item being a “sole brand” or "sole manufacturer" does not automatically qualify as a “sole source”. Many manufacturers sell their products through distributors. Therefore, even if a purchase is identified as a valid “sole brand” or “sole manufacturer”, the department should verify whether the manufacturer has multiple distributors. If the manufacturer does have multiple distributors, competition should be sought, Procurement Services can work with you on a competitive solicitation.

State-Funded Sole Source Purchases

Sole source purchases over the direct buy limit and made with state-appropriated funds require advance approval by the State of Washington Department of Enterprise Services (DES). This approval process is in addition to the UW's approval process. DES requires a minimum of 10 days to review and approve a sole source purchase. Procurement Services staff cannot expedite the DES review process. Be prepared to allow a minimum two additional weeks for the process if state funds are used. State funded sole sources must also be publicly advertised on the UW website for 10 days, and on the State's WEBS website for five days, before the purchase may be made.

Campus customers can determine if a purchase is being made with state-appropriated funds by looking at the budget in MyFD (My Financial Desktop). If the budget field entitled “State Fund” says “No Value”, that means the budget is NOT state-appropriated funds.  If there is any value (such as 001) in that field, then the budget is state-appropriated funds. (There is also an identifier on the requisition that alerts the Procurement Staff when a purchase requisition has state-appropriated funding.)

The following are examples of exemptions from the State's sole source rules. They are NOT exemptions from UW sole source rules:

  • OEM maintenance service contracts purchased from the OEM (original equipment manufacturer)
  • Professional development conferences, seminars, professional licenses
  • If more than 50% of the funding for a purchase is from non-state appropriated funds

Intent to Sole Source State-Funded Purchase: 

State funded sole sources must  be publicly advertised on the UW website for 10 days, and on the State's WEBS website for five days, before the purchase may be made.