Published: May 11, 2022

Piggybacking is the ability to use another government’s bid award without going through your own competitive process. It can be complicated, which is why we have updated our guide—Piggybacking under Washington State Law—to address your most common questions and alert you to changes in our guidance. Don’t worry: It still includes a step-by-step approach to piggybacking, as well as an optional checklist for you to use!

First, let’s talk about our updated guidance. You are now only permitted to piggyback on contracts awarded by public agencies or groups of public agencies that meet the public agency definition provided in statute. Previously, our guidance had afforded some flexibility in this area but now better aligns with state law. The good news is that you don’t have to worry about following your own procurement requirements when piggybacking under Washington state law, as long as the public agency followed its own requirements and posted the proper notice.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you consider piggybacking.

  • Using a purchasing cooperative is your decision—own it. We are often asked for a list of approved cooperatives, which we cannot provide. You’ll need to perform your own evaluation of a cooperative and make sure it meets the requirements. Some purchasing cooperatives may qualify as public agencies and let contracts themselves, while others could rely on a separate awarding entity that qualifies as a public agency to let the contracts. Our new guide can help you understand best practices and requirements when considering any awarding entity’s contract. You can always rely on your legal counsel, too, when you need some extra help.
  • The contracting process must follow the timeline of events. That means you must enter into the interlocal agreement with the awarding entity before you can move forward with accessing its contract as a piggybacking option. A membership agreement with a cooperative could be acceptable if the cooperative is the public agency/awarding entity and the contract meets all the requirements in the interlocal agreement act. However, if you are not sure about your contract, your legal counsel is your best resource.
  • Piggybacking doesn’t waive all procurement-related requirements. For public works projects like roofing jobs, keep in mind that piggybacking only waives the competitive bidding piece of the procurement requirements. You must still comply with requirements related to selecting a responsible bidder (RCW 39.04.350), performance bond, retainage, and prevailing wages.
  • You don’t want to “luck into” compliance. Your organization should have controls in place to follow the requirements in local, state, or federal law before you piggyback on a contract. Document the steps you took and keep those supporting records! The checklist included in our piggybacking guide can certainly help you with this.
  • Set up the bid file like your own. In order to piggyback, you’ll have to review documentation obtained from the awarding entity related to the procurement. Make sure your government keeps this documentation for management, grantors, or auditors to review later. Our prior guidance involving a signed certification in lieu of retaining procurement documentation for purchases is no longer an allowable option.
  • Piggybacking with federal funds is its own ball game. Our new guide includes expanded guidance on piggybacking when using federal funds. And remember, using even a small amount of federal funds on a procurement will trigger all federal granting requirements for the entire project. Check out our improved information, but also work closely with your grantor.

Download your copy of Piggybacking under Washington State Law today!

Don’t miss SAO’s other procurement-related resources

  • Is this Bidder Responsible? This resource contains a checklist to use when evaluating whether a bidder is responsible; it also includes answers to frequently asked questions.
  • Best Practices for Change Orders is a resource to help governments understand best practices for controlling, managing, and reviewing change orders, as well as establishing policies over change orders.

How to reach us for more assistance

Remember, SAO can help. If you have questions about procurement, submit them using our HelpDesk in the client portal.

We also have financial management specialists at SAO’s Center for Government Innovation available to talk with you about best practices, resources, or internal controls. For assistance, reach out to us at Center@sao.wa.gov.

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