Make sure to meet requirements when purchasing using 'piggybacking' method

Jun 15, 2017

“Piggybacking” refers to one local government making purchases from contracts awarded by another government or group of governments via an interlocal agreement or contract. Piggybacking is a convenient way to procure goods or services. However, our Office has seen an increasing number of local governments use this alternative method without completing the process properly. National purchasing cooperatives are becoming more widely used, and many of these are based in other states where the laws do not align with Washington law.

The key to maintaining compliance when procuring through piggybacking is to ensure your local government's own bidding requirements are still met. State law
(RCW 39.34.030), which allows for piggybacking, does not relieve any public agency of any obligation or responsibility with respect to purchasing, except for the notice of bids or advertising requirements. As long as the lead agency satisfies its own requirements for advertising and posts the solicitation on the internet, the piggybacking government's advertising requirements are considered met.

In addition, we recommend governments exercise due care when procuring public works projects via the piggybacking method. To use this method, the lead agency's project and the piggybacking government's project must be essentially the same. Both governments' bid specifications should be very specific and include the same type of labor and materials. We would expect the only differences to be quantities purchased.

Our audits will focus on the controls the piggybacking government has to ensure its own bidding requirements were met. The piggybacking government must be able to demonstrate its own bid laws were satisfied by the lead government.