Sole Source Purchases


On this page you will find information about Sole Sources. Before proceeding with a sole source purchase, consider the following:

What is a Sole Source?

A Sole Source is a method of acquisition. It is not to be used to avoid competition. Insofar as practicable, all purchases shall be based on competitive solicitations; however, competitive solicitations are not necessary for:
  • Purchases which are clearly and legitimately limited to a single (sole) source of supply; and,
  • Purchases involving special services, or market conditions, in which instances the purchase price may be best established by direct negotiation.” (39.26 RCW)

A "Sole Source" purchase means that only one supplier (source), to the best of the requester's knowledge and belief, based upon thorough research, (i.e. conducting a market survey), is capable of delivering the required product or service. Similar types of goods and services may exist, but only one supplier, for reasons of expertise, and / or standardization, quality, compatibility with existing equipment, specifications, or availability, is the only source that is acceptable to meet a specific need.

Price cannot be used as a factor in determining if a sole source exists because it indicates the existence of a competitive marketplace.

A sole source justification is required for every purchase over the direct buy limit (currently $10K) unless the purchase is being competitively solicited. Sole source justifications must be approved by a Procurement Services Buyer prior to an order being placed.

Market Survey Defined
A "market survey" refers to efforts to determine whether other qualified sources capable of satisfying the UW's requirement exist. Testing the marketplace may range from telephone to written contacts with suppliers' experts regarding similar or duplicate goods and services. The extent of the market survey depends on what constitutes a reasonable effort under the circumstances to ensure that competition is not feasible. If only one source is identified as a result of the market research, this fact may be used to help justify a noncompetitive acquisition.


Effective January, 2013, sole source purchases over $10,000 made with state-appropriated funds require prior approval by the State of Washington Department of Enterprise Services (DES) unless they meet specific exemptions (see exemption list below). They must also be publicly advertised on the UW website for 10 days, and on the State’s WEBS website for 5 days, before the purchase may be made.

DES requires a mandatory minimum of 10 days to review and approve a sole source purchase, so keep this in mind in estimating the timeline for a purchase. Buyers cannot expedite the DES review process. Customers should be prepared to allow two additional weeks for the procurement process if state funds are used.

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 Buyer when a purchase requisition has state-appropriated funding.)

There are a few exemptions from the sole source filing process, even if the purchase is being made with state-appropriated funds, such as:

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

For more Sole Source information including definitions, dollar thresholds, roles and responsibility, sole source criteria and ethics continue to scroll down this page.


Roles and Responsibility Chart

We have developed a sole source justification process chart outlining the individual roles and responsibilities of campus departments, buyers and suppliers. Please see our Sole Source Justification Roles and Responsibilities Matrix webpage for more inforamtion.

Sole Source Justification Criteria

The following list of criteria may be used in determining if a single or sole source situation exists:

  1. Only one manufacturer makes the item meeting salient specifications; that manufacturer only sells direct/exclusively through one regional/national representative;
  2. Item required must be identical to equipment already in use by the end user, to insure compatibility of equipment, and that item is only available from one source; same reasoning applied in the continuation of research situation.
  3. Collaborative project- Supplier is named by the funding source, inter-agency agreement or clinical trials where the identical equipment is required for compatibility and continuity of research.
  4. Maintenance or repair calls by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) are required for a piece of equipment, 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 multiple distributors for the product.
  8. 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 potential sources capable of satisfying the requirement exist.  Market survey may be conducted by phone or in writing.  The extent of the market survey depends on what constitutes a reasonable effort under the circumstances to ensure that competition is not feasible.  A list of the suppliers contacted, along with the reason why each supplier could not meet the requirement may justify a sole source purchase.

Note: An item being a “sole brand” or a “sole manufacturer” does not automatically qualify to be 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 requester should verify whether the manufacturer has multiple distributors. If the manufacturer does have multiple distributors, competition should be sought among the distributors.

Sole Source Statement and Ethics

Individuals writing sole source statements need to understand that the statements carry weight similar to a perjury statement.  University personnel must not make any false or misleading statement in any official report or statement.

For more on UW Purchasing Ethics see: UW Administrative Policy Statement 52.1 Section 1.C Ethics in Relation to Sole Source Statements.

Characteristics of the Three Commodities

Goods and Purchased Services

►Characteristics of Goods and Purchased Services
"Goods" means material, supplies and equipment offered for sale by a supplier(s) and required by the university to accomplish continuing and necessary functions and not otherwise statutorily exempted.

"Purchased Services" are more repetitive, routine or mechanical in nature; following established or standardized procedures. Services contribute to the day-to-day business operations of the agency.
►Examples of Purchased Services
  • Drug testing and screening (standard tests)
  • Engraving service
  • Environmental monitoring: noise level, safety, hazardous gas detection, radiation monitoring service, etc. (using standardized processes)
  • Equipment installation, preventive maintenance, inspection, calibration and repair
  • Equipment rental services
  • Exam testing administration and scoring service
  • Firefighting/suppression service
  • Food preparation, vending and catering services
  • Health screening, basic diagnostic (wellness, blood pressure monitoring, blood draw, etc.)
  • Herbicide application service
  • Household goods packing, storage, transportation service
  • HVAC system maintenance service
  • Interpretive services: written/oral/sign language
  • Inventory service
  • Laboratory testing and analysis (standard tests only)
  • Land clearing/debris removal service (when not using heavy equipment)
  • Language translation service
  • Lay witness (called to testify in a court case)
  • Linen rental service
  • Marine equipment inspection, certification and repair
  • Medical equipment rental or repair service (wheel chairs, walkers, etc.) Includes measurements, adjustments and modifications to meet patient needs
  • Metal/pipe/wiring detection service
  • Office furnishings installation, refurbishment and repair service
  • Package inspection and crating
  • Painting service (unless public works)
  • Paper shredding
  • Parking lot sweeping/snow removal service
  • Pest/weed control service
  • Photographic/ micrographic processing and delivering, includes aerial and ground photography (if analysis is included, then personal service)
  • Printing/duplicating service
  • Process serving
  • Property management (rent collection, property maintenance, etc.)
  • Recycling/disposal/litter pickup service
  • Security/armored car services
  • Shop welding/metal fabrication service
  • Steam cleaning, high pressure washing, parts cleaning service
  • Studio photography service (does not include portrait painting)
  • Subscription services
  • Telephone interview service (conduct of survey using prescribed survey instrument)
  • Temporary employment service (clerical support, dictation, word processing, bookkeeping, etc.)
  • Test fishing service
  • Towing service
  • Training –- when it is offered on a recurring basis (more than six times per fiscal year) to all or most employees. Also includes existing satellite down-link courses and teleconferencing training services
  • Travel service — air, surface, water
  • Tree topping (when not using heavy equipment)
  • Utility services: garbage, fire protection, heat and sewer, cable TV, power, water, etc.
  • Vehicle inspection, lubricating and repair services
  • Videotaping and recording service
  • Warehouse dry/cold storage rental service
  • Weather information service

IT Equipment

►Characteristics of IT Equipment
IT "Equipment" means the machines, devices, and transmission facilities used in information processing
►Examples of IT Equipment
  • computers
  • word processors
  • terminals
  • telephones
  • wireless communications system facilities cables, etc

Personal Services

►Characteristics of Personal Services and IT Personal Services
"Personal Services and IT Personal Services" are professional or technical in nature and meet more specialized needs. Work is predominantly intellectual and varied.Work is independent from the day-to-day control of the agency; consultant maintains control of work methods.
  • Work requires regular exercise of judgment, discretion, and decision-making; involves providing advice, opinions, or recommendations; may have policy-implications for agency; often addresses management-level issues. May require advanced or specialized knowledge, or expertise gained over an extensive period of time in a specialized field of experience.
  • Work may be original and creative in character in a recognized field of endeavor, the result of which may depend primarily on the individual's invention, imagination, or talent.
The State of Washington requires that Sole Source Personal Service Contracts and IT Personal Service Contracts in the amount of $10,000 or greater be posted for one day on the Washington Electronic Business Solutions website prior to the award. Five calendar days must pass before the contract start date.
►Examples of Personal Services and IT Personal Services
  • Accounting services
  • Actuarial services
  • Analysis and assessment of processes, programs, fiscal impact, compliance, systems, etc.
  • Appraisal services
  • Art work, original (services creating the art work)
  • Audio/video media productions (design, development and/or oversight of)
  • Auditing services
  • Business analysis and assessment services
  • Business process re-engineering
  • Communications (including design, development, or oversight of audio/video productions, brochures, pamphlets, maps, signs, posters, annual reports, etc.)
  • Conference and trade show management and coordination
  • Consultation on programs, plans, projects, systems, etc.
  • Counseling employees
  • Curriculum development
  • Economic analysis and consultation
  • Environmental Planning/Technology/Studies (except when small part of an architectural/engineering contract)
  • Evaluation of processes, programs, projects, systems, etc.
  • Executive recruitment
  • Expert witness services for litigation/testimony
  • Facilitation for groups, projects, retreats
  • Facilities planning/coordination
  • Feasibility studies (except when small part of an architectural/engineering contract)
  • Financial services
  • Fund raising
  • Grant writing
  • Graphic design (creative or original in nature)
  • Investigations (personnel related, etc.)
  • Investment advisors and management
  • Labor negotiations and labor relations services
  • Legal and paralegal services Legislative liaison services
  • Lobbying services
  • Management consulting
  • Marketing services, including identifying market opportunities, conduct of marketing programs, planning, promotion, market research surveys, etc.
  • Mediation, negotiation and arbitration services
  • Medical and psychological services, including evaluation and consultative services
    (Excludes blood draws, physicals, blood pressure checks, etc.)
  • Needs assessment (except when small part of an architectural/ engineering contract)
  • Operational assessments
  • Organization development
  • Outreach services for programs
  • Peer review
  • Planning services (except when small part of an architectural/ engineering contract)
  • Policy development and recommendations
  • Productivity improvement
  • Program development, assessment, implementation, coordination, evaluation, etc.
  • Public involvement services and strategies
  • Public relations services
  • Publication development (See Communications)
  • Quality assurance/quality control services
  • Recommendations on processes, products, projects, systems, etc.
  • Recruitment, executive
  • Research services — social, environmental, technical
  • Retreat and workshop planning, conduct, coordination
  • Scientific and related technical services
  • Strategic planning
  • Speech and report writing
  • Statistical analysis
  • Studies, development and conduct
  • Surveys (including development of instrument, conduct and analysis of results — if conduct only of standard survey instrument, would be purchased service)
  • Temporary employment service for professional services: architects, engineers, registered nurses doctors, etc.
  • Trade development services
  • Training — when it is:
    • offered to specific categories or classes of employees;
    • offered to all or most agency employees six times or less in a fiscal year


Please Note:

This webpage does not imply that individuals have the authority to purchase goods & services at any dollar amount or via any specific method.  Users are advised to consult directly with their own department or division regarding internal policies that may limit their authority to purchase.


© 2015 University of Washington     PRIVACYTERMS

Was this page helpful? Let us know