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Intergovernmental Purchases and 'Piggybacking'

This page provides a basic overview of intergovernmental purchases for local governments in Washington State, including guidance for piggybacking on local, state and federal contracts. It is part of MRSC’s series on Purchasing and Contracting.


What is “Piggybacking”?

Under Chapter 39.34 RCW, local government agencies may make purchases using another agency’s purchasing contract, a process known as “piggybacking.”

Generally, smaller agencies piggyback on contracts awarded by larger “host” agencies, allowing the smaller agencies to save time and obtain better prices and terms than they might be able to on their own.


Piggybacking Process

To piggyback on another local government agency’s contract:

  • The host agency and the piggybacking agency must sign an interlocal agreement and file it with the county auditor or post it online by subject (RCW 39.34.040). Ideally, the agreement should be in place before the purchasing contract is awarded, but this is not mandatory.
  • The host agency must comply with its statutory contracting requirements and post the solicitation online (RCW 39.34.030(5)(b)).
  • The vendor must agree to the arrangement through the initial solicitation documents.

The awarding agency assumes no responsibility for orders placed by other agencies.


Piggybacking on State Contracts

Local governments may also piggyback on purchasing contracts awarded by the State of Washington by signing the one-time Master Contracts Usage Agreement at no cost. Participating agencies gain access to hundreds of state purchasing contracts. Agencies may search current contracts at the Department of Enterprise Services website.


Piggybacking on Federal Contracts

Local governments in Washington may also piggyback off many federal contracts administered by the General Services Administration (GSA). This includes:

  • Information technology products
  • Security/law enforcement equipment
  • Items to aid recovery from federally-declared disasters or acts of terrorism
  • Items to aid response to federally-declared public health emergencies
  • Equipment to support counterdrug, homeland security, and emergency response activities

For more information, see GSA’s page on State and Local Government Customers.

Practice Tips for Host Agencies

  • Advertise the Invitation to Bid (ITB) or Request for Proposals (RFP) according to your statutory purchasing requirements and local policies. To see your agency's statutory requirements, use MRSC's Find Your Contracting Requirements tool.
  • Post the ITB/RFP online in compliance with RCW 39.34.030(5)(b) and keep a record or screenshot of the posting.
  • Document the advertisement and online posting in the ITB/RFP and the contract itself to make it easy for others to find.
  • Be mindful of features that might limit shared use, such as local preferences or women- and minority-owned businesses.
  • Add language to the ITB/RFP allowing interlocal purchasing agreements.

Practice Tips for Piggybacking Agencies

  • If the original contract does not include language about probable use by other agencies, seek legal advice before using that contract.
  • Set up the bid file as if it were your own. Request copies of the contract documents from the host agency, including the Invitation to Bid/Request for Proposals, advertisement, bid tab, awarded vendor’s response, website certification, and the contract itself.
  • Terms and conditions can vary within limits, as long as they don’t violate a legal prohibition.
  • There is no statutory guidance for how long you are eligible to piggyback on a given contract. However, one practitioner says, "I always use a 12-month window," which seems reasonable.
  • Conservatively, you should accept the product as it was bid, unless there are alternates in the bid. A practitioner states, "We must be ordering the same thing, but immaterial things like paint color, etc. can be changed. I like to use a 10% leeway. I try to write my contracts with enough flexibility that others who piggyback can 'build their own,' for instance, asking for a percentage off list for anything else that could be added or deleted."

Sample Documents

For sample documents related to intergovernmental purchasing, see the following:

For more sample documents regarding purchasing and contracting, see MRSC's Sample Document Library.


Recommended Resources


Last Modified: February 05, 2019