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Intergovernmental Procurement and 'Piggybacking'

This page provides a basic overview of intergovernmental procurement agreements or "piggybacking" for local governments in Washington State, including guidance for piggybacking on local, cooperative, and state contracts as well as making purchases through the federal government.

It is part of MRSC’s series on Purchasing and Contracting.

What is “Piggybacking”?

Under RCW 39.34.030, local government agencies may use another public agency's active contract for purchases of products, services, or public works, a process known as “piggybacking.”

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

What is a “Public Agency”?

The “host” agency may be any other local government, state agency, federally recognized tribe, or public purchasing cooperative. The host agency may be located anywhere in the United States and is not limited to Washington State.

However, both the host agency and the piggybacking agency must meet the definition of “public agency” in RCW 39.34.020:

[A]ny agency, political subdivision, or unit of local government of this state including, but not limited to, municipal corporations, quasi municipal corporations, special purpose districts, and local service districts; any agency of the state government; any agency of the United States; any Indian tribe recognized as such by the federal government; and any political subdivision of another state.

While this definition includes federal agencies, there is a separate statute (RCW 39.32.090) authorizing purchases from the federal government and exempting such purchases from bidding, as discussed below.

Piggybacking on Individual Public Agency Contracts

To piggyback on an individual local or out-of-state public 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). The interlocal agreement must be in place with the host agency before the piggybacking agency can access the contract.

The host agency must comply with its own statutory contracting requirements and post the solicitation online (RCW 39.34.030(5)(b)), and the vendor must agree to the arrangement through the initial solicitation documents.

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

Piggybacking on State Contracts

Local governments may piggyback on contracts awarded by the State of Washington by signing a one-time contract usage agreement at no cost (see RCW 39.34.030 and, for the Department of Enterprise Services, RCW 39.26.050). Participating agencies gain access to hundreds of state contracts.

For more information, including lists of organizations with current contract usage agreements, instructions on submitting a contract usage agreement, and information on how to search for state contracts, see the Department of Enterprise Services page How to Use Statewide Contracts.

Piggybacking on Cooperative Contracts

To piggyback on national or state cooperative contracts, the piggybacking agency must first verify that the host agency meets the statutory definition of a “public agency” in RCW 39.34.020. Purchasing cooperatives can take various forms; some cooperatives meet the statutory definition of a “public agency,” while others award contracts through a different entity that might not be considered a public agency.

The piggybacking agency must complete the membership application for the cooperative, as this potentially meets the requirements of RCW 39.34.030. Each specific membership agreement is different, so consider consulting with your legal counsel to ensure it satisfies all the requirements of chapter 39.34 RCW.

The host agency must comply with its statutory contracting requirements and post the solicitation online (RCW 39.34.030(5)(b)), and the vendor must agree to the arrangement through the initial solicitation documents.

NIGP, the Institute for Public Procurement, provides a list of cooperative purchasing programs in the United States and Canada.

Purchasing from Federal Contracts

A separate statute authorizes local governments to purchase various supplies, materials, and equipment from federal contracts (RCW 39.32.090). This is not technically considered “piggybacking” as such purchases are exempt from bidding and are not subject to RCW 39.34.030.

Local governments could consider using 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 Governments.

Before purchasing off a federal contract, the local legislative authority (council or board of commissioners) must adopt a one-time ordinance or resolution authorizing such purchases. For example, see:

Practice Tips

Below is some practical guidance to help public agencies meet the requirements in state law and create successful opportunities for piggybacking.

Practice Tips for Local Government Host Agencies

  • Advertise the Invitation to Bid (ITB) or Request for Proposals (RFP) according to your statutory requirements and local policies. To see the statutory requirements for any local government entity in Washington State, 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 agreements.
  • Write the solicitation and contract with enough flexibility that others who piggyback can “build their own” – for instance, asking for a percentage off the manufacturer’s list price for anything else that could be added or deleted.

Practice Tips for Piggybacking Agencies

  • Verify that the host agency or purchasing cooperative meets the definition of a “public agency” in RCW 39.34.020.
  • If the original contract does not include language about probable use by other agencies, seek legal advice before using that contract.
  • To have documentation that the host agency meet its statutory bidding requirements, 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, once the lead agency's contract expires, no new work should be initiated by the piggybacking agency, and any existing work should terminate after the conditions of that arrangement are completed.
  • 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.”

Examples of Piggybacking Agreements and Documents

For sample documents related to interlocal procurement and piggybacking, see the following:

Recommended Resources

Last Modified: February 23, 2024