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The ABCs of Piggybacking

The ABCs of Piggybacking

Have you found a contract from another governmental agency that looks like it has a product or service that would fit a project for your agency? RCW 39.34.030 provides an exception to public bidding, providing the ability for local government agencies to use another agency's contract for products, services, and public works. This a process is known as “piggybacking.”

In a piggybacking arrangement, a public agency or group of public agencies (cooperative) conduct a competitive solicitation. Their solicitation requirements include an option for other public agencies to access, or “piggyback,” the awarded contract. The use of this exception to public bidding is optional for local governments.

This blog post will provide the ABCs of piggybacking:

  • Contract products or services are Adaptable,
  • Pricing and contract terms are Beneficial, and
  • The contract award process is Compliant with agency policy and the law.  

Reviewing these ABCs will assist your agency when deciding whether piggybacking is the proper alternate to your agency’s competitive procurement process. Let’s look at each item.

Are the Products/Services Adaptable for Your Agency?

The very first thing to confirm is whether the contract you are considering for piggybacking was awarded by a public agency, which is defined in RCW 39.34.020. In RCW 39.34.020 (1) “Public agency” is defined as “any agency of the United States; any Indian tribe recognized as such by the federal government; and any political subdivision of another state.” This means contracts from outside the state can be considered, unless it involves the federal government You are not piggybacking under the exception to competitive bidding in RCW 39.34.030 when purchasing from the federal government, as those purchases are exempt from bidding per RCW 39.32.090.

Next, verify that the awarding public agency has met the requirements of RCW 39.34.030, which are to comply with its own statutory contracting requirements and to post the solicitation online.

As a final check for adaptability, review whether your agency’s needs match the specifications and scope of the awarded contract. The intent of piggybacking is acquiring “like” products or services already available under contract. If your agency requires features or services not addressed in the awarded contract, you may be outside of the scope of the contract and need to source independently though your public bidding requirements.

Are the Pricing/Terms Beneficial for Your Agency?

Piggybacking can reduce transaction and administrative costs, workload, and processing time. Your agency can also benefit from the combined buying power of multiple agencies, thereby reducing costs. You will also be able to take advantage of standardized contract terms and vendor service levels.

For instance, piggybacking on a contract for vehicle rentals or package delivery services with nationwide providers may benefit your agency with leveraged pricing and standard contractual terms.

On the other side of the coin, there are circumstances where pricing and standard terms available on a piggybacked contract may not be beneficial to your agency. Why? Pricing on these types of contracts can be reflective of the contract terms required for providers. For instance, if the contract required next-day shipping anywhere in the United States included in item price, or a delivery surcharge for your geographic area, you could be paying a premium for an item you could purchase locally. Also, you may get more favorable contract terms by following your own agency competitive procurement process.

For instance, if you were to post your own competitive solicitation for 75 desks and 75 chairs for your office, local providers in your area may provide better volume pricing and meet unique agency contract requirements like chair fittings, warranty part replacements, and location-specific delivery within your workspaces.

Careful consideration should be taken on the cost and non-cost value for your agency.

Is the Contract Award Process Compliant?

Depending on which type of contract you intend to use, compliance can occur in multiple ways:

  • When the decision has been made to piggyback on a contract from another public agency, 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 (see RCW 39.34.040).
  • When deciding to use contracts awarded by the State of Washington, local governments are compliant by signing a one-time contract usage agreement at no cost.
  • If you have made the decision to use a national or state cooperative, then your agency would complete the membership application, and this would potentially be similar to an interlocal agreement and meet the requirements of RCW 39.34.030. As each cooperative membership agreement is different, consider consulting with your legal counsel to ensure it satisfies all interlocal agreement act requirements.

If you are using any federal funds on a procurement, the procurement process must follow the strictest requirements from either the local, state, or federal source. There is an option for piggybacking in the Uniform Guidance, 2 CFR §200.318(e).

Utilizing piggybacking as an exception to public bidding can be great tool for local governments in many situations. Following the ABCs will help determine when this tool fits the specific situation.

For additional information on this topic, including sample documents related to interlocal procurement and piggybacking, please visit MRSC’s Intergovernmental Procurement and ‘Piggybacking’ webpage.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

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About Josh Klika

Josh joined MRSC in October 2021 as a Procurement and Contracting Consultant. Josh has a broad public procurement background with over 20 years in state and local governments. In addition to holding roles in procurement at multiple agencies at the State of Washington, most recently Josh worked as Contracts and Procurement Program Manager for the City of Olympia.

Josh has also served as a recurring panelist, facilitator, and presenter on numerous topics relating to procurement and contracting for various professional organizations. He currently holds a Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) through the Universal Public Procurement Certification Council (UPPCC), a NIGP Certified Procurement Professional (NIGP-CPP) certification, and a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt (LSSGB) through the University of Washington.