Sole Source / Competitive Bid Policy

Summary of Policy

This policy will outline the requirements for competitive bids on goods and services purchased by the College.

Reason for Policy

Procurement Services personnel, as agents of Dartmouth, are responsible for the procurement of materials, equipment, and services from the most reliable sources. The procurement process involves souring goods and services through researching and negotiating with vendors to acquire the products/services at the best competitive price, while considering quality, delivery, and service. This policy calls for obtaining the best bids based on prices and other pertinent factors related to the specific purchase. The policy explains the three threshold levels that have been established to promote competitive bidding and increase efficiency of the procurement process. The policy also includes the process for making sole source purchases.

Scope: Who should know this policy?

Any employee responsible for procuring or paying for goods or services, including employees working in Finance Centers.

Affected Parties

All Groups

Policy Statement


Good business practice and the responsibility for the expenditure of Dartmouth funds requires Dartmouth follow a policy of obtaining competitive bids/quotations. Purchases shall be made based on competitive prices, considering quality, suitability, delivery, and service. Dartmouth policy requires acceptance of the best bid. When determining the best bid, prices and other factors are to be considered.

To ensure objectivity and eliminate unfair competitive advantage, vendors who participate in the development or drafting of specifications, requirements, requests for quotes or proposals must be excluded from competing for such purposes.

To avoid potential conflicts of interest, no employee, officer, or agent of Dartmouth should participate in the selection, award, or administration of purchases or contracts in which, to their knowledge, the employee, immediate family, or partner has a financial interest in the vendor's organization.

The following guidelines have been established to promote competitive bidding. Requestors should realize that these are *minimum* requirements and that bids should be solicited, whenever the goods or services can be purchased, from several different, responsible vendors. Upon request, Procurement Services will assist departments in locating potential vendors and obtaining pricing and product availability information for any threshold level.

Purchases up to and including $9,999.99

For purchases less than or equal to $9,999.99, requestors should follow their own judgment in identifying potential vendors. If the goods or services can be obtained from a contracted/preferred vendor, it is required that the requestor purchase from this source. A list of contracted/preferred vendors is available in the Procure-to-Pay Guide.

Purchases between $10,000 - $24,999.99

All purchases over $10,000.00 but not exceeding $24,999.99 require at least three (3) quotations to be obtained from vendors if not utilizing a contracted/preferred vendor. All quotations must be in written form so they can be attached to the requisition or contract record in Agiloft. If there are limited sources of supply or the low bid is found unacceptable because of some factual circumstance, the department head or principal investigator should write a clear, concise, and factual justification for not accepting the lowest bid. If the requestor is unable to identify three vendors, Procurement Services should be contacted to assist in identifying additional vendors.

Purchases over $25,000

All purchases over $25,000 require the requestor to contact Procurement Services to conduct a more formal bid process. Procurement Services will work with the requestor to directly solicit bids and provide a tabulation of bids for the requestor's review and evaluation.

Exceptions to Competitive Bid Policy

There are a few circumstances and items excluded - in all or part from the competitive bid policy. Failing to anticipate needs resulting from poor planning is not an exception to this policy. Certain situations which may justify purchases without following the competitive bid procedures are as follows:

  • Items purchased from current Dartmouth, state, federal, or other cooperative contract or pricing agreement.
  • Emergency purchases when:
    • Human life, health or Dartmouth property is in jeopardy.
    • Repairs of equipment involve hidden dangers.
    • Repairs are immediately needed for equipment where delay would lead to higher expense.
  • Items purchased for resale, such as purchasing inventory for the Computer Store, where a separate procedure is in effect.
  • Items purchased solely from a government agency.
  • Library acquisitions (books, periodicals, and films).
  • Items which are proprietary (maintenance or license fees for current software, etc.).
  • OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) requirements for equipment under lease, rental, warranty, or maintenance.
  • Agency specified vendor.
  • Design compatibility with existing equipment.

The cognizant department manager or principal investigator should submit a written, clear, but concise statement that justifies waiving the competitive bidding process. Final responsibility in determining whether an item is a proprietary item and may be purchased from a sole source rests with the Director of Procurement, Sourcing Manager, or Contract Manager.

Sole Source Purchases

A sole source purchase is one where a good or service can only be purchased from one supplier.  To the best of the requester's knowledge and belief, based upon thorough research, (i.e. conducting a market survey), only one supplier 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 specifically defined needs. This situation makes it impossible to obtain competitive bids. The requisitioning department shall furnish documentation to justify why the technical characteristics inherent in the item make it essential to purchase the particular good or service. Written documentation of some form of price or cost analysis is required on all sole source purchases with an aggregate expenditure in excess of $10,000. Appropriate documentation may include copies of published price lists, advertised pricing in established magazines, journals, and newspapers, and similar indices. Final responsibility in determining whether an item is a proprietary item and may be purchased from a sole source rests with the Director of Procurement, Sourcing Manager, Contract Manager.

Solicitations for Quotes

Solicitations for quotes shall set forth all requirements that the bidder must fulfill for their bid to be evaluated by Dartmouth. Solicitations should be based upon a clear and accurate description of the technical requirements. Complete information should be provided including but not limited to quantity, description, delivery requirement, special conditions, drawings, specifications, bid due date and time. Specifications or requirements should not unduly restrict competition. Whenever a "brand name or equal" description is used to define performance or other salient requirements, the specific features of the named brand must be clearly specified.

Evaluating Bids

When evaluating quotes, consideration may be given but not necessarily limited to, the following: price, bidder's previous record of performance and service, ability of bidder to render satisfactory service in this instance (i.e., training, maintenance and repairs), availability of bidder's representative to call upon and consult with the end users, quality and conformance to specifications, delivery schedule, life expectancy, warranty and disposal value.


Unsuccessful vendors shall be notified that the bid is closed and awarded. It is not necessary to note the successful bidder. Dartmouth reserves the right to reject any bids, waive informalities and award the contract in the best interests of Dartmouth.

Contacts / Responsibilities

Procurement Services
Phone: 603-646-2811


The Dartmouth College Sole Source/Price Reasonableness Justification Form must be completed for goods or services purchased from a single source or when the vendor offering the lowest bid is not accepted.

Exclusions & Exceptions

See Exceptions to Competitive Bid Policy and Sole Source Purchases sections included in the Policy Statement.


If this policy is breached, Dartmouth is at risk for not passing its audits from various auditing agencies. This could affect the amount of grant money awarded to the institution.


The procedures vary depending on the dollar threshold of the goods or services being purchased.

If the good or service can only be purchased from a single source, the individual requesting the good or service is required to fill out and sign the Sole Source/Price Reasonableness Justification Form. The Form and any other pertinent information should be sent to the appropriate departmental Super User or the Finance Center to be entered into the Oracle system or Agiloft, the Contract Management System.

Policy ID


Effective Date

November 15, 2010

Last Revised Date

November 26, 2019


Finance & Administration

Office of Primary Responsibility


Office(s) of Secondary Responsibility

Last Reviewed Date

January 9, 2024

Next Review Date