Sole Source – as defined by South Carolina law, a Sole Source purchase is one where there is only one source (one supplier) that could possibly supply the required product or service. Examples of Sole Source transactions are:
- There is only one supplier that can meet the required specifications.
- The product that is required is under patent, copyright, or proprietary design.
- The product is available only direct from the manufacturer.
- The product is a replacement part or component for existing equipment and only available from one source.
What is NOT a sole source:
- Something deemed to be the “best” fit for a specific purpose (by going through a process to determine what is “best” you are actually conducting a procurement process).
- Something that is a “really good deal” – a vendor giving a great price for a short time, or only has one item available that we won’t get if we don’t place a PO now.
- A good price, no time to do a bid, or stating it is the “best” anything are not reasons for sole source.
- Something where there are multiple sources of supply but one supplier may be unique in how they do something, or we’ve used one in the past, or other institutions have used a supplier – these are examples of “single source” but not sole source. With Single Source suppliers, we have a preferred but under SC law, those are not “sole” or only possible supplier so we would still need to compete, most likely via a Request for Proposal.
Sole Source Justification <=$10K
If you are making a purchase that is <$10K, you must use the Sole Source form in buyWays, but your justification simply needs to state why it is sole source. Since this is below our State limit for bidding, we are able to be a little laxer in the justification. As long as your justification makes sense, it will be acceptable.
Sole Source Justification >$10K
If you are making a purchase that is >$10K, you must use the Sole Source form in buyWays and must provide very detailed and specific justification. The rest of this information on this page should be used as guidance for providing this justification.
**(new 8/2019) Sole Source Justification >$50K
The law now requires that we issue an Intent to Sole Source for those sole sources that are greater than $50K. It must be advertised for 5 business days (or 10 business days if >$250K). The purpose of this requirement is to transparently notify other suppliers of our intent so they can notify us if they believe they are also able to provide the same good or service.
Because of this new requirement, it is very important for the end user to understand the potential implications. Submitted a sole source because they think it is the fastest/easiest option may backfire because the process could take MUCH longer if it is not a sole source and another supplier protests or questions the justification. If we are not absolutely sure that something is a sole source it would make a lot more sense to do a bid/RFP as that may be a faster process with fewer issues. Your buyer can provide you advice on this, so please contact someone in Procurement if you have any questions or doubt as to a potential sole source.
For something that is truly a sole source, nothing changes – you still need a solid justification that can stand on its own if another supplier asks why we are purchasing from a specific supplier. However, because it is out there publically, it is just open to more scrutiny.
What makes a good sole source justification:
A simple statement explaining 1) what requirement you have, 2) why the equipment or service must meet that requirement, 3) why a particular piece of equipment or service is the ONLY one that can meet that requirement, and 4) how you know it is only available from the one specific vendor.
General Tips for a good sole source justification:
- Do NOT say “see attached”; you must write the justification in the space provided in the form in buyWays. It is much preferred to simply write a short paragraph than to write a long, formal memo that needs to be deciphered. When it comes to sole source, quality is WAY more important than quantity. If multiple items are truly unique in your justification, pick just one to explain in detail and use as your justification.
- Do NOT provide more details than required above; why it is a rush, why it is a good deal, or outlining specifications that are not unique to this purchase are irrelevant and should not be included. A good justification based on a single, well justified requirement is much better than a long, drawn out, confusing justification.
- Do NOT use word such as “we selected,” “a committee chose,” or “better than …;” these all suggest that an informal procurement process was used to select the product or service over another.
- DO highlight any requirements for compatibility with existing equipment (explain what we have and why our need must be compatible with it – then explain why it is the only compatible item); mention any ongoing research requirements.
- Note that under SC law and University policy, sole sources require a written determination and approval by the Procurement Director and Comptroller, plus any departmental or VP approvals as necessary, so allow time for processing.