Contracting with vendors to provide products and services to state agencies


What is a P-Card? Why is the State using it? What are the benefits?

The State of Idaho Purchasing Card (P-Card) is a Bank of America Visa Card used by state agencies primarily for small purchases and travel. It functions just like a personal credit card and can be used wherever Visa is accepted.

  • Why? - Efficiency, Reduction of Paperwork, Choice.
    The purpose of the Purchasing Card Program is to streamline and simplify the requisitioning, purchasing and payment process for small dollar transactions. The Program is designed to shorten the approval process and reduce the paperwork of procurement procedures such as purchase orders, petty cash, check requests and expense reimbursements. The goals of the Program are to:
    reduce the cost of processing small dollar purchases
    receive faster delivery of required merchandise
    simplify the payment process
    provide cardholders with empowerment to choose!
  • Agency Benefits.
    With the P-Card state employees can simply purchase where they can find the best value, no more setting up charge accounts at every store in town, having to use "store" charge cards, issuing petty cash, requesting rotary checks for mail order or internet businesses, or having to issue purchase orders for every small purchase (and hotel reservations!). That means no more piles of invoices from retailers to process, missing invoices to search for, reconciling multiple statements, and answering calls from retailers on overdue bills. The agency gets one statement for payment that shows the total amount due for all cardholders. Each cardholder can obtain an individual statement from Bank of America's Works system (for agencies that use the State Controller's Office P-Card Application, cardholder statements can be obtained from that system) to reconcile that includes all their purchases for the month.
  • Vendor Benefits.
    Vendors will receive payment from the bank within 48-72 hours. They won't need to have individual accounts with every State Agency and won't be calling agencies about overdue invoices. The timely payment and reduction of paperwork will more than offset the slight cost incurred by accepting a credit card.
  • Overall State Benefits.
    Overall the State of Idaho will benefit by the reduction in paperwork, resulting in a reduced cost of doing business. As more agencies begin using the P-Card for more purchases, there will be fewer transactions processed through the State Controllers Office and fewer warrants issued by the State Treasurers Office. If used to the full, the P-Card can have a significant impact on the cost of doing business for the State!
  • Increased Agency Controls.
    Many agencies express concern about giving employees a credit card, but agencies can determine who gets a P-Card and for what purpose, and actually increase their control over purchasing activities. For example; agencies can decide the type of products or services that can be purchased and establish dollar limitations on each individual card. Cards can be customized in the following manner:
    a monthly dollar limit
    a daily dollar limit
    a "per transaction" dollar limit
    "blocked" merchant categories (a type of merchant can be blocked such as; bars, pawn shops, golf courses, etc.)
    Any combination or all of the above controls can be put in place on each individual card.
  • How to get your P-Card Program Started
    Contact Jason Urquhart at the Division of Purchasing. You will be sent, by e-mail where possible, complete implementation instructions and manuals. The Division of Purchasing is available to answer your questions, assist you in setting up your program, and help provide necessary training for your employees.
Contact Jason Urquhart for more information 208.332.1608.

What is the Idaho Reciprocal Preference Law and how does it apply to purchasing?

Some states and countries provide a preference for vendors within their borders and add a percentage to bids received from outside states. Where that happens, the State of Idaho responds (reciprocates) in like manner by adding the same percentage to bids received from vendors who are "domiciled" in those states or countries. This applies to the purchases of materials, supplies, equipment, or services.

This law (Idaho Code 67-2349) applies to any department, division, bureau or agency thereof, city, county, school district, irrigation district, drainage district, sewer district, highway district, good road district, fire district, flood district, or other public body that solicits competitive bids.

  • How does it affect purchasing?
    The law is applicable to any purchase that is bid, regardless of the dollar amount, and is not limited to the United States.
    It is not applicable to purchases that are not competitively bid, such as:
    *small purchases under $10,000 that are not competitively bid....however, if small purchases are bid, regardless of the dollar amount, then the reciprocal law takes effect
    *sole source purchases
    *emergency purchases
    *other purchases that are exempt from bidding (Rehabilitation Agencies, Correctional Industries, The Federal Government, Professional and Consultant Services under $100,000, Statewide and Agency Contracts and Price Agreements, Training Travel, Lodging, Seminars, and Meeting Rooms under $75,000, and any other purchase that may be exempted from bidding by the Division of Purchasing)
  • How is it applied to bids?
    In determining the lowest responsible bidder, a percentage increase should be added to each out-of-state bidders bid price which is equal to the percent of preference given to local bidders in the bidders home state. That is, if the low bidder is from a state that grants a 10 percent preference to its own in-state bidders, the Idaho agency must add 10 percent to that bidders price when evaluating the bid. It is only applied to bid evaluations when comparing bids from Idaho domiciled vendors with bids from out-of-state vendors with a preference in their state. There is no need to apply any percentage when comparing one out-of-state bid with another out-of-state bid. In no instance will the increase (penalty percentage) actually be paid to a vendor whose bid is accepted.
  • Where do I find preference information on other states and countries?
    Information on other states is available by clicking on this link:
    Reciprocal Preference Information
    Information on Canadian Provinces preferences is also available in the State Purchasing Reference Guide or by calling the Division of Purchasing office 208.327.7465.


Idaho Statute 67-2349
PREFERENCE FOR IDAHO SUPPLIERS FOR PURCHASES. To the extent permitted by federal laws and regulations, whenever the State of Idaho, or any department, division, bureau or agency thereof, or any city, county, school district, irrigation district, drainage district, sewer district, highway district, good road district, fire district, flood district, or other public body, shall let for bid any contract for purchase of any materials, supplies [and services, added 7-1-98, SLC148] or equipment, the bidder domiciled outside the boundaries of Idaho shall be required, in order to be successful, to submit a bid the same percent less than the lowest bid submitted by a responsible bidder domiciled in Idaho as would be required for such an Idaho domiciled bidder to succeed over the bidder domiciled outside Idaho on a like contract being let in his domiciliary state. For the purposes of this section, any bidder domiciled outside the boundaries of the state of Idaho may be considered as an Idaho domiciled bidder, provided that there exists for a period of one (1) year preceding the date of the bid a significant Idaho economic presence as defined herein. A significant economic presence shall consist of the following: (a) That the bidder maintain in Idaho fully staffed offices, or fully staffed sales offices or divisions, or fully staffed sales outlets, or manufacturing facilities, or warehouses or other necessary related property; and (b) If a corporation be registered and licensed to do business in the state of Idaho with the office of the secretary of state.

Why do I have to buy from state contracts when I can get items cheaper from other vendors?

Saving money is always a prime consideration when making a purchase. All state employees, and especially those charged with the responsibility for purchasing, are expected to secure maximum value for the tax dollar and conserve public funds. Statewide contracts are developed and competitively bid with those same goals in mind and generally offer quality products and services at fair prices.

It is important to remember that statewide contracts are developed with much more than just lowest cost in mind. They also include value-added services such as prompt delivery, extensive reports and other services that benefit all state agencies. The competitive bidding process affords all interested vendors an opportunity to participate in state business and the contracts that result from such processes are legal binding documents that the state and the vendor must adhere to. Purchasing off-contract without justifiable cause subverts the bidding process, discredits the state in the eyes of vendors and potentially violates state statute.

Idaho Code 67- 5726 says, in part: " ...No officer or employee shall fail to utilize an open contract without justifiable cause for such action..."
Idaho Code 67- 5717 says, in part: "...Unless an acquiring agency can show a substantial difference between the required capabilities and the capabilities provided by such property available on open contract, all agencies must utilize such property available on such contracts..."

It seems you can always find less expensive items if you "shop around" long enough. But, when you are trying to justify an off-contract purchase just because it costs less, be sure you consider the true cost of the "cheaper" item. In other words, how much time did you spend "shopping around" and how much does that add to the cost? What about delivery or pickup costs? How much time, effort and money is really spent "shopping around"? Be sure to also ask yourself "Are the items being compared really the same, the same quality, the same quantity, etc.?" Many times contract specifications require a certain quality of product, as well as a good price.

What does Sole Source mean? How do I order sole source items?

A sole source item is described as an item with only a single manufacturer/supplier. Sole source items are exempt from the formal bidding process. Many times agencies send requests for sole source purchases that describe an item made only by one manufacturer, however the item is distributed and readily available from many different suppliers, so it does not qualify as sole source. It has a sole manufacturer, but not a sole supplier. As long as there is more than one potential bidder or offeror for the property item then there is no justification for a sole source determination.

All requests for sole source items exceeding a cost of $10,000 must be submitted in writing to the Division of Purchasing with justification for such action. The Division of Purchasing shall determine the validity of sole source purchase requests.

How do I order computers from WSCA contracts?

Continuing the Division of Purchasing's efforts to improve purchasing options for Information Technology products and services, contracts for microcomputers, peripherals, and services have been established through the Western States Contracting Alliance (WSCA), of which Idaho is a member. To utilize the contracts each state was then tasked with negotiating and signing a Participating Addendum with each of the contractors. The PA's were necessary before Idaho agencies could utilize these WSCA contracts because they establish eligible entities to use the contract, include any special contract provisions required by Idaho, and authorize the Contractor to establish a Web site for Idaho ordering agencies.

These contracts are now available for viewing and downloading from the Statewide Contract Listing link: Agencies may issue orders against these contracts at any time. The contracts are all optional use - standard purchasing procedures apply to purchases if the contracts are NOT used.

If there are any questions, please call either the IT Purchasing Officer, or the State Purchasing Manager, 208.327-7465.

I took a state vehicle to the shop to check out a problem and they said it was going to be a major repair costing under $10,000. What do I do?

You may proceed with the repair without competitive bidding. Of course you want to be confident with the repair shop's diagnosis, cost estimate, and ability to repair the vehicle to your satisfaction. If practical, and the vehicle is still operable, it may be a good idea to get a second opinion. If over $10,000 then regular competitive bidding rules apply or emergency purchase rules if the vehicle is disabled or disassembled.

We have an emergency situation! How do we get what we need right now?

Emergency Purchase Authority (EPA) is a means to purchase supplies, property, or services when an emergency situation exists that requires immediate action to protect the public health, welfare, or safety or where a particular savings to the state may be had through use of educational discounts, sole source purchases, or other circumstances.

To request an emergency purchase, the agency submits a written or facsimile request to the Division of Purchasing stating the nature of the emergency, the product or service required and the basis for the selection, and the supplier. The Division of Purchasing will review the request, determine if an emergency exists, and make an appropriate emergency purchases. Some agencies have delegated emergency purchasing authority with a dollar threshold.
In the case of an extreme emergency, agency personnel may take whatever purchasing action necessary to protect human life or property. This should be followed by a written explanation and summary of the action taken submitted to the Division of Purchasing.

In the past, EPA's were issued for repairs to autos, buildings, and various other purchases. With the increase of purchasing authority to $10,000 to all agencies the need for EPA's has been greatly reduced.

Why do we need to get so many bids?

Competition in purchasing may be defined as equal opportunity to qualified vendors to compete for government business by vying against each other to offer the best prices, quality or service. Competition is the central principal of public procurement. In its purest form, competition ensures a free, open and healthy economy. When competition is available but is artificially restricted, the principles of public procurement are defeated.

In government purchasing, commodities and services are direct costs to the taxpayer, so state employee purchase under public scrutiny and in accordance with policies that take advantage of the benefits of competition. The rules and regulations listed in this guide for competitive solicitations are intended to secure sound value, to guard against favoritism and profiteering at public expense, and to promote the interest of private enterprise and the health of local economies by providing equal opportunities to compete for government business.
Even though no bidding is required for purchases under $10,000, competitive "shopping around" for the best buy is always encouraged and in the best interests of the state. For those agencies with delegated authority under $100,000, a minimum of three (3) solicitations from vendors having a significant Idaho economic presence is required. There is no maximum number of bids.

The intent is to seek adequate competition. Adequate competition requires seeking responses from qualified suppliers consistent with the size and nature of the intended purchase and continually searching for new qualified vendors. Be aware that markets change, firms come and go, and new and better products and services are constantly being created. Soliciting adequate and reasonable competition should be the rule and tends to afford the best practice, even for modest purchases.

Fundamentally, fostering competition is more a matter of attitude than a procedure or mechanism. This attitude reflects itself in searching for new sources of supply, in attempting to make solicitations simple and inviting, and in contacts and communications with vendors and contractors. Good vendor relationships are a necessity, but care should be taken to not conduct a relationship in a way that would impair impartiality, hinder the fostering of competition or constitute a conflict of interest.

Do vendors need to be registered with the State in order to bid?

No, as of July 1, 2001 the vendor registration requirement has been removed from Idaho Code.
The vendor registration system was created in 1974 as a means to provide a list of possible suppliers and the products or services they provide for competitive bidding purposes. Before that time, bidding opportunities were published in newspapers. The vendor registration system provided a comprehensive list of vendors seeking to do business with the state and a means of identifying the products and services that were specific to them.

Of course we still need to be able to contact our vendors for bids, so we use a third -party application service provider, SicommNET to power our State e-procurement website, IPRO. This internet-based system allows vendors to profile their companies online and receive bid notices via e-mail. To read more about how this system works follow his link:

Idaho ePurchasing

What is "significant Idaho economic presence"?

For items costing over $10,000 and not on contract, it is required that an agency solicit prices from a minimum of three (3) vendors having a significant Idaho economic presence as defined in Idaho Code. This means the bidder must have, for a minimum of one year prior to the bid, maintained in Idaho fully staffed offices, or fully staffed sales offices or divisions, or fully staffed sales outlets, or manufacturing facilities, or warehouses or other necessary related property. Further, if the bidder is a corporation, it must be registered and licensed to do business in the State of Idaho with the office of the Secretary of State.

Do I always have to buy from State contracts?

No, not always. If the item that you require is not on a statewide contract, you are not forced to purchase the one on contract. You should, however, closely examine your needs and determine if an item on contract will meet your requirements. If you elect not purchase an item on state contract you should have good, justifiable reasons why the contract item will not work for your operation.

Idaho Code 67- 5717 says, in part: "...Unless an acquiring agency can show a substantial difference between the required capabilities and the capabilities provided by such property available on open contract, all agencies must utilize such property available on such contracts..."

Many statewide contracts have provisions in them that allow you to purchase from other sources. Obviously it is not economically feasible to expect you to drive many miles or wait several days for delivery of an small cost item that is available locally. So, some contracts have minimum order quantities, minimum dollar amounts or restricted delivery areas that keep the contract cost effective for both the vendor and your agency. If your need does not meet these minimums, you do not have to use the contract. On the other hand, some contracts do not have minimum orders or quantities and the vendors will ship anywhere with overnight delivery at no additional cost. Each contract needs to be read carefully before making such decisions. Please contact your agency purchasing personnel or the Division of Purchasing with any questions regarding the use of statewide contracts.

What are the guidelines for maintenance agreements?

Maintenance, support, or any other service activity are all handled in the same manner. They are variations of a purchase wherein services are provided on a periodic basis and paid for either monthly, quarterly, or other time periods.

  • 1. If the requirement is for OTHER than Information Technology (IT), anything less than $10,000 in total payments for less than a one year period can be done non-competitively, if desired, and in any manner in the best interest of the State and good business practice.
    If it is over $10,000, but less than the limits of your delegated authority (usually $100,000), standard purchasing rules apply (i.e., three informal quotes, etc.). If competition in not possible or practical, then it must be sent to State Purchasing (with justification for waiving competition). Anything over your delegated authority is sent to State Purchasing.
  • 2. If it is for IT related services (includes equipment/software maintenance) and less than $100,000 and one year or less, it can be done non-competitively, if desired, and in any manner in the best interest of the State and good business practice. Anything exceeding this amount is handled by State Purchasing.

See Understanding Contracts for more information and guidelines for service contracting.

Location, Hours, and Contact Information

    Idaho Division of Purchasing
    650 West State Street, Room B-15
    Boise, ID 83702

    Map and Driving Directions

    Phone: (208) 327-7465
    Fax: (208) 327-7320

    Email: Division of Purchasing

    Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
    Monday – Friday
    (closed on all holidays)

    P. O. Box 83720
    Boise, ID 83720-0075