11.5 Competitive Bidding

(Amended 12/11; 7/18; 7/13/22)


  1. General. Competition within a free marketplace provides the best value for the consumer. By encouraging competition among viable vendors, the university strives to obtain goods and services at the best possible cost and quality. Negotiations for purchases, including requests for quotations of prices, must be accomplished through the Purchasing Department.

    Purchases less than or equal to $25,000 may be delegated to individual department purchasers. Purchase of goods and services between $25,001 and $50,000  may be purchased through an informal competitive bid with an adequate number of vendors. Federally funded purchases must follow the Uniform Guidance policy. The Board of Regents, State of Iowa, requires competitive bidding for the purchase of all university goods and services greater than $50,000 in value.

    Certain purchases involve terms or conditions that require legal or risk managerment review. Contracts involving such terms or conditions are forwarded by the Purchasing Department to the Director of Risk Management  and/or to the General Counsel's Office for review, as appropriate.

    The three most effective formal methods of competitive bidding are the Request for Quotation (RFQ), the Request for Proposal (RFP), and the Request for Qualificatons (RQFL). These methods provide:
    1. Increased savings;
    2. Exact communication of wants and needs;
    3. Equal and fair access to all qualified vendors;
    4. Compliance with university, Regent, state, and federal acquisition regulations and laws;
    5. Improved information provided by vendors;
    6. Objective evaluation for awards; 
    7. Services of an experienced purchasing professional; and
    8. An established contract under which the vendor is legally obligated to perform.
  2. Request for Quotation (RFQ). The Request for Quotation is used for acquisitions based on lowest cost that meets specifications. The university issues formal RFQs for all goods and services greater than $50,000 in value unless a sole-source justification is received and approved. (See V-11.9 Waiver of Bid Requirements.)

    The Purchasing Agent routinely obtains several quotes, seeking the best price available. Purchasing Agents, in concert with the end users, develop specifications and send the RFQs to potential vendors. Vendors may then reply with a bid showing exact price, shipping costs, delivery schedule, payment terms, and other particulars of the items sought.

    Purchasing makes the award to the vendor who submits the lowest priced offer whose goods meet  the specifications stated in the RFQ. 
  3. Request for Proposal (RFP). The Request for Proposal (RFP) is used for acquisitions based on other significant factors in addition to price. Examples include capabilities, past performance, support, service, warranty and maintenance. 
  4. Request for Qualifications (RFQL). The Request for Qualifications process is used primarily for selecting professional services. This process enables the evaluation committee to select the awarded vendor based on the professional's unique skill set, experience, and expertise that are most critical to the success of the project or services requested.
  5. Negotiations. The use of negotiated, noncompetitive, and sole-source purchasing procedures must be approved by the Purchasing Department.With appropriate institutional review, both competitive negotiation and noncompetitive negotiation processes may replace written competitive bidding when the purchase is anticipated to exceed $50,000.