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Sole Source Purchasing

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the term “sole source” often relates to a municipality’s procurement practices. It refers to situations where a product or service is available from only one supplier, making it the sole source for that particular need. The legal use of sole source procurement generally requires justification, demonstrating that the unique characteristics of the product or service make it the only suitable option. Public entities in Pennsylvania may have specific regulations and guidelines governing the procurement process, including the circumstances under which sole source procurement is acceptable. It is advisable to consult the Pennsylvania procurement laws or seek legal advice for precise information tailored to your situation.


To familiarize yourself with this process, I would recommend reviewing materials from the PA Department of General Services. There, you will find resources to help you complete a sole source purchase. An excerpt from the state’s procurement handbook:


If you meet the requirements for a sole source contract, you will need to follow the correct procedure by obtaining permission from state Department of General Services to make the purchase. Those purchases over $100,000 will necessitate further investigation and approvals with the state and your supplier.


During my tenure as a township manager, I had the opportunity to utilize the option of sole source when buying a very specialized type of road maintenance equipment. As I sought others who may have had similar machines, I found that no others existed that were of similar design and functionality. My next step was to discuss this with our solicitor and see if sole sourcing was a viable option. The estimated cost was below the $100,000 threshold for further state approvals, so he advised careful notation of the event in the minutes of public meetings. After a thorough review of the state procurement regulations, it was determined that the purchase was allowable under the sole source provisions.


Proceed with caution when considering sole source practices, and always work with your legal team to ensure proper adherence to rules and regulations. As always, "fire this thing up" and get that unique piece of equipment or service using the Sole Source option.


 About the Author

David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 33 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.

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