Oversight for sole-source procurement

October 28, 2016

The CFI operates on the principle that its funds must be used effectively, economically, and in the best interests of the research supported by the award. To maximize the purchasing power of its investment and to ensure a fair and transparent process, the CFI requires that all purchases follow the usual institutional tendering and purchasing policies and procedures. At a minimum, these must comply with the requirements set forth in annex 502.4 of the Agreement on Internal Trade made between provinces and the federal government.

Institutional procurement policies normally include the requirement for a competitive bid process for purchases over a certain dollar threshold, and also list exceptions or circumstances that warrant procurement of goods or services from a specific supplier. Many institutions have implemented oversight practices and controls to mitigate the risk that such procurement requests may not be valid. Sole- or single-source justifications must be properly documented and supported, and must be reviewed and approved by an appropriate authority (e.g. the director of procurement services). These justifications are challenged as appropriate.

Some institutions have also gone a step further and instituted a procedure where public bid notices or Advanced Contract Award Notices (ACAN) are posted for purchases over a certain dollar threshold that are thought to be sole-source, based on the risk level determined by the institution. Although this goes beyond any CFI requirements and is not possible in every province, it is an example of a good practice that helps ensure a competitive bid process is properly performed whenever warranted.

Occasionally, oversight for sole-supplier procurement is also in place at the institutional Board level, where reporting and discussions take place.

Here's how one institution has implemented these practices.

Queen’s University

At Queen’s University, exceptions to the competitive bid process must be duly supported and approved. All sole- or single-source purchases are reviewed by the Strategic Procurement Services unit (approval obtained from the Director where applicable). In instances where the exception is insufficiently supported or questioned, the purchase is advertised on Biddingo, a public bidding platform, and undergoes a formal competitive bid process. The university will also use an Advanced Contract Award Notice in some instances to confirm sole-source status. Sole- and single-source purchases with a value greater than $2.5 million (cash and in-kind contribution) are reported and discussed at Board of Trustees meetings. In addition, the percentage of purchase orders that are sole-sourced is a key performance indicator for the Strategic Procurement Services unit.


Kelly McGarry
Associate Director
Strategic Procurement Services
Phone: 613.533.6000 ext. 33380
Email: mcgarryk [at] queensu.ca