Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When Do Emergencies Cease to be Emergencies?

In public procurement, most states and local agencies have provisions that permit them to award a contract for goods, services, or construction in the event of an emergency.

Definition of an emergency: The definition of what constitutes an emergency and the subsequent waiving of competitive bidding requirements varies for different agencies, depending on state and local laws and policies.  Generally, however, an emergency occurs when there are unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of the agency that will likely result in any of the following if immediate action is not taken:
  • Material loss or damage to property
  • Bodily injury or loss of life
  • A real or immediate threat to the proper performance of essential functions.
How long do emergencies last?  Waiving competitive bidding requirements due to an emergency is an exception to the normal requirements.  Thus, emergency contracts are usually only valid to address the immediate emergency situation.  If there is subsequent or follow-up work that is necessary, it would generally not be deemed an emergency if the public agency would have sufficient time in which to competitively bid the work.  This, however, is a case-by-case decision that requires exercising subjective and wise judgment.

Washington state:  In Washington state, emergencies are defined in RCW 39.04.280, although some specific types of agencies also have their own definitions for emergencies.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog
© 2014 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

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