The purpose of this page is to make available to the vendor community an overview of the basic information needed to access and participate in the procurement processes of the State. This overview provides no more than an introduction to certain concepts and should not be considered a complete treatment of these issues or an official interpretation of the law. Only the contract documents and any applicable statutes and regulations are complete and binding.
Who We Are
South Carolina has a two-tiered procurement system for state agencies. Agencies have direct authority to make purchases below a certain dollar threshold. Above that amount (which differs for each agency), procurements are conducted under the authority of a central procurement office that serves all state agencies covered by the South Carolina Consolidated Procurement Code.
Known as Procurement Services, this office consists of two subdivisions with purchasing authority: the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) and the Office of State Procurement (OSP). Please see our About Us page for details. Use the Contact Us link on the sidebar to find a complete listing of our staff.
While the Consolidated Procurement Code applies to most State agencies and to most procurements conducted by those agencies, there are exceptions. The Procurement Code applies to all "governmental bodies," as that term is defined by the Procurement Code. The definition is so broad, it includes virtually every aspect of state government. However, the General Assembly and all local political subdivisions, such as counties, municipalities, school districts, or public service districts, are expressly excluded. Other entities are expressly excluded, even though they might otherwise fit this definition. For the purposes of this document, Agencies means governmental bodies as defined in the Procurement Code.
Even if an entity is subject to the Procurement Code, a specific procurement may not be. Please see our list of the procurements "exempted" from the Procurement Code.
Rules We Follow
Public contracts are awarded in accordance with certain processes and procedures, all of which are defined by rules designed to provide for increased economy in the expenditure of state funds, foster effective broad based competition, ensure the fair and equitable treatment of all persons who deal with the procurement system, and provide for ethical behavior on the part of all persons engaged in the public procurement process.
For most agencies of state government, these rules appear in the South Carolina Consolidated Procurement Code and Regulations. A summary of our competitive procurement processes follows. Additional guidance is available in the policies and procedures adopted pursuant to those rules.
Our Competitive Processes
As outlined below, South Carolina uses a variety of source selection methods, or competitive processes, including:
- Three simplified "small purchase" procedures;
- Six standard competitive procedures (competitive sealed bidding, competitive best value bidding, competitive fixed price bidding, competitive on-line bidding (reverse auction), competitive sealed proposals, and competitive negotiations);
- Qualification based selection procedures for the acquisition of construction related professional design services;
- Indefinite Quantity Contracts for construction related design services; and,
- Task Order Contracts for construction.
The following procedures apply to solicitation of $10,000 or less:
Small Purchase Procedures:
- No competitive quotations – For procurements not exceeding $10,000, governmental bodies may acquire supplies, services, information technology, and construction without soliciting competitive quotations, but the prices must be considered reasonable.
- Request for written quotes without advertising –
- Construction and commercially available of the shelf products (COTS) – For construction procurements not exceeding $100,000, an Agency may solicit quotes from qualified sources without advertising. The Agency must receive at least three written bona fide quotes to make an award. If the Agency does not receive three quotes, they may advertise for quotes in South Carolina Business Opportunities (SCBO). If the Agency advertises in SCBO they are not required to receive at least three bona fide quotes in order to make an award.
- COTS are supplies, other than printing or information resources, that are sold in substantial quantities in the commercial marketplace and are offered to the State without modification, in the same form in which they are sold in the commercial marketplace. COTS do not include agricultural products, petroleum products, and other items customarily sold in bulk.
- Everything other than construction and COTS - For procurements not exceeding $25,000, an Agency may solicit quotes from qualified sources without advertising. The Agency must receive at least three written bona fide quotes to make an award. If the Agency does not receive three quotes, they may advertise for quotes in South Carolina Business Opportunities (SCBO). If the governmental advertises in SCBO they are not required to receive at least three bona fide quotes in order to make an award.
- Advertisement for written quotes – For everything other than construction and COTS where the procurement exceeds $25,000 but is less than or equal to $100,000, the Agency must solicit written quotes by advertising in SCBO.
The following procedures apply to solicitation of $10,000 or more:
Competitive Sealed Bidding: If this process is used, award must be made to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder whose written bid meets the requirements set forth in the invitation for bids (IFB). The IFB must include specifications and all applicable terms and conditions. Adequate notice must be given prior to the date set for the opening of bids.
Competitive Best Value Bidding: This process parallels competitive sealed bidding, but allows for factors other than price to be considered in the determination of award. Cost must be an evaluation factor and cannot be weighted at less than sixty percent. Award is made to the responsive and responsible bidder whose bid is determined to be most advantageous to the State, taking into consideration all evaluation factors set forth in the solicitation.
Competitive Fixed Price Bidding: This competitive process method provides multiple sources of supply based on a pre-set maximum price which the State will pay. Award is made to all responsive and responsible bidders.
Competitive On-line Bidding: This competitive process is reverse auctioning using an e-procurement system to accept electronic bids and to display the low price in real-time.
Competitive Sealed Proposals: If this process is used, award must be made to the responsive and responsible offeror whose proposal is determined in writing to be the most advantageous to the State, taking into consideration price and the evaluation factors set forth in the request for proposals. The state may elect to conduct discussions or enter negotiations. The solicitation, or request for proposals (RFP), must state the relative importance of the factors to be considered in evaluating proposals.
Competitive Negotiations: This process, which is used on complex, high dollar procurements, is similar to competitive sealed proposals with some significant exceptions. After receipt of proposals, the State will establish a competitive range. The state will simultaneously enter negotiations with all vendors whose proposals are within the “competitive range,” that is the two or three vendors whose proposals are the most advantageous. After completion of these negotiations, the state will ask only those vendors that are within the competitive range for best and final offers. The State will award to the vendor submitting the best and final offer it determines to be most advantageous to the State.
Qualifications Based Selection: For construction related professional design services involving fees of $50,000, an agency can select a firm on qualifications without any competitive process or public notice. For larger contracts, the agency must provide public notice, request information regarding qualifications, conduct interviews, rank firms, and negotiate an acceptable contract.
Indefinite Quantity Contracts: Governmental bodies may establish standing use-as-needed contracts for limited size acquisitions of construction related professional design services. Details are outlined in the State Engineer's Manual.
The State of South Carolina uses a statewide system for handling its business processes. Known as the South Carolina Enterprise Information System or SCEIS, this system includes a purchasing component known as Supplier Relationship Management (SRM). Except for the State's colleges and universities, and construction procurements, all covered governmental bodies use SRM to publish on the internet all competitive solicitations with a value in excess of the threshold values set forth above for request for written quotes.
When you register, you will be issued a unique vendor number, which must be provided when submitting a bid or proposal. During registration, you will be asked to identify those commodity codes that reflect the goods, services, or information technology you wish to provide. This information is used to send you e-mails regarding those solicitations issued through SCEIS and coded with one of the commodity codes you select.
Being a registered vendor does not guarantee that you will be notified of every solicitation of interest to you by every State agency. You will receive notification only of SCEIS-generated solicitations for which you match the commodity codes assigned by the solicitation's buyer. The only definitive listing of all competitive procurements above the three quote thresholds is the South Carolina Business Opportunities (SCBO) newsletter. This publication is provided free of charge by Procurement Services. If you want more information about what SCBO is and how to use it, please go to the SCBO home page.
Please note: Solicitations for construction and construction related professional services, such as architectural or engineering services, are not processed using SCEIS. However, they are advertised in SCBO.
Finding Opportunities - Big & Small
Please see the Contracting Opportunities page to find open solicitations to submit bids or proposals. For an overview of how various South Carolina public entities provide notice of their public contracts, please see our Public Notice Overview.
Often, procurements with a value less than three quote thresholds are not formally advertised or posted to the internet. To find these opportunities, vendors may wish to contact each agency's procurement office directly and ask to be added to their bid list.
Who Can Sign the Contract
When doing business with the government, finding the right person - the person who has actual authority to bind the government - is crucial because only someone with actual authority can spend public dollars or sign a contract for the government. When you deal with a procurement officer in the State's central procurement operation, you are dealing with someone that has authority to execute contracts for a covered agency. When you deal with staff at an agency, you must be sure that the person signing your contract has the authority to do so. To determine if a procurement is within an agency's authority, check our Certified Agency Listing. To determine if you are working with authorized agency staff, contact the agency's procurement office, which you can find with one of our directories. For additional information, see our overview of agency certification.
Small & Minority Businesses
Minority business enterprises (MBEs) can learn about resources and assistance by visiting South Carolina's Small and Minority Business Contracting and Certification web site. SMBCC maintains a Directory of certified MBEs on its website.
Preferences for In-State Vendors
South Carolina law provides certain advantages or "preferences" to businesses that qualify. A detailed summary is available here.
Political subdivisions, such as counties, municipalities, school districts and public service districts, are not subject to all rules found in the Consolidated Procurement Code. Nevertheless, a few parts of the code do apply. Further information can be found on the Political Subdivisions section of our Home Page.
Vendors are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with South Carolina's Ethics, Government Accountability, and Campaign Reform Act of 1991, as amended. With each contract, every vendor is required to certify compliance with these laws. The following statutes within the Ethics, Government Accountability, and Campaign Reform Act require special attention:
Section 8-13-700, regarding use of official position for financial gain;
Section 8-13-705, regarding gifts to influence action of public official;
Section 8-13-720, regarding offering money for advice or assistance of public official;
Sections 8-13-755 and 8-13-760, regarding restrictions on employment by former public official;
Section 8-13-775, prohibiting public official with economic interests from acting on contracts;
Section 8-13-790, regarding recovery of kickbacks;
Section 8-13-1150, regarding statements to be filed by consultants; and,
Section 8-13-1342, regarding restrictions on contributions by contractor to candidate who participated in awarding of contract.
In addition, vendors need to familiarize themselves with the regulation that governs gifts to public agencies with whom they have or may contract.
Protesting Solicitations & Awards
- you think the specifications of a solicitation are restrictive or the process is unfair, you have a statutory right to protest. For details, see our Legal - General Information page. Please remember that you have only a few days to protest, and you must be prepared to prove your case.