Uniform Guidance for Purchasing

Uniform Guidance is a government-wide framework for grants management requiring Columbia University to follow a set of rules and requirements for its use of federal awards, which Columbia refers to as sponsored projects.

Uniform Guidance (“UG”) is a set of regulations (located at 2 CFR 200) that consolidates federal guidelines impacting research administration. Per the OMB website, this guidance “supersedes and streamlines requirements from OMB Circulars A-21, A-87, A-110, and A-122 (which have been placed in 2 C.F.R. Parts 220, 225, 215, and 230); Circulars A-89, A-102, and A-133; and the guidance in Circular A-50 on Single Audit Act follow-up.”

“In order to maintain policies for managing sponsored projects consistent, Columbia University has implemented the Uniform Guidance Procurement Standards for all sponsored projects as of October 2017.”

Goals of Uniform Guidance

UG significantly reforms federal grant making to focus resources on improving performance and outcomes. The intent is to reduce administrative burdens for grant applicants and recipients and reduce the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse.

Procurement guidance is specifically located in sections 200.317-200.326. This guidance focuses on increased competition and transparency in the procurement process.

There are five general procurement standards that cover the purchase of property, supplies, and services under the Uniform Guidance:

  1. The organization must maintain written policies and procedures for procurement covering the methods available under these regulations.
  2. Costs must be reasonable and necessary

  3. Must provide for full and open competition

  4. The organization must maintain written standards of conduct covering internal and external conflicts of interest

  5. The organization must maintain documentation addressing cost and price analysis and vendor selections where applicable based on the method of procurement used.

Five Procurement Methods

The University must distribute micro-purchases equitably among qualified suppliers.

  • Micro-purchases may be awarded without soliciting competitive quotations if Columbia considers the price to be reasonable.

  • Rate quotes must be obtained from an “adequate” number of qualified sources.   A minimum of two sources will be considered to have met this requirement.

  • Quotes can be obtained from suppliers or from public websites and included as backup documentation for the purchase

  • Preferred method for procuring construction

  • Three or more qualified bidders

  • Bids are publicly solicited from an “adequate” number of known suppliers

  • Lowest responsive and responsible bidder for the fixed price contract should be awarded the contract

  • Used for either a fixed price or cost reimbursement contract when sealed bids are not appropriate

  • Formal procurement methods also require public advertising unless a noncompetitive procurement meets the requirements stated below

  • Proposals must be solicited from an adequate number of qualified sources

  • Written policy for conducting technical evaluations of reviewing proposals and selecting the recipient

  • Most advantageous bid wins, price and other factors considered

There are specific circumstances in which noncompetitive procurement can be used. Noncompetitive procurement can only be awarded if one or more of the following circumstances apply:

  • The acquisition of goods and/or services, the aggregate dollar amount of which does not exceed the micro-purchase threshold ($10,000)
  • The item is available only from a single source;
  • The public exigency or emergency for the requirement will not permit a delay resulting from competitive solicitation;
  • The Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity expressly authorizes noncompetitive proposals in response to a written request from Columbia; or 
  • After solicitation of a number of sources, competition is determined inadequate

Single/Sole Source (Non-Competitive)

Additionally, every sole source will require a price/cost justification.  Examples of methods of providing this documentation include:

  • documenting cost analysis efforts
  • documenting market research
  • including screenshots, emails, and/or catalog prices
  • documenting pricing information obtained from colleagues at peer institutions who have purchased the same or similar items
  • documenting prices of similar items
  • previous University Purchase Order issued within the past year

UG Conflicts of Interest Policy

As part of the OMB’s Uniform Guidance, there are specific requirements for conflicts of interest within a procurement action and how the University must handle them.

The regulation states:
“No employee, officer, or agent may participate in the selection, award, or administration of a contract supported by a Federal award if he or she has a real or apparent conflict of interest. Such a conflict of interest would arise when the employee, officer, or agent, any member of his or her immediate family, his or her partner, or an organization which employs or is about to employ any of the parties indicated herein, has a financial or other interest in or a tangible personal benefit from a firm considered for a contract.”

Guidance and Training

Please review the following resources for assistance with sponsored projects.

Uniform Guidance for Purchasing Job Aid

Purchasing Process Toolkit


RFP Template

RFP Evaluation Matrix

Competitive Sourcing Form - Sponsored ($10K–$250K)

Bid Prep Form (over $250K)

Purchasing Checklist and Competitive Sourcing Form—Sponsored (over $250K)


Please review the following policies for more information:

Compliance With Federal Cost Principles

Competitive Procurement Policy