Bids / RFPs

Competitive Bidding: Legal Concepts and Principles

The competitive bidding requirement is founded on public policy declared by the Legislature of California to protect the taxpayers (not businesses) from fraud, corruption, favoritism, extravagance or carelessness of public officials (regardless of their intent), and the waste of public funds.

The Public Contract Code and the Education Code govern procurement activities of community colleges. Pursuant to sections 20111 and 20651 the District is required to bid for public projects in excess of $15,000, and for equipment, materials, supplies, or services of more than $86,000. This covers anything furnished, leased, or sold to the district; and the Board of Trustees must normally award to the "lowest responsive and responsible bidder."

The law states: "It shall be unlawful to split or separate into smaller work orders or projects any project for the purpose of evading the provisions of this article..." A project may be separated into several trade-oriented contracts, as long as the competitive bidding requirements have been met.

A contract made without compliance with competitive bidding laws, where such bidding is required, is void and unenforceable and is in excess of the public agency's power. In addition, no payments may be made by a public agency under a contract let in violation of the competitive bidding laws. Exceptions to the bidding laws include the following.

  • Educational materials such as textbooks, library books, films, tests, and software.
  • Perishable foodstuffs and seasonal commodities needed for the operation of a cafeteria.
  • Surplus federal property.
  • Energy service contracts.
  • Facility financing and ground leases.
  • Purchase through other public agencies.
  • Emergency repair contracts. Repairs, alteration, or improvements necessary to permit the continuance of existing classes, or to avoid danger to life or property. Requires unanimous vote of the Board.
  • Special services and advice (consultants) in matters related to financial, economic, accounting, engineering, legal, and administrative functions, and for the issuance and preparation of payroll checks.
  • Sole source. If a particular product is needed, and only one source exists, to require a formal bid would be counter-productive. If the act of bidding does not create an economic advantage, and the purpose of the law would be served, then the bid process is not required.


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3375 Camino Del Rio South, San Diego, California 92108

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