A sole source specification restricts a bidder to providing materials, equipment, or labor, from one source. For example, a specification that requires the contractor to furnish a 1200 ton Trane CenTraVac® chiller would preclude furnishing any other make or model of chiller.
Sole source requirements are enforceable on private projects where the parties are free to contract with whomever and for whatever they want, so long as their contract is lawful and does not violate public policy. But sole source requirements can conflict with the policy behind public procurement laws that require competitive procurement to avoid squandering of public funds, cronyism, and corruption.
If a public entity wants a sole source specification on a public project, it must overcome the presumption that its purpose for the specification is to evade the competitive procurement laws. To do this, the public entity must have a rational basis to explain why a less restrictive specification would not, due to special circumstances, meet its needs.
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