Introduction to State Procurement
State laws govern purchases. These laws establish competitive bidding as the preferred method and permit the delegation of purchases to state agencies and institutions. The authority and responsibility for all state purchases is placed in the Department of Administration.
Every year, Wisconsin state agencies, institutions and campuses purchase over $1 billion worth of goods, services and capital equipment. Most of these purchases are made from private companies and are low dollar orders and many are from small businesses.
Frequently Asked Questions
Getting Started with the State
The following are answers to the most frequently asked questions from suppliers about doing business with the State of Wisconsin. If you are unable to find an answer to your question below, please contact the Wisconsin State Bureau of Procurement at
firstname.lastname@example.org, (800) 482-7813 (US only) or (608) 264-7897.
Wisconsin State Procurement Overview
How does Wisconsin do business? What’s the process?
How can I do business with the State?
Below is a brief overview of Wisconsin’s procurement process:
The process starts when the State identifies a need. For example, there may be a new commodity (product) or service that the State wants to buy or an existing contract will be expiring soon and needs to be re-bid. Next, the State will issue a solicitation if the total amount spent on this service or product over the course of the contract would be $50,000 or above. Any business who has registered on the eSupplier Portal for Bidders (https://eSupplier.wi.gov) and has an NIGP code attached to their account that matches one that’s on the solicitation will receive an automatic email notification letting them know there’s an opportunity to do business with the State. Businesses interested in selling this product or service to the State will submit responses to the solicitation before the deadline, being sure to follow all instructions outlined in the solicitation. The State will review the responses and may award one or more contracts based on the submitted responses. Once a contract is in place, then the State may begin to do business with the contracted vendor. For more information about the State’s procurement process, refer to the
I want to talk to someone about my products and services. Who can I talk to at your agency?
If you haven’t yet started your business, you can find resources to do so on the Department of Revenue’s
Starting a Business page or on the
Wisconsin One Stop Business Registration Portal.
If you already have a business, you can begin by registering on the
eSupplier Portal for Bidders. Then you’ll want to add NIGP codes to your eSupplier account – NIGP codes tell the system what type of business you’d like to do with the State. Completing these steps will allow you to receive automatic notifications of solicitations that match your business interests from State agencies, University of Wisconsin System campuses and any Wisconsin municipalities that choose to post with the State. For detailed eSupplier registration instructions, view the
eSupplier Bidder FAQ Guide.
Once you receive notification of a solicitation, you can decide whether you’d like to submit a response. If you choose to do so, follow the instructions in the solicitation and be sure to submit your completed response by the due date and time. The State will review the responses and may award one or more contracts as a result. If your business is awarded a contract, then the State may start purchasing your product or services once the contract is in place.
How do I become a preferred bidder (or preferred vendor)?
If you are already a contracted vendor and want to discuss the products or services available on the current contract, you should reach out to that contract’s manager.
On the other hand, if you are not a contracted vendor and simply want to introduce a product or service in the hopes that the State may want to make a purchase (e.g., a “cold call”), then your chances of success might be limited. You could contact those listed on the
State Agency Purchasing Directory, but since the State follows a strict procurement process, a single individual isn’t able to decide to make a significant purchase without issuing a competitive solicitation and awarding a contract. Most of the time, your effort would be better spent researching contracts you would be interested in being awarded and figuring out when their next solicitation may be issued (contract searches are publicly available on VendorNet at
While the State doesn’t have “preferred bidders” or “preferred vendors” of any kind, Wisconsin does have a list of approved, contracted vendors that we are able to do business with.
In order to be on a list of approved vendors with the State of Wisconsin, you have to be awarded a contract with the State. The way the procurement process works in Wisconsin is the State must first identify a need for a product or service. Then the State will issue a solicitation that includes NIGP codes representing the type of service or commodity (product) the State is looking for. Any business that is registered in eSupplier and has included a matching NIGP code in their eSupplier profile will automatically be sent an email notifying them of the solicitation. Businesses decide if they want to respond to the solicitation, and if so, prepare their bids or proposals and submit them to the State contact by the deadline set in the solicitation. The State evaluates the responses according to the process outlined in the solicitation and one or more vendors may be awarded a contract. Those businesses who have been awarded the contract are now on the list of approved vendors that the State may do business with for that service or commodity.
So, if you’d like to be a contracted vendor with the State of Wisconsin, you’ll need to participate in the procurement process and respond to one or more solicitations issued by the State. The first step will be to get your business registered on eSupplier. (Detailed eSupplier registration instructions can be found in the
eSupplier Bidder FAQ Guide.)
In addition to the solicitations listed on eSupplier, which are exclusively for State agencies, your eSupplier registration also ensures you are sent automatic notifications for the solicitations listed on VendorNet (https://vendornet.wi.gov), which include the solicitations for the University of Wisconsin System campuses and any Wisconsin municipalities that choose to post with the State. Note that when you go to VendorNet, you only need to click on the “Bids” tab at the top to review the solicitations – you do not need to register or login to VendorNet.
: For answers to additional supplier questions, refer to this downloadable document.
Step 1: Register on eSupplier
Companies interested in doing business with the State will need to register on the
eSupplier Portal for Bidders (https://eSupplier.wi.gov). Registration on eSupplier is available free of charge to all businesses and organizations that want to sell to the State. Once you’ve registered and have entered the appropriate NIGP codes, you will begin to receive automatic emails notifying you of new solicitations with State agencies, the University of Wisconsin System and municipalities that match the codes you’ve selected. For detailed registration instructions, see the eSupplier Bidder FAQ Guide.
Step 2: Respond to a Solicitation
To respond to a solicitation from a State agency, simply log in to eSupplier, review the solicitation, and submit your responses electronically within the system. To respond to a solicitation from a UW System campus or municipality, go to
VendorNet (https://VendorNet.wi.gov) to view the solicitation and follow the directions within the document to submit your response.
Step 3: Award
Once the deadline for the solicitation has passed and the solicitation has officially closed, the State will review the submitted responses and may award a contract to one or more businesses. For Request for Bids (RFBs), the award decision will be based on which business provided the lowest cost while still being able to meet the State’s requirements. For Request for Proposals (RFPs), an evaluation committee will score the responses based on pre-determined criteria and the award decision will be based on which response earned the highest overall score.
Step 4: Fulfillment and Payment
After delivery of products or services ordered, the vendor must submit an invoice for payment to the agency specified on the purchase order. When merchandise is received, it is inspected and a receiving report may be prepared. The receiving report is then compared with the vendor’s invoice and the order form. If all the documents are in order, a payment request is submitted and a check is issued within 30-days.
Vendor’s Guide for further information about doing business with the State of Wisconsin.
Types of State Purchases
Decentralized purchases are up to individual state agencies, meaning there is no state contract directing that agency to a particular vendor. It is incumbent upon that state organization’s buyer to find the best value for their agency.
Examples of decentralized purchases include:
Food and food service
Scientific and medical equipment
Centralized purchases are contracts that are negotiated by the state. All Wisconsin state agencies are expected to purchase these items though the vendor or vendors with the state contract.
Examples of centralized purchase include:
Office supplies including paper
Personal computers, software, printers and copiers
Advertising and marketing
Hazardous waste management
Coal and natural gas
Methods of Procurement
Request for Bids (RFBs)
Requests for Bids are used when the State knows the exact product or service they need and clear specifications can be written. With RFBs, cost is the most important factor. Assuming a bid meets all specifications and is submitted by a responsible bidder, then the contract would be awarded to the bidder who submitted the lowest bid.
Request for Proposals (RFPs)
Requests for Proposals are used when the State cannot make an award strictly based on specifications or price. Instead of asking vendors to meet detailed and precise specifications, vendors are given an opportunity to propose how they would provide a product or service. With RFPs, cost is still a factor, but it’s not the only factor. Instead, an Evaluation Committee scores the proposals based on a pre-determined set of criteria, and a contract is awarded to the proposer with the highest-scoring proposal.
Tips for Responding to Solicitations
When you are responding to a solicitation, we recommend that you:
Read the documents carefully to understand the State’s requirements.
Take advantage of official question and answer opportunities.
Communicate only with the designated contact for the solicitation, typically only in writing.
Monitor the solicitation posting while it is open/active to ensure you receive and understand any amendments or other changes made to the event through the due date.
Follow the instructions carefully and do not substitute your own materials in lieu of what is being asked. It’s important for procuring agencies to be able to do apples-to-apples comparisons of bids and proposals.
Do not alter any of the forms or the price sheet unless the bid expressly allows such alterations (e.g., allowing bidders to add more rows to a price sheet) as price/cost sheets are created to solicit pricing in an equitable manner.
Review the terms and conditions, as they will be part of the final contract.
Complete all the required forms so the procuring agency can promptly review the responses.
The State of Wisconsin adjusts its procurement procedures depending upon how much is being spent. As a general rule, the following guidance exists, but exceptions may apply.
$5,000 or less
Purchases may be made from vendors who, according to the best judgment of the purchasing agent, can supply the item of appropriate quality at a reasonable price.
Purchases over $5,000 through $50,000
The purchasing agent compares bids from a minimum of three bidders whenever possible from price lists, quotes on file, phone or verbal quotes or written bids.
At this level, a formal process is used. Solicitations are posted on VendorNet and eSupplier and are advertised on the State of Wisconsin’s Public Notices website.
VendorNet is a state database containing all available bids and current contracts for suppliers to search. VendorNet provides easy access to a wide variety of information of interest to suppliers who wish to provide goods and services to state agencies and municipalities.
Companies interested in doing business with the State
must register on the eSupplier Portal for Bidders
(https://eSupplier.wi.gov). Registration is free and is available to all businesses and organizations that want to sell to the State full eSupplier registration instructions are available in the
eSupplier FAQ Guide. Once a vendor has registered on eSupplier and has entered all appropriate NIGP codes to their account (codes that match the commodities or services their company provides), they will receive automatic email notifications letting them know any time there is a new opportunity to do business with a state agency, University of Wisconsin System campus or a Wisconsin municipality that chose to post solicitations with the state. In addition, users can search for and respond to agency solicitations through eSupplier. All solicitations are also posted on
VendorNet and on the Wisconsin
Public Notices website.
Wisconsin Reciprocity Law
Wisconsin law does not provide a preference for in-state businesses. Rather, Wisconsin treats another state’s vendors as our vendors are treated there (i.e., Wisconsin penalizes an out-of-state vendor if its state imposes an in-state preference). The National Association of State Procurement Officials gathers information on in-state preference practices of all states. For details, consult the following website:
Minority Business Enterprises (MBE)
Statutes provide that agencies “shall attempt to ensure that 5% of the total amount expended…in each fiscal year is paid to minority businesses.” In addition, state law allows agencies to apply a price preference of up to 5% on behalf of certified MBEs. The MBE goal and preference apply only to minority businesses certified by the Department of Administration, Supplier Diversity Program.
Disabled Veteran-Owned Business (DVB)
Statutes provide that agencies “shall attempt to ensure that 1% of the total amount expended…in each fiscal year is paid to disabled veteran-owned businesses.” In addition, state law allows agencies to apply a price preference of up to 5% on behalf of certified DVBs. The DVB goal and preference apply only to disabled veteran-owned businesses certified by the Department of Administration, Supplier Diversity Program.
Contracts estimated to be over $50,000 require the contractor to submit a written affirmative action plan. The contractor may be exempt from this requirement if their workforce has fewer than 50 employees. Technical assistance in writing an affirmative action plan is available from the contracting State agency.
Weekly Oil Pricing
Questions relating to Weekly Oil Pricing, contact
Jeannie McCarville (608) 264-9590