COSTARS: Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions


1.   General Program Questions

What does "COSTARS" mean?
 "COSTARS" stands for "Cooperative Sourcing to Achieve Reductions in Spend" .  COSTARS is a fresh approach to cooperative purchasing.  COSTARS encourages the formulation of an interactive partnership between local public procurement units (LPPUs) and the Commonwealth.  The program uses group participation and feedback to leverage purchasing power, resulting in more competitive pricing that participating purchasers might be able to obtain individually.

Who can purchase from a COSTARS Contract?
Any contract that the Department of General Services (DGS) bids as a COSTARS contract is for exclusive use by LPPUs and state affiliated entities who have registered with DGS as COSTARS members.  Commonwealth executive and independent agencies are not eligible COSTARS members.  Where a statewide DGS contract exists, Commonwealth agencies generally are required to purchase supplies and services through that contract; statewide contracts may be open to LPPUs and state-affiliated entities as well.

What is a local public procurement unit (LPPU)?
The Commonwealth Procurement Code (Code) definition of LPPU includes:
  • any local government unit, such as a municipality, school district, commission, or public authority
  • any tax-exempt, nonprofit educational institution or organization;
  • any tax-exempt, nonprofit public health institution or organization;
  • any nonprofit first responder group (fire company, rescue company, or ambulance company; and
  • any other entity that spends public funds for the procurement of supplies, services, and construction (such as council of governments or an area government).

 What is a state-affiliated entity?
 A state-affiliated entity includes any Commonwealth authority or Commonwealth entity, including the:
  • Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
  • Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency,
  • Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System,
  • Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority,
  • State Public School Building Authority,
  • Pennsylvania Higher Education Facilities Authority, and
  • State System of Higher Education
Statewide "row" offices, including the Auditor General, Attorney General, and State Treasurer are not State-affiliated entities under the code.

How did the COSTARS Program get started?
The passage of the Commonwealth Procurement Code, Act 57 of 1998 ("Code"), permitted LPPUs and state-affiliated entitites to engage in cooperative purchasing with the Commonwealth.  Initially, DGS limited the LPPUs' cooperative purchasing options to certain statewide contracts.  In Spring 2004, DGS developed the COSTARS Program to increase the cooperataive purchasing options for local Members.
In 2004, the General Assembly, through the passage of an amendment to the Code, expanded DGS's authority to permit DGS to enter into contracts exclusively for the benefit of LPPUs and state-affiliated entities.  DGS estimates that there are more than 10,000 LPPUs with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Currently, over 2,500 of these potential cooperative Members are already registered with DGS as COSTARS members.

2.   Questions from potential COSTARS Purchasers

How do I register my organization to become a COSTARS purchaser?
Provided your group meets the statutory eligibility requirements outlined in Section 1 of these FAQ's, you may register your LPPU or state-affiliated entity as a COSTARS member by completing the online registration form at =|, or by calling the COSTARS team at
1-866-768-7827.  Only registered LPPUs and state-affiliated agencies my participate in the COSTARS program.


We registered with DGS to buy from statewide contracts some time ago. Now that we want to use these new COSTARS contracts, we’re told we have to have a registration number. Where do we get that?

Apparently the registration you refer to was completed before the current registration requirements took effect. DGS sent letters to all registered COSTARS users as of March 14, 2005, to inform them of the need to complete a revised registration by the end of June. DGS also sent reminder letters about the new registration on April 21, 2005 and June 2, 2005.
The good news is that you can still register to purchase from the new COSTARS contracts, and the entire process can be done online (it should take fewer than five minutes!). Just click on this link and follow the instructions:
If you supply your e-mail address, you’ll get an e-mail confirmation of your registration from DGS as soon as you’re approved!

What if I am unsure whether my group is eligible as a local public procurement unit under the law?
If you contact DGS's COSTARS team via the COSTARS website, the team will assist you in determining your organization's eligibility. 

Is there a fee involved in registration?
No, the only fees connected with the COSTARS Program are charged to COSTARS suppliers.

How long does it take for COSTARS registration to be effective?
Within one (1) week of your application, DGS will either confirm your organization's eligibility or request additional information from you to determine its eligibility.

What if my organization is interested in contracting with a supplier that doesn't hold a COSTARS or statewide contract with the Commonwealth.
All eligible COSTARS members remain free to obtain goods and services through their regular procurement process.  Participation in the COSTARS and statewide contracts is completely voluntary for local purchasers.  However, there are some statewide contracts that may require additional information from LPPUs (for instance, the Road Salt contract) to determine estimated contract amounts that be required of the supplier.  In that instance, if you choose to provide the requested information, DGS would then require your organization to purchase from that contract.

For statewide contracts, how do I know when a supplier has agreed to sell to COSTARS purchasers?
Each Commonwealth contract will specify whether the supplier has agreed to sell to COSTARS members. 

Do I order supplies/services through COSTARS?  
No.  After you have reviewed the specific statewide or COSTARS contract in which our organization is interested, you should deal directly with the awarded supplier of your choice to order the contract item(s).  You must, however, state the contract number on your purchase order to the supplier, and you should include your COSTARS member number.

Do I need to notify DGS of what I have ordered from state and/or COSTARS contracts?
If you are ordering from a COSTARS contract, no.  The supplier is required to report all purchases to DGS on a monthly basis.  If you are ordering through a statewide contract, however, you must report your purchases to DGS on a monthly basis. 

Must a local government entity first solicit competitive bids if it wants to purchase through the COSTARS program?
Because the Commonwealth has awarded COSTARS contracts and statewide contracts through its own competitive bidding, the competitive bidding requirement for local government purchasing is satisfied.  However, when purchasing from a COSTARS contract, we suggest that you contact several suppliers to receive the lowest possible price for the purchase.

If the specifications for the item does not match exactly with what my organization is looking for, may I make additions, deletions or other changes in the contract terms?
When ordering from a statewide or COSTARS contract, a purchaser may not change any contract items, options, or specifications for the purchase to be considered a contract purchase; the purchaser must purchase the items exactly as stated on the awarded contract to be within the contract terms.  Any change is considered a change in the terms of the procurement and would therefore result in a purchase that does not meet the competitive bidding requirements of the COSTARS program.  The Commonwealth Procurement Code does not support such a purchase, and going forward with changes may place your organization in violation of procurement law.

May I purchase from a supplier who is not under contract with the Commonwealth if the supplier offers the same price as the COSTARS or statewide contract offers for the items I want?
If you purchase items from any business other than a supplier that is under contract with the Commonwealth, you must comply with your organization's normal requirements to procure the supply or service.  Failure to do so may place your organization in violation of the procurement law. 

Does the COSTARS program offer used equipment for purchase? 
The COSTARS program does not have any current contracts offering used equipment.  However, the Commonwealth has a Surplus Property Program offering state-owned equipment and supplies that the Commonwealth no longer requires for sale to the general public.  DGS runs the surplus property sales through its Harrisburg distribution center and at specific periodic sales throughout the Commonwealth.  This program also allows local government entities too participate in auction bid sales of heavy equipment as well as in annual contract bids for suppliers of recyclable materials.
The Federal government also has a Surplus Property Program available to many LPPUs, where the US government donates used equipment and supplies to eligible entities.  Participants incur only a service charge to cover the administrative costs of the program.
If you are interested in more information on the State or Federal Surplus Property Programs, contact the DGS Bureau of Supplies & Surplus Operations at 717-787-9725 or visit the DGS website at .

3.   Questions from potential COSTARS suppliers?

Why is DGS issuing Invitations For Bids for various types of goods when DGS has already awarded statewide contracts for these goods?
DGS awards Contracts for Commonwealth agencies' use statewide. In general, LPPUs and state-affiliated entities may also purchase from many of those statewide contracts.  In 2004, the Pennsylvania General Assembly, via the code, directed DGS to issue special contracts soley for the use of LPPUs and state-affiliated entities for certain goods and services.  DGS has included these special Non-Commonwealth agency contracts, know as "COSTARS contracts", as part of the COSTARS program.  All DGS contracts through which LPPUs and state-affiliated entities may make purchases are part of the COSTARS program, and to participate in any of these contracts, Purchasers must be registered COSTARS members.

DGS's Strategic Sourcing Contracts do not include administrative fees.  Why is DGS charging Bidders/Contractors administrative fees for COSTARS Contracts?
Because DGS incurs costs for establishing COSTARS contracts for the exclusive use of COSTARS Purchasers without any corresponding benefits, DGS has determined that assessing administrative fees to those suppliers who wish to participate in these exclusive COSTARS contracts for the privilege of selling to COSTARS Members under the Contract is the most equitable way to allocate the costs of administering these contracts.  The required supplier assessments include a one-time set-up fee and an annual renewal fee.

Where does a Supplier make the certifications specified in subsections a. and b. of Section 29, Standard Terms and Conditions (Contractor Responsibility Provisions)?
Since Section 29 is part of the Contract terms, the Bidder's signed Bid/Contract and bid submission functions as the certification of contractor responsibility.  If the bidder is unable to make the certification because of a specific set of circumstances, the bidders must submit, along with its Bid, a detailed written explanation.

How do I know what to bid?  The Bid Item Workbook does not include an item list.
The COSTARS Program contracts do not dictate any specific lists of items.  Rather, a bidder may offer any type or number of items within the scope of the contract.  Please refer to the Contract Scope as defined in the Special Contract Terms and Conditions.

The Bid Documentation requests a price list name and/or identification number.  If a manufacturer does not have a "price list name" and "identification number" for their price list, how should bidders respond?
In this situation, the bidder must state that the price list name and/or identification number is "Not Applicable".  The specified manufacturer's name and effective date of the price list will be used for the purpose of Price List Identification.

If a Bidder's product offering is contained in 2 or three different pricelists, and not consolidated on a single pricelist, is the Bidder allowed to identify more than pricelist on the Bid Item Sheet?
The Bidder must submit each price list on a separate Bid Item Sheet.  If the bidder is offering part but not all of the items on any one price list for the COSTARS contract, the bidder must clearly identify the applicable areas for offered  items as well as clearly marking the items not offered under the contract.

Will non-COSTARS purchasers have access to suppliers' price lists and other pricing information?  Is it possible for bidders to protect their pricing information from the general public?
There is a "Members Area" on the COSTARS website accessible only by registered COSTARS members via member id number and password.  COSTARS contract pricing information, as well as supplier information and any link to a supplier website, will be within the COSTARS website "Members Area" only.  Member ID and password information regarding COSTARS participants is confidential and will not be provided to suppliers.  However, any Commonwealth contract, including the applicable pricing is public information accessible upon request to any Pennsylvania resident under the Pennsylvania Right-To-Know Law.  With regard to DGS publication of the information, DGS will not affirmatively publish any detailed pricing information on its own initiative.

How will DGS compare and score pricing submittals?  Will DGS be using a pricing matrix?
Please refer to Section 7. of the Instructions to Bidders for COSTARS Contracts, which reads ". . . DGS will award a COSTARS contract by issuing a copy of the fully-executed and approved contract documents to all responsible and responsive bidders [emphasis added]."  Because everyone who is responsible and responsible will be awarded a contract, DGS will not compare bidders' pricing submittals for COSTARS procurements.

May a manufacturer respond to the bid but have ordering and billing done through a local dealer network?
Yes.  However, any manufacturer's authorized dealer may also respond to the Invitation for Bid and is also eligible for its own separate Contract award.  Please refer to Section 7. of the Instructions to Bidders for COSTARS Contracts and Section 3. of the COSTARS Contract Special Terms and Conditions for this procurement for complete information.

On the Contract Sheet [Form GSPUR-15-COSTARS BID/CONTRACT], who may sign on  behalf of the bidder?
When the Bidder/Contractor is a Corporation, the president or a vice president should sign the COSTARS BID/CONTRACT.  If another corporate representative signs the Bid/Contract, the Bidder/Contractor should include a copy of a corporate resolution or by-laws authorizing other individual(s) to sign the Bid/Contract on behalf of the corporation, to demonstrate that the individual has actual authority to sign on behalf of the corporation.  The DGS Corporate Certification form is also an acceptable proof of signature authority.

Why is the supplier required to furnish DGS with monthly sales reports?
DGS will assemble data furnished on monthly sales reports to quantify Contract purchasing activity.  This will permit DGS to report COSTARS contract use to the General Assembly and to better inform prospective COSTARS suppliers of the historical volume of the contracts in future invitations for bid.

The COSTARS standard terms and conditions (in Section 9 - Contractor Dedicated Website) provide that DGS would prefer that the supplier provide a dedicated website to allow purchasers to place online orders for contract items.  If resellers are unable to provide that functionality, will they be excluded from the bidding process?
No, neither the manufacturers nor their authorized resellers are excluded from participation as COSTARS suppliers if unable to provide a dedicated website.  While DGS strongly encourages the supplier to provide a dedicated website for COSTARS members, it is not required.

If a dedicated website is required, when would it need to be operational should the manufacturer or reseller receive a contract award?  
While DGS strongly encourages each COSTARS supplier to provide a dedicated website for COSTARS members, it is not required.  Please refer to Section 9. of the COSTARS Contract Standard Terms and Conditions for more information.

Assuming we are awarded a contract, will be able to offer a link through the COSTARS website at a later date?  
Yes.  If a supplier adds a website after contract execution, the supplier must notify DGS of the site and provide link information for DGS to include on its COSTARS website.

If resellers bid the contract, are they allowed to bid more than one manufacturer's product line?
Yes.  Resellers may bid as many manufacturers' product lines as the manufacturers authorize them to sell.

If the bidder is a reseller, and the reseller's distributor holds the contract with the manufacturer, the distributor may choose to authorize the reseller on behalf of the manufacturer to sell the manufacturer's goods and materials.  In this situation, will DGS accept the distributor's written authorization for the bidder to sell the manufacturer's good and materials?
Yes, DGS will accept written proof from the distributor on behalf of the manufacturer of the bidder's authorization to sell the manufacturer's goods and materials.  The written proof from the distributor must state that the distributor is authorized to act on behalf of the manufacturer, and as such, is authorizing the reseller to sell the manufacturer's goods and materials.  Such written proof need not be specific to this procurement.

Are resellers permitted to reduce their discount percentage on an item if the manufacturers change the list price on that item?
No, the percent discount(s) or mark-up(s) from the bid documents are to remain firm for the entire contract period, including any renewal or extension periods.  The actual cost to the Purchaser may fluctuate based on changes to the Manufacturer or Distributor's price list of Distributor's cost sheet.

Leasing and Installment Purchase Terms & Conditions - Is it mandatory that the bidder provide leasing options?
Where applicable, leasing and installment purchases are options a supplier may offer.  Suppliers are not required to offer leasing or installment terms to purchasers.

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