(a) Standards for competition. Except as provided in paragraph (d) of this section, awarding agencies shall enter into discretionary grants and cooperative agreements only after competition. An awarding agency's competitive award process shall adhere to the following standards:
(1) Potential applicants must be invited to submit proposals through publications such as the Federal Register, OMB-designated governmentwide website as described in 2 CFR 200.204, professional trade journals, agency or program handbooks, the Assistance Listings, or any other appropriate means of solicitation. In so doing, awarding agencies should consider the broadest dissemination of project solicitations in order to reach the highest number of potential applicants.
(2) Proposals are to be evaluated objectively by independent reviewers in accordance with written criteria set forth by the awarding agency. Reviewers should make written comments, as appropriate, on each application. Independent reviewers may be from the private sector, another agency, or within the awarding agency, as long as they do not include anyone who has approval authority for the applications being reviewed or anyone who might appear to have a conflict of interest in the role of reviewer of applications. A conflict of interest might arise when the reviewer or the reviewer's immediate family members have been associated with the applicant or applicant organization within the past two years as an owner, partner, officer, director, employee, or consultant; has any financial interest in the applicant or applicant organization; or is negotiating for, or has any arrangement, concerning prospective employment.
(3) An unsolicited application, which is not unique and innovative, shall be competed under the project solicitation it comes closest to fitting. Awarding agency officials will determine the solicitation under which the application is to be evaluated. When the awarding agency official decides that the unsolicited application does not fall under a recent, current, or planned solicitation, a noncompetitive award may be made, if appropriate to do so under the criteria of this section. Otherwise, the application should be returned to the applicant.
(b) Project solicitations. A project solicitation by the awarding agency shall include or reference the following, as appropriate:
(1) A description of the eligible activities which the awarding agency proposes to support and the program priorities;
(2) Eligible applicants;
(3) The dates and amounts of funds expected to be available for awards;
(4) Evaluation criteria and weights, if appropriate, assigned to each;
(5) Methods for evaluating and ranking applications;
(6) Name and address where proposals should be mailed or emailed and submission deadline(s);
(7) Any required forms and how to obtain them;
(8) Applicable cost principles and administrative requirements;
(9) Type of funding instrument intended to be used (grant or cooperative agreement); and
(10) The Assistance Listings number and title.
(c) Approval of applications. The final decision to award is at the discretion of the awarding/approving official in each agency. The awarding/approving official shall consider the ranking, comments, and recommendations from the independent review group, and any other pertinent information before deciding which applications to approve and their order of approval. Any appeals by applicants regarding the award decision shall be handled by the awarding agency using existing agency appeal procedures or good administrative practice and sound business judgment.
(d) Exceptions. The awarding/approving official may make a determination in writing that competition is not deemed appropriate for a particular transaction. Such determination shall be limited to transactions where it can be adequately justified that a noncompetitive award is in the best interest of the Government and necessary to the accomplishment of the goals of the program. Reasons for considering noncompetitive awards may include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:
(1) Nonmonetary awards of property or services;
(2) Awards of less than $75,000;
(3) Awards to fund continuing work already started under a previous award;
(4) Awards which cannot be delayed due to an emergency or a substantial danger to health or safety;
(5) Awards when it is impracticable to secure competition; or
(6) Awards to fund unique and innovative unsolicited applications.