Purchasing Easy Users Guide
As a public university and a member of the State System of Higher Education (SSHE) certain bidding requirements are either mandated or have been adopted as good business practice. Under ACT 57, Pennsylvania law dictates that bids will be solicited for all purchases exceeding nineteen thousand one hundred dollars ($19,100).
While this external requirement is closely followed, internal guidelines suggest that bids should be sought at varying levels under the $19,100.00 limitation. This action is dependent upon the dollar value involved, the desires of requesting party(ies), and the purchasing staff's abilities to add value to the purchasing process by reducing the cost of the item to the department.
The bidding process, whether verbal, faxed, written, or conducted through a formal sealed bid procedure is necessary not only to secure the best possible price, but to ascertain other details which may or may not influence the decision to purchase the commodity or service from a particular supplier. Delivery time frames are established, shipping details are clearly defined, and rules clearly set as a part of the bidding process. This procedure leaves no room for misinterpretation and is an integral part of the purchasing operation. For these reasons alone, value is added to the process.
Any tangible object is considered to be a commodity and acquired with a Purchase Order (PO). Services are considered to be an intangible product and are procured through a Service Purchase Contract. Services include, but are not limited to services greater than $5,000.00 provided by speakers, conference/workshop site providers, repairs to equipment, etc. Once the need for purchase is acknowledged, a requisition must be placed into the Financial Record System's (SAP) purchasing module, which resides on the mainframe computer.
Access to this program involves a series of passwords and entering codes that electronically tie any one individual or department account number to one allowable electronic log-on code. This security system prevents manipulation of or even viewing access by unauthorized individuals.
Once a requisition is entered into SAP, an electronic approval by the appropriate dean or vice president is still required before the purchasing staff can begin the process, unless the approving party has waived the requirement. This may take many routes dependent upon the request, time of need, external conditions, etc. For example, there are special approvals for using equipment money as opposed to general funds.
Additionally, computer equipment, and in some cases, audio visual equipment specifications need to concur with standards as set by computing services and/or audio visual personnel.
Also, any equipment requests requiring the use of University utilities or possible structural modifications must be reviewed by and have prior approval from the Facilities Management Department to ensure compatibility and conformity with University standards for such equipment.
Primarily, there are two types of documents that can be created from a requisition that require signatures:
- Purchase Order Contract
- Service Purchase Contract
Signature requirements for a Purchase Order contract fall within the realm of University management. Purchase Orders will be signed by the Purchasing Agent, Purchasing Director, Business Services Director, the Comptroller, or the Vice President for Finance and Administration. It is usually dependent upon the dollar value involved.
Signature requirements for a Service Purchase Contract above $5,000.00 are much more complex and would first require the signature of the contractor. Service requests for $5,000.00 or less are processed on a purchase order internally. Once the contract is returned to the Purchasing Office, up to three internal signatures may be required from the Purchasing Agent, Purchasing Director, Business Services Director, the Comptroller, or the Vice President for Finance and Administration. It is usually dependent upon the dollar value involved.
The Service Purchase Contract is then mailed to the University Legal Counsel for review and signature.
a. If the contract total is less than $20,000.00, Legal Counsel will make the final approval and will return the contract to the University.
b. If the contract total is equal to or greater than $20,000.00, it must also go to the Office of Attorney General for approval before return to the University.
c. If the contract total is equal to or greater than $500,000.00, the contract must also be approved by the Commonwealth's General Legal Counsel before return to the University.
Regardless of request, whether for a commodity or service, bidding limits are still enforced. However, the biggest problem with a service contract involves time limits. Even if the service requested is simple in nature - - getting the correct signatures in place BEFORE the services commence is imperative.
The final signatory on any service contract, the Attorney General and/or his/her designee will NOT sign any contract if the services have already been completed. Without this signature, we have no Legal avenue to pay for the services that were provided, as this was an unauthorized purchase contracted outside the confines for the approved purchasing process. This leaves the original requestor liable for payment or forces the contractor to initiate legal action through the court system seeking payment for services provided.
Regardless of the request, there are several things which can be done to ease the process for all of us. Providing the detailed specifications certainly erases the need for additional telephone calls, comparisons of data, confirmation of requirements, etc.; all of which delay processing. Keep in mind that specifications are fundamental to good purchasing methods. While you may know exactly what you have in mind, if these thoughts are not clearly conveyed on the requisition it may increase the amount of time it takes for your goods or services to be received.
Specifying brand names, model numbers, catalog numbers with descriptions and/or reorder numbers is EXTREMELY important. Requisitions containing only vague descriptions or only a number will not be accepted and the requisition will be returned to the requesting individual for additional information. Any background material already gathered is also a big help for the Purchasing staff. However, it is important that the requestor, refrain from soliciting bids for any required item. It is critical that the bidding process preserves the integrity of the procedure to ensure legality and the use of only ethical and professional practices by all concerned.
While it is certainly recognized that emergency situations do arise, it is important to understand that while the Purchasing staff attends to one emergency, another requestor must wait regardless of the timeliness of their cushion. As soon as you are aware of an upcoming project, give us a call as soon as possible; most likely we will be able to relieve you of some work and cut out some redundancy. Allowing us to do what we do best provides more time for you to do what you do best.
True emergencies do happen, so, by all means, please contact us and the staff will help us as much as possible. On the other hand, please take steps to insure that emergency requests are held to a minimum. The Purchasing staff provides service to many taskmasters, serving over 130 departments plus all grant projects; therefore, we appreciate your patience and will offer whatever help is possible.