Commodity Related Links
The signed version of the Purchasing Policy is available in PDF format by clicking here: Purchasing Policy. Every effort has been made to keep this page in sync with the official policy. However, if any inconsistencies are located, the official policy will be followed.
I. Purchasing Process Introduction
The method in which a department uses to purchase will often vary depending on the product or service needed. It is our goal to provide all University staff, faculty and personnel the information necessary to make informed decisions about their acquisition process. The following information will assist end users in understanding the complete purchasing process from vendor selection through payment.
All purchases made with University funds must comply with the following policies, procedures and/or guidelines in order to ensure efficient payment of goods and to avoid unnecessary costs.
- UA Spending Policy (Accounts Payable)
- P-Card Policy and Procedures (P-Card Services)
- Professional Service Guidelines (Contract Management)
The flowchart linked below is intended to identify the appropriate method of order placement and payment based on the type and value of goods or services. The subsequent content on this page will provide additional detail and information to support the purchasing process flowchart.
II. Vendor Selection Process
Before one can select a vendor, it is important to understand the primary State law that affects the acquisition process for goods and services on campus. According to the State of Alabama Bid Law, any request(s) for like or similar products and/or services that total $15,000 or more during a fiscal year must be competitively bid. To further clarify, the $15,000 bid law threshold applies to single purchases as well as cumulative purchases (campus-wide) of like or similar items which occur in the same fiscal year. The Purchasing Department monitors campus-wide spend to establish contracts for repetitive purchases which can be anticipated for supplies, equipment, and services in order to expedite the purchasing process while complying with State of Alabama Bid Law.
Utilizing Approved Contracts
“Approved Contracts” is a phrase used to describe agreements that have been competitively bid by the University, its System Affiliates, the State of Alabama Purchasing Department or a Cooperative Agency. By use of these contracts, departments gain access to the best negotiated prices, terms and dedicated support teams, while also complying with the State of Alabama Bid Law. The first step in the purchasing process is to determine if the good or service is available through a current UA Approved Contract. Approved Contracts should be used whenever possible.
See below for types of Approved Contracts listed in order of preferred use:
1. University of Alabama or System Affiliate Approved Contracts:
The UA Purchasing Department currently maintains more than 300 competitively bid contracts with commodities ranging from Transportation Services to Medical Supplies. These contracts have been competitively bid by the UA Purchasing Department or a UA System affiliated Purchasing Department. Users may search Approved Contracts by vendor name, category, commodity or keyword. If a user is unable to utilize a UA Approved Contract for their purchase and its cost is more than $15,000, please contact the appropriate Senior Buyer for guidance on how to proceed.
Purchases from UA Approved Contract vendors do not require approval from a Senior Buyer as long as the good or service is covered within the contract terms. For questions concerning the specifics of a contract, contact the appropriate Senior Buyer.
2. State of Alabama Approved Contracts
As an agency of the State of Alabama, the University qualifies to utilize State of Alabama contracts. Information on current statewide contracts is available through the Alabama Department of Finance website and may be used for the acquisition of goods and services in most cases.
3. Cooperative Approved Contracts
A cooperative contract is one that has been competitively bid by any group or consortium of governmental entities or a group purchasing organization with the goal of complying with standard procurement practices and state bid laws. Cooperative contracts leverage the purchasing power of large volume commitments by allowing multiple entities to purchase from a single contract. The UA Purchasing Department reviews available cooperative contracts on a regular basis to identify contracts that may address a specific need or fill gaps between existing contracts. Once beneficial contracts have been identified, they are fully vetted to confirm they meet all applicable competitive bid requirements before being made available to campus partners. The University currently partners with more than sixteen cooperative agencies and the most commonly used contracts are included on the UA Approved Contract list.
Purchases of Goods or Services From Non-Contract Vendors < $15,000
Purchases for less than $15,000 do not exceed the State of Alabama bid limit, so campus partners have the freedom to select a preferred vendor and proceed with their purchase. However, researching pricing from multiple vendors is highly encouraged to assure the lowest cost.
Please note: Approval from the appropriate Senior Buyer is required only when like or similar items are typically available from a contract vendor to ensure Approved Contract vendors are used whenever possible. For P-Card purchases, approvals should be included in the P-Card holder’s electronic expense report.
If you are unsure of the UA purchasing process or question the use of a vendor, we encourage you to contact the appropriate Senior Buyer to confirm no approvals or special requirements apply to your non-contract purchase.
Purchases of Goods or Services From Non-Contract Vendors > $15,000
Competitive Bid is Required If:
- Purchase value is $15,000 or more
- No Approved Contract is available through UA, UA System affiliate, State of Alabama or Cooperative
- Good or Service can be acquired from more than one source
Basic Competitive Bid Process:
- Develop Product or Service Specifications – Provide to Purchasing
- Purchasing will Solicit for Bids – (2) Two Week Minimum required
- Purchasing will Award Contract to Lowest Bidder that Meets the Minimum Specifications
See the Competitive Bid Process page for more details.
Competitive Bid is Not Required if:
Sole Source Purchase
- Applies to purchases over $15,000 that can only be supplied by one source, to the best of the requester’s knowledge.
- A sole source cannot be based on price.
- A sole source cannot be based on quality as this is a subjective evaluation based on opinion.
- A sole source justification letter must be completed and signed by the requesting faculty member, principal investigator, or researcher. The Purchasing Department is vested with the authority to approve a sole source letter and associated purchase.
Justification letter guidelines
- Must be sufficient in detail so that a person not familiar with the situation is able to understand the need to forego the normal purchasing procedure.
- Should be typed on letterhead signed and dated by the principal investigator.
- Is only valid for one calendar year.
- Must state that there are no other companies or distributors that can provide the product or service.
The Purchasing Department will not consider a sole source letter from the vendor as the primary justification, but may use it as additional information when considering the request.
The following questions should be considered when preparing the justification for a sole source purchase:
- What is the product and what does the product do?
- Where will the product be located on campus? Building / room number
- Will installation and/or on-site training by the vendor be required?
- Do other manufacturers make similar products that will do the same job or meet the same goals?
- How is this product unique from all others?
- What existing equipment or supplies are, or must be, compatible with the product?
- Why are the unique characteristics of this product critical for your mission?
- How will this purchase or failure to purchase the specifically proposed equipment impact the associated research? (If Applicable)
- Will the failure to purchase the specifically proposed equipment affect the continuity or validity of the associated research? (If Applicable)
All sole source, no bid contracts for goods or non-professional services of greater than $1,000,000 require University of Alabama System Office review and approval. Please see Heightened Review of Contracts for more detailed information on this requirement as well as the protocol to follow, when applicable.
Professional services are customized services consisting of specialized intellectual or creative expertise based on personal skills or ideas provided for a fee. Per section 41-16-21 of Code of Alabama, professional services do not require competitive bidding. Please refer to Contract Management website for guidance on Professional Services as special requirements apply, depending on the situation.
III. Order Placement & Methods of Payment
Before selecting an order placement method, it is important to become familiar with Procurement’s Expenditure Matrix resource. The acquisition process at the University can be completed through a variety of methods, funding sources and payment options…and, can be a little confusing at times! The Expenditure Matrix is intended to assist campus partners in identifying the appropriate method of payment for common expenditures. Please refer to the expenditure matrix in conjunction with the methods detailed below. If you are unable to locate your good or service on the matrix, please contact the appropriate Senior Buyer for assistance.
The following Order Placement Methods are Listed in Order of Preference
Through buyBAMA, the University’s eProcurement system, users can browse vendor catalogs, add items to a shopping cart, and submit orders electronically in a similar manner to typical online retailer websites. The growing number of marketplace vendors available through buyBAMA are commonly referred to as “Catalog Vendors.” All Catalog Vendors are Approved Contract vendors. When possible, users should make purchases through Catalog Vendors which ensures competitive contract pricing and terms are applied to the transaction. For items over $4,999, the single purchase P-Card limit increase is automated through the workflows in buyBAMA. Each transaction is reviewed and approved at the departmental level before being routed to Purchasing for compliance review (including business purpose review, if necessary) and approval. Once all approvals are complete, the transaction is then routed to P-Card Services to process the increase. If a monthly limit increase is also required, the limit is increased by enough to cover the single purchase. Due to the approval workflow for the transaction, no pre-purchase steps are necessary to increase limits.
You can request buyBAMA access, view online training videos, reference material and find FAQ’s at the buyBama webpage on the Purchasing website.
2. Orders Placed Outside of buyBAMA Using a University P-Card
While some vendors are available through the buyBAMA system, we understand campus partners may have a need to purchase outside of buyBAMA; on vendor websites or in-person. When doing so, campus partners are encouraged to use their P-Card’s for purchases when accepted by vendors and allowed by University policies.
Approval requirements for P-Card purchases outside of buyBAMA
- P-Card purchases from Approved Contract vendors do not require approval from a Senior Buyer as long as the good or service is covered within the contract terms.
- Approval from the appropriate Senior Buyer is required only when like or similar items are typically available from a contract vendor to ensure Approved Contract vendors are used whenever possible. Approvals should be included in the P-Card holder’s electronic expense report.
- The standard single purchase limit for the University P-Card is $4,999.99. Temporary increases may be required for purchases outside of buyBAMA. See Section 3.0.2 of P-Card Policies and Procedures for additional detail.
3. Orders Placed Through BuyBama Using a University Issued Purchase Order
This order placement method is best used for large capital expenditures, purchases involving a written contract, some services which require insurance approval, long lead time items or items which require installation. These orders are generally large dollar expenditures in excess of $5,000. buyBAMA is used to initiate all purchase order requests which are often times referred to as “Non-Catalog Transactions.” Purchase order requests are routed electronically through an approval workflow resulting in less paperwork and improved efficiencies. All vendor invoices for purchase orders should be submitted directly to Accounts Payable for payment once the order has been fulfilled and received in buyBAMA.
Examples of common purchase order transactions:
- Charter Bus Services which require insurance and payment after completion of trip
- Large equipment requiring insurance, installation or property control involvement
- Purchase of a vehicle
4. “Other” Goods and Services Paid via Concur Invoice Payment Requests
This category primarily applies to goods and services unallowable on the P-Card and not applicable to the purchase order process. Examples of types of payments generally made on a Payment Request are gifts, entertainment, conferences and meetings, professional services and awards. See Spending Policy for additional detail. Please contact the appropriate Senior Buyer for guidance if you believe your transaction would fit this category.
Order Placement and Method of Payment Summary
(in order of preferred method)