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Purchasing Policy

Introduction | Authority | The Purchasing Process | Small Business / Diversity
Sustainable Purchasing
Receiving and Payment | Surplus Supplies


1.1 Overview. The Swarthmore College Purchasing Policy is intended to foster greater understanding and generally accepted protocols across campus in the area of procurement. The purchasing policy enhances the work of the purchasing office with assisting College departments in meeting the College’s goals and objectives. Consistent with the College culture, this policy includes aspects of economic, social, and environmental responsibility for community members.
The purchase or lease of any goods or services payable or reimbursable by the College must be conducted in an open and competitive environment to ensure that prices paid are fair and reasonable. Purchasing activities are conducted in central purchasing office as well as by academic and administrative departmental employees. Purchasing activities include obligations for proper transaction documentation, fiscal responsibility, ethical behavior, adherence to federal and state government regulations, and compliance with College policies and procedures.
The purpose of creating centralized contracts and purchasing services is to guide the College community in the selection, acquisition, use of, and disposal of goods and services by:
  • Obtaining the best value for the College
  • Expertise; training, professional networks, supplier relationships
  • Streamlining the procure-to-pay process
  • Development of policy, procedures, compliance protocols
  • Mitigating risk
The purchasing policy was developed by the contracts and purchasing manager in collaboration with College stakeholders under the authorization of the division of finance. The final policy draft was approved by the College administration, including the president’s staff.
1.2 Purpose and Scope of Program. This policy outlines the purchasing practices for the acquisition of goods and services at Swarthmore College. The policy addresses competition and prudent vendor selection, purchasing methods, authorizations, receipt of goods and services, required documentation, and ethical standards. Unless waived in writing for a specific purchase by the President or the Vice President of Finance and Administration, adherence with this Purchasing Policy is required for the College to fund the requested good or service. Purchases excluded from this policy include:
  • Investment management services
  • Insurance
  • Hotel and entertainment costs
  • Legal services
  • Employee benefit programs
  • Utilities, telecommunications services, and equipment
  • Banking and investment banking related services
  • Financial custodial services (both investment and bond custodians)
  • Security services
  • Performing arts contracts and other art acquisition
  • Other goods or services as may be determined by the Vice President of Finance and Administration.
Even in the case of items exempted from this Purchasing Policy, (1) the financial commitment of the College should be made by the President, the Vice President for Finance and Administration, an employee delegated in writing by the Vice President for Finance and Administration to have the authority to make a particular purchase or type of purchase (as described in the ‘Authority’ section below), (2) periodic comparative reviews among potential vendors are strongly recommended, and (3) purchase orders are required so that the College can appropriately reflect the commitment of funds.
1.3 Program Goals. The Purchasing Policy and related procedures are intended to ensure the following goals:
  • Ensure that purchase orders and contracts contain the necessary terms and conditions to insulate the College against legal liability, maintain standards and ethics, and apply purchasing best practices.
  • Ensure consistent administrative procedures, controls, records, and files.
  • Simplify, clarify, and streamline the procurement process of the College by introducing strategic procurement initiatives on a College-wide basis.
  • Encourage fair and open competition among suppliers through negotiation, competitive bidding, and contract buying.
  • Improve quality, save time and money, and standardize when possible.
  • To generate positive service-oriented interactions between the purchasing staff and suppliers, and between the purchasing staff and members of the College community.
  • Support the College’s sustainability initiatives by promoting environmentally preferable purchasing practices.
1.4 Ethical Standards & Confidentiality of Prices. Employees involved in any aspect of the purchasing process have a responsibility to ensure that the highest standards of ethics, integrity, and fairness are maintained in all such activities, such as fairly evaluating bids received and attaining competitive pricing.
1.4.1. Conflict of Interest. In accordance with the College's conflicts of interest policies, staff and faculty are prohibited from engaging in activities that compromise the College's position or integrity through actions such as self-promotion, appropriation of the assets of the College, influence peddling, or abuses of confidence. You must inform your supervisor and receive written approval before engaging in any outside activities that pose the potential for conflict of interest, for example:
  • Employment at the College as an outside vendor.
  • The acceptance of gifts, gratuities, or favors in an amount in excess of $25 from individuals or organizations with which the College conducts business or that are seeking association with the College or the extension of such gratuities or favors, which might reasonably be interpreted as an attempt to influence the recipients in the conduct of their duties.
  • At no time should an employee of the College give or accept any gifts, gratuities, or favors from any federal, state or local government official.
  • Outside business interests, your own or those of members of your family, related to suppliers of goods and services to the College.
  • Using the name of the College for monetary profit or acting as a private person in a way that could create the impression you are speaking for the College
For personnel soliciting or accepting quotations or submitting Purchase Requisitions from Suppliers, any potential conflicts of interest must be reported prior to the order being placed or the quote being solicited. For further information see the Human Resource Conflict of Interest Policy, and the Provost's Office Financial Conflict of Interest Policy applicable to faculty research.
1.4.2. Personal Purchases. The College will not purchase, with its own funds, any supplies, or equipment for the personal use of the College staff nor will arrangements be made by Purchasing to create any buyer-seller arrangements between staff members and College suppliers. Suppliers, however, may, at their own discretion, extend College discounts and/or contract rates to College staff on personal purchases.
1.4.3. Confidentiality. All pricing and contract terms are strictly confidential and recipients are not authorized to disclose such information to competing suppliers or use it in negotiations with existing or potential suppliers. College employees are responsible for conducting themselves with high ethical standards regarding pricing and supplier information.

2. Authority

The President and Vice President for Finance and Administration are each authorized to execute and deliver any and all written agreements and contracts to which the College may wish to become a party.
2.1 Delegation of Purchasing and Contract Authority by the Board of Managers. The Board of Managers of Swarthmore College has authorized the President, other Officers of the College and those other individuals on campus to execute contracts, financial documents, and to authorize purchases necessary for the conduct of the College’s business.
No person is authorized to execute such documents on behalf of the College unless authority to do so has been delegated in writing by the Board of Managers, the President, or the VP for Finance and Administration authorized to make such delegations. Failure to observe this requirement may result in individual responsibility for the representations made and may negatively impact the employee’s employment status.
HERE is a matrix of the purchasing authority thresholds for supplies and non-professional services. The ‘Approvals required’ segment relates to the total cost of the purchase and refers to supplies, non-professional services, and contract authorizations.
2.2 Issuance and Authorization of Purchasing Transactions. The Financial Manager or his/her designee must approve all purchases (via eMarket Portal, P-Card, Check Request form, Employee Reimbursement form, etc.) within their department(s). Financial Managers may delegate purchasing authority for each by FOAPAL string account numbers using the Financial Managers Department Authorization Form found in mySwarthmore. Additional authorizations are detailed below.


Goods or services additional required approvals
Computer hardware and peripherals Information Technology Services
Furniture Department of Capital Planning and Project Management
Grants and restricted funds Senior Accountant
Hazardous Materials Environmental Health and Safety Officer
Moving Expenses Payroll
Single/Sole Source Justification Contracts and Purchasing Manager
Software application contract, subscription, digital content Information Technology Services, Accessibility
Software with a financial impact or integration requirements Director of Finance & Administration Business Processes
Vehicles (on and off-road) VP of Finance & Treasurer
2.3 Purchasing Delegations. The departments listed below are authorized to create Purchase Orders for the specific goods and services approved for them. These departments are responsible to purchase within the bounds of their budgetary allotment of funds and maintain all records of purchase orders and receiving acknowledgements in accordance with the College’s document retention standards.


Delegated Purchaser  Allowable Goods and Services
Swarthmore College Library Library Collections are purchased through the Tri-College Libraries Consortium and Digital Content utilizes the Integrated Library System (ILS)
Swarthmore College and Community Bookstore Items are purchased through the POS/Inventory system for books, clothing items, school supplies, and other store merchandise
Swarthmore College Dining Services Recipe ingredients are purchased and the inventory is maintained through use of CBord Fusion.
2.4 Modifications to Policies and Procedures. Future modifications to this Purchasing Policy may be made by the Vice President of Finance and by the Contracts and Purchasing Manager.

3. The Purchasing Process

3.1 Authorized Methods of Purchasing.
3.1.1. Purchase Orders. The primary tool for acquiring all necessary goods and services is the eMarket Portal, which is integrated with Banner and is provided as a self-service user interface to request products and services. Completed purchases made through the eMarket Portal are visible in mySwarthmore as commitments (encumbered) funds. Various types of purchase orders are available through the self-service eMarket Portal and the purchasing office.
3.1.2. Purchasing Card (PCard). The PCard is a bank-issued credit card which allows authorized cardholders the ability to purchase materials and travel services as needed for the operation of their departments. The PCard is designed improve efficiency of processing low dollar and travel expenses therefore; employees that have been issued a PCard should avoid using their personal credit card for College purposes. The PCard should be used whenever possible for purchases under $2,500.
3.1.3. Direct Pay Invoices Invoices under $10,000 using an active supplier in Banner can be presented to Accounts Payable (A/P) for direct payment. Prepayments will require completion of a check requisition form.
3.1.4. Deposits. A deposit refers to the requirement that a good or service be paid for partially or in full before the good or service is received. To request a deposit, use the check requisition form using a clear statement as to why the payment must be made in advance and supporting documentation should be attached (ex. order form, quote).
3.1.6. Contracts. The Contracts and Insurance website will provide community members with details regarding the contracting and insurance process, including the contract guidelines, contracting checklist, College contract terms and provisions, and insurance information.
3.2. Supplier Types. Both Strategic and Preferred Suppliers are active supplier types in Banner Finance. The contracts and purchasing manager maintains a Swarthmore College Strategic and Preferred Supplier List which establishes relationships that leverage the College’s buying power and maximizes supplier strengths leading to overall cost savings. Existing strategic or preferred suppliers should be used before any new suppliers unless there is a compelling business reason to use a new supplier. The five different types of suppliers as defined below:
3.2.1. Strategic Supplier. Strategic Suppliers are long-term, competitively negotiated to streamline the purchase-to-pay process for commonly purchased items and to achieve the best value for the College by consolidating expenditures with fewer suppliers. Faculty and staff should use Strategic Supplier agreements wherever possible. The College actively manages these relationships through regular meetings with suppliers, measurement of key performance indicators, and the follow up on complaints.
3.2.2. Preferred Supplier. Preferred Suppliers are available through group purchasing organizations, consortia, and other contracts. These contracts should be used if strategic suppliers are not able to source the goods and services in question.
3.2.3. Active Supplier. An active supplier has current company information entered into Banner Finance and a W9 on file but has no specified negotiated discounts or special pricing for the College community.
3.2.4. Inactive Supplier. An inactive supplier has company information entered into Banner Finance but has not been used for a period of 3-years or longer. There is no current W9 on file.
3.2.5. New Supplier. A new supplier has does not have company information entered into Banner Finance, nor is there a W9 on file. A W9 and additional justification will be needed to add this type of supplier to Banner Finance.
3.3. Purchasing Authority and Access. Through Banner, financial managers are assigned ‘Purchasing Authority’ which enables them to delegate purchasing access to other employees. This role in Banner allows for electronic tracking and reporting of authority and access rights, allowing for automated controls on purchases made in the eMarket Portal. The financial access tool is found mySwarthmore finance, allowing financial managers to make changes to query and purchasing delegations of their accounts online.
3.4. Commitments. Most purchase orders generate commitments, which are funds designated to pay for the purchase order as tracked in the ‘Commitments’ column of mySwarthmore finance. Those funds are no longer available for use in other transactions, but also have not been included in the ‘Adjusted Budget’ balance because a payment has not yet been generated and the funds have not physically left the College. When the Supplier is paid, the commitment is reversed and the funds will appear under the YTD Activity balance. The purpose and main benefit of identifying commitments is to prevent budget overspending. Financial managers will monitor commitments to assure accuracy.
3.5. Pre-Planning Requirements. The Purchasing Office emphasizes the need for departments to evaluate well in advance of their need for goods and services. The time required for review, approvals, issuance of a purchase order, supplier’s stock and/or availability, and secure delivery varies greatly. In that case, Purchasing encourages submittal of requisitions well in advance of the required delivery date. In most cases, this process is accomplished within one (1) to three (3) weeks, depending on the requirements.
3.6 Competitive Procurement. The College requires and encourages competition among suppliers in providing goods and services to the College.  Competition assures a mix of quality, service, and price that matches the stated needs of the College.   The tools listed below may be used separately or in combination to achieve a successful sourcing solution.
3.6.1 Request for Information (RFI) is a method of collating information from different suppliers prior to formally sourcing products or services. The RFI is used where there are many potential suppliers and not enough information is known about them. It is a structured process where a long list of potential suppliers can be reduced to a short list of those organizations that are willing and able to fulfill your requirements.
3.6.2 Request for Proposal (RFP) is a formal method of receiving detailed and comparable proposals from different suppliers for a defined product or service. The RFP is a comprehensive document that should provide all the required information needed to make an informed purchasing decision. Preparation of the RFP is important and time spent at this stage will ensure good responses. An RFI may be used prior to an RFP if needed. For Federal Fund purchases, see Section 3.8.
3.6.3 Request for Quotation (RFQ) is a competitive bid document used when inviting suppliers and subcontractors to submit a bid on projects or products. An RFQ is suitable for sourcing products that are standardized or produced in repetitive quantities. A technical specification must be provided as well as commercial requirements. An RFQ can be preceded by an RFP where the shortlisted suppliers are requested to provide a more detailed price quote. For Federal Fund purchases, see Section 3.8.
A competitive quote requires two responsive and comparable bids (prefer solicitation of three) obtained for a specific purchase; and is required with a purchase is $10,000 or greater from a supplier that is not identified as a Strategic or Preferred Supplier. Preferred Suppliers (eMarket Portal punch-out catalogs and Campus-Wide Agreements) have already undergone a competitive bidding process conducted by the purchasing office, therefore it is unnecessary for a department to initiate a competitive bidding process for these suppliers.
Competitive quotes or bidding is not required when one or more of the following conditions exist:
  • The purchase is less than $10,000
  • Bids have been recently received (within the previous 3 months) for the same items and the bids are still valid
  • Utilities contracts for which there is no competition because of sole authorization to provide service to the geographical area;
  • Public entertainment contracts for campus-sponsored fairs, expositions, exhibitions, plays and concerts;
  • Educational materials and information access resources related to the College’s library services;
  • The item is a College standard as determined by the purchasing office.
  • The item to be purchased has already been competitively bid either through the Educational and Institutional Cooperative (E&I), the PACC Purchasing Consortium, Pennsylvania State Contract, COSTARS, or through other purchasing consortia, which the College is eligible to utilize as determined by the purchasing office.
3.6.4 Contract Award for RFP and RFQ is not based solely on price. Other factors may include qualifications and experience of principals and staff, past performance, methodology and management approach, technical approach, proposed project team, and financial stability. For Federal Fund awards, see Section 3.8.
3.7 Non-Competitive Procurement happens when the buyer either selects the company to buy from or restricts the bidding process to certain suppliers.
3.7.5 Single Source procurement is one in which two or more vendors can supply the commodity, technology, or perform the services required, but the buyer selects one vendor over the others. For purchases exceeding $10,000 using a single source, completion and approval of a Single/Sole Source Justification form is required. For Federal Fund awards, see Section 3.8.
3.7.5 Sole Source is when only one supplier can provide the commodity, technology, or services required. For purchases over $10,000 using a sole source, completion and approval of a Single/Sole Source Justification form is required. For Federal Fund purchases, see Section 3.8.
3.8 Uniform Guidance Procurement Standards for Federal Grant Funding. Swarthmore College has delayed implementation of the UG Procurement Standards until July 1, 2018, as provided by the waiver of the procurement rules stated in COFAR FAQ, Section 110-6, released November 26, 2014. In the interim, the OMB Circulars will apply to grants and cooperative agreements. When purchasing goods or services with Federal Grant funding, employees are directed to work with the Senior Accountant Grants Administrator in the Business Office to assure compliance with the College’s Purchasing Policy and the Purchasing Procedures for Federal Grants.
3.9 Capital Equipment. Employees are encouraged to use a purchase order for the acquisition of capital equipment. The College defines equipment as ‘an article of nonexpendable, tangible personal property having both a useful life of more than 5-years and an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more per unit.
3.10 Construction and Renovation. The Division of Facilities and Capital Projects is responsible for procuring all construction and renovation goods and services for the College. They are committed to ensuring that goods and services are procured at the maximum value, in accordance with industry standard best practices, and compliant with Federal, State, and Local laws as well as College policy. Specific construction and renovation procedures may be found on the Capital Planning and Project Management website (These procedures are currently in development). 
3.11 PA Sales Tax Exemption. Sales and use taxes are governed at the state and local level (destination based) and exemption rules vary from state to state. Sales tax is imposed on sales at retail in Pennsylvania of tangible personal property and certain services. Use tax is imposed on the use within Pennsylvania of tangible personal property and certain services purchased outside Pennsylvania and on taxable purchases made within Pennsylvania upon which no sales tax has been paid. The Associate Controller is responsible for the interpretation of sales tax legislation as it applies to College purchases and will consult with General Counsel for guidance, when appropriate.
Swarthmore College’s status as a nonprofit educational institution allows for an exemption from sales and use tax in Pennsylvania and many other states. To take advantage of this status:
  • Inform Suppliers of the exemption status when requesting a quote or placing an order
  • Provide a copy of the College’s Exemption Form to the supplier (available in the Google shared folder ‘Purchasing Shared Resources’)
  • Payments must be made directly by the College to the supplier from the supplier's invoice (reimbursement to employees for state taxes paid when procuring goods for the College are not permitted).
  • The requisitioning department is responsible for providing supporting documentation to determine taxation, as required.
The College is not exempt from the occupancy or room tax levied by hotels, motels, and inns in Pennsylvania or any other states or cities.

4. Small Business / Diversity

4.1 Small Business / Diversity procedure is a competitive business strategy that ensures a diverse supplier base in the procurement of goods and services, emphasizing inclusion of underrepresented groups in the procurement process. Certification is an important part of our process because it authenticates that the business is owned, managed, and controlled by a qualifying small business or diverse group. The Small Business / Diverse Supplier Procedure is consistent with the College’s culture and policies and may be found on the Small Business / Diversity Procedures website.

5. Sustainable Purchasing

5.1 Sustainable Purchasing is a method of purchasing wherein environmental and social considerations are taken with equal weight to the price, availability, and performance criteria that the College uses to make purchasing decisions. Sustainable Purchasing minimizes negative environmental and social effects through the use of environmentally friendly products. It attempts to identify and reduce environmental impact and to maximize resource efficiency. Sustainable purchasing initiatives and procedures will be identified by commodity on the Swarthmore College Sustainable Purchasing website.
Sustainable purchasing initiatives support the College’s commitment to the American Colleges and University President’s Climate Commitment and the College’s Climate Action Plan.

Receiving and Payment

6.1 Deposits and Prepayments. Due to the inherent risks associated with deposits or pre-payments, the College’s policy is to avoid pre-paying any orders, in part or in full, in advance of the receipt of the goods or services. If the only Supplier of goods or service requires a prepayment or deposit or if the nature of the goods or service requires pre-payment (e.g., a maintenance agreement or software licensing fee), the payment must be requested using the procedures designated by the Controller and Accounts Payable Office.
The requisitioning department is required to conduct significant due diligence on the bidders or potential providers in order to ascertain the Supplier’s ability to perform under the contract and particularly so if pre-payment is involved. Deposits or payment made to Suppliers that fail to perform are the risk of the requisitioning department.
6.2 Invoice and Receipt of Goods. Departments are responsible for verifying the actual receipt of goods and services in the manner designated by the Procurement Office. Individuals acknowledging the receipts of goods are confirming that the purchased goods and services have been received in the nature, quality, and quantity ordered.
6.3 Multiple Receipts on a Single Order. Periodically, more than one delivery is required to complete an order. The receiving copy of the PO is used to confirm partial order delivery and then submitted again once the remaining items are received.
6.4 Claims for Damages or Shortages. In cases of damage or shortage to a shipment, it is important that the recipient retain all shipping documentation and packaging materials. If the damage or shortage is not evident at the time of delivery, the carrier must be notified within 15 days of delivery. The carrier will then arrange for an inspection.
Accordingly, it is extremely important that all containers, packaging material, wrappers, etc. be retained for the carrier’s inspection. Failure to keep this material may void the chance of processing a claim for reimbursement with the carrier or supplier.
Once the claim inspection report has been received from the carrier or supplier, purchasing can assist in determining the responsibility for processing the final claim report, depending upon the shipping provisions defined in the contract or PO. Restitution for damages or shortages should be in the form of replacement equipment or credit memos. Cash restitution is prohibited.
6.5 Return of Merchandise. Merchandise to be returned to suppliers or manufacturers for adjustment or credit should be coordinated by the merchandise recipient, with assistance from Purchasing, when needed. When a supplier has shipped items specified on the PO, they have legally complied with their part of the contract and are under no obligation to accept for credit any items delivered as specified.
The supplier’s acceptance of a return is not automatic and the supplier may assess a restocking charge. This charge, along with any freight charges, will be the responsibility of the requisitioning department. Returns or credits should be received by the College in the form of a credit memo or check. Cash refunds are prohibited.
6.6 Cancellation of Orders. A PO is a binding contract between the College and the supplier. Therefore, it cannot be modified or canceled unilaterally. Any request to modify or cancel a PO or contract should be directed to the purchasing office in writing. Purchasing will act in cooperation with the department and in the best interest of the College to advise all parties accordingly.
Generally, a supplier will agree to a request for cancellation if the items have not been shipped. The department may be held responsible for any material shipped by a Supplier or costs of fabricated items incurred prior to cancellation.
6.7 Fiscal Year-End Purchases. In order to be expensed in the current fiscal year, items are required to be ordered and received on or before the last day of the fiscal year (June 30) and invoices should be received and paid within two weeks of receipt of item or as stated on the Fiscal Year Closing Memo provided by the Associate Controller. Lead-times need to be considered by commodity before ordering during this time (e.g. furniture and major equipment – 6+weeks, eMarket suppliers – 2 weeks, desk-top delivery – 3 days).
Pro-forma invoices, a preliminary bill of sale sent in advance of delivery of goods, will not be accepted when goods or services are expected to be delivered after the last day of the fiscal year.
6.8 Demo Equipment. The recipient of demo equipment should complete a ‘No Charge’ purchase order and a ‘demo equipment agreement’ should be completed and signed by the company supplying the demo equipment PRIOR to delivery of the equipment to campus. The College is in no way obligated to purchase such equipment if the supplier signs the demo equipment agreement template. However, if the College signs the supplier’s agreement template, it may be obligated to do so. Please work with the purchasing office to obtain the demo equipment agreement. Risk Management may also need to be contacted by the recipient of the demo product if the value of the equipment is significant for possible insurance issues.

7. Surplus Supplies

7.1 Disposal of Capital Assets, Surplus Material, and Equipment. The Purchasing Office is authorized to arrange for disposal of surplus material and equipment by internal transfer, trade-in, auction (online or otherwise), negotiated sale, donation to a not-for-profit entity recognized under IRS Code section 501(c)(3) or trash. A College department may arrange for disposal of immaterial surplus supplies, however items related to the categories listed below require specific protocol.
  • A capital asset list is maintained by the Business Office Associate Controller and the items are depreciated according to a schedule. In order to assure the list is accurate and up-to-date, timely notification of asset disposal is required. [Joe Cataldi]
  • Equipment purchased with grant funding cannot be sold, discarded, or transferred without consent from the Senior Accountant Grants Administrator in the Business Office in order to assure the equipment is dealt with in accordance with the grant’s requirements. [Denise Risoli]
  • Disposition of all computers, printers, and other technology equipment that may store proprietary or sensitive information is appropriately managed by the Information Technology Services department. [Joel Cooper]
  • Furniture and accessory removal and disposal related to capital projects is handled by the Department of Capital Planning and Project Management [Mary Circullio]
  • Chemicals or hazardous material disposal are handled by the Environmental Health and Safety Officer [Jinny Schiffer].
  • For items being sold, consult accounts receivable [Nancy Kremmel] for appropriate recognition of the revenue. Items with resale value greater than $1,000 require prior authorization from the Assistant Vice President for Finance and Controller [Alice Turbiville] to complete the transaction.