Understand the Procurement Methods

The procurement method used to procure goods and services is dependent upon several factors, including, but not limited to, the total dollar amount of the purchase and availability or practicability of competition. Services are designated as professional or non-professional. Professional services are those within the scope of the practice of accounting, architecture, dentistry, land surveying, landscape architecture, law, medicine, optometry, professional engineering, pharmacy, and actuarial services. Non-professional services are all services not listed as a professional service. Below are the definitions of the procurement methods and detailed information regarding procedures and required documentation for each method. For information on how to place an order, refer to Make a Purchase Under 10K and Make a Purchase Over 10K

Procurement Methods

Procurement Definitions

  1. Mandatory Sources

  2. Delegated Purchasing Authority (Purchases up to $10,000)

    Delegated purchasing authority is the dollar limit for purchase of goods/services that university departments can approve without competition provided the price is fair and reasonable. The delegated purchasing authority is currently $10,000. Departments may place orders totaling up to $10,000 directly with vendors by issuing a RealSource purchase order. The purchase order is also intended to inform the vendor of VCU terms and conditions. This amount includes all charges associated with the purchase (e.g. shipping and handling). However, if a department has ongoing requirements for goods/services which will exceed their delegated authority, a term contract should be established through University Purchasing. The use of two or more purchase orders to circumvent the department delegated limit is prohibited. Any order placed by a department outside of the established guidelines will be handled as a procurement violation and the individual authorizing the purchase could be held personally liable. While the department is authorized to place certain orders directly with vendors, the department may choose to order any or all items through University Purchasing. Additionally, the department may not authorize a change in the quantity or price of the items being purchased subsequent to placing the original order which causes the order to exceed the department delegated limit without prior authorization from University Purchasing.

    In order to provide departments with this purchasing flexibility, compliance with the Management Agreement and Rules Document, other applicable State rules and regulations must be observed when ordering goods and services.
    Equipment funded by federally sponsored programs must be screened against the University's Fixed Asset Inventory records as required by the provisions of OMB's Circular A-110.

  3. Contract Purchases

  4. Demand Payment (exceptions to normal competitive requirements)

    Competition normally is either not practicable or available for purchase of the following goods or services up to $200,000 or unlimited amounts when so designated below:

    Demand Payments List

  5. Competitive Purchases > $10,000 and ≤ $200,000

    A. Best Value Acquisition (BVA)
    Purchases of goods/services when competition exists in the marketplace and award of contract is based on the best overall proposal, including but not limited to price.

    1. When the estimated cost of goods or services is between the applicable single quote limit and $200,000, written quotes from four (4) valid sources shall be solicited (including a minimum of four SWaM businesses provided there is sufficient registration). If fewer than the required number of total sources and/or SWaM businesses are solicited, the reasons must be documented and have advance written approval from the Supplier Diversity Champion or his/her designee.

      Note: Spot (single non-recurring) purchases may be exempt from the competitive process if issued to DSBSD Certified Small Businesses through a single quote at the Buyer's discretion and when price reasonableness has been documented.

    2. In lieu of an evaluation committee, the Buyer or end user may solely evaluate and rank proposals.
    3. Proposals may be evaluated and ranked based on its overall merits. Evaluation criteria and associated weights are not required.
    4. Negotiations may be conducted with the top ranked firm(s), but it is not a requirement. Consideration should be given to the value added through negotiations.
    5. A written summary evaluation document must be submitted by the evaluator(s) which provides rationale for the selection of firm(s) and a recommendation to award.
    6. Public posting is not required

    B. Quick Quote

    Purchases of goods/services when competition exists in the marketplace and specifications can be defined. Award of contract is based on lowest price.

    1. When the estimated cost of goods or services is between the applicable single quote limit and $200,000, written quotes from four (4) valid sources shall be solicited (including a minimum of four SWaM businesses provided there is sufficient registration). If fewer than the required number of total sources and/or SWaM businesses are solicited, the reasons must be documented and have advance written approval from the Supplier Diversity Champion or his/her designee.
    2. Specifications must be designated proprietary or non-proprietary. Occasionally, departments may require the purchase of a particular brand name product. Limiting competition to only one brand name is known as a proprietary specification. However, because of the State's competitive procurement requirements, such requests should be the exception rather than the rule. A proprietary specification excludes consideration of a proposed "equal." Proprietary items are available from several distributors and competition between them can be obtained. The user department must provide a written proprietary justification which clearly demonstrates that only one brand name product meets the user's requirement. This justification must contain clear, in-depth, accurate and verifiable information since it becomes a matter of public record and is subject to protest. The use of a proprietary specification may be appropriate where:
      1. The desired product must be compatible with or is an integral part of existing equipment or products;
      2. Pre-qualification of products is necessary to support a specific need of a program;
      3. The desired product is covered by a patent or copyright;
      4. The requested item must yield absolute continuity of results; and/or
      5. the desired item is one with which the user has had extensive training and experience.
    3. The solicitation should be concise and include specifications of the goods/services to be procured. It should stipulate the information requested from the Offeror for evaluation purposes: specifications, price, delivery, etc. Also, any specific terms and conditions related to the procurement should be incorporated.
    4. Quotes are evaluated based on specifications, delivery time, and price. If specifications and delivery time are met, then the award goes to the lowest price. Evaluation criteria and associated weights are not required.
    5. Public posting is not required
  6. Competitive Purchases > $200,000

    A. Request for Proposal (RFP)

    Purchases of goods/services when competition exists in the marketplace and award of the contract is based on the best overall proposal, including but not limited to price. Departments must provide the Buyer with information on for the initiation of the RFP process. The department must also review the  RFP and related guidelines to become familiar with the process.

    B. Invitation for Bid (IFB)

    Purchases of goods/services when competition exists in the market and specifications can be defined. Award of contract is based on lowest price. Departments must provide the Buyer with information for the initiation of the IFB process including specifications, vendor list, delivery date, and any other information the evaluator needs.

  7. Sole Source (over $10,000)

    A sole source is a unique product or service that is only available from one source; competition is not available. Sole source procurements are not intended to be simple or quick processes because such purchases bypass competitive procurement. Sole source requirements generally take a minimum of 10 to 15 business days to process after the requisition and justification are sent to purchasing. Processing sole source procurements requires market analysis and documentation to substantiate that the vendor is the only practicably available source for the required goods or services, that the contracted price is fair and reasonable, and the contracted terms are consistent with the laws of the Commonwealth. Price is not a justification for a sole source procurement. If a specific item must be procured but the manufacturer has multiple distributors, the purchase must be made competitively.

    Sole source documentation is public information, posted by University Purchasing, and is available for review by vendors who may claim that they can provide equivalent goods or services. Therefore, your sole source justification must contain clear, in-depth, accurate and verifiable information to avoid protests and the resulting possibility of delaying your purchase request.

    The department must complete the sole source documentation form and send it to the assigned buyer. Sole source justification must:

    • Describe in general terms the product/service you are requesting.
    • State the unique design/performance features (for products) or the unique qualification/experience (for services) that are essential to meet your specific requirements.
    • Provide information on the market research that was recently performed to determine that this is the only product/service that will fulfill your requirements. Options for selecting how the market research was conducted are on the documentation form.
    • Identify other products/services and firms that were considered and why they did not meet your requirements or provide information to support why other products/services were not considered (category options are provided on the documentation form).

    If the department anticipates other associated costs (e.g. maintenance after warranty period, consumables, etc.), these should be included at the time of the initial purchase to ensure a comprehensive contract is established. The purchasing staff must ensure supporting documentation is complete and saved to the purchase order record. Therefore, the department may be required to provide additional information.

  8. Emergency Purchase (over $10,000)

    An emergency is an occurrence of serious or urgent nature that demands immediate action. Emergency procurements shall be processed only when the need for supplies and/or services, if not procured immediately, will cause serious operational or financial loss, or where life and property must be protected. In case of an emergency, a contract may be awarded without competitive sealed bidding or competitive negotiation; however, such procurement shall be made with such competition as is practical under the circumstances. Emergency purchases can cover only that which is necessary to cover the emergency. Subsequent requirements must be obtained using normal purchasing procedures.

    In all emergencies, the requesting department is required to prepare a written memo indicating the nature of the emergency, and the reason for selection of the particular vendor. This memo may be required to be signed by the applicable Dean or Department Head. The approval of the applicable Vice President may be required for any emergency over $200,000. Please attach your memo in RealSource.

    If an emergency occurs at a time outside the normal work-day (i.e. nights, weekends, holidays), the department may place the order. The department will obtain such competition as is practicable under the circumstances (e.g. obtain three quotes, etc.). As soon as practicable, the department must submit a requisition and the signed memo referenced above.

    A contingency plan is in place to address a catastrophic system failure wherein the financial system would not be accessible for an extended period. In this situation, the departments should obtain or utilize their existing corporate purchasing cards. The corporate purchasing card must be used for all purchases under $5,000. To accommodate departments that chose not to obtain corporate purchasing cards, the Dean's Office can request a higher monthly limit (up to $200,000) for specific cardholders in the Dean's Office for a period not to exceed 30 days. This request must be submitted in writing to the purchasing card Program Administrator.

    All emergency procurements must be publicly posted by Procurement Services subsequent to the event.

  9. Surplus Inventory

    Surplus property is that which no longer has any usefulness or value to your department. Prudent and timely reporting of your surplus property is extremely important so that the removal of the surplus items may be scheduled. Remember, even though an item may no longer be of any use to you, someone else in the institution may have a need for it. Surplus property should be considered as a source of supply. Keep in mind that the University's surplus warehouse is a service to the University and items requested from our surplus warehouse are provided at no charge to your department. Contact VCU Facilities Management for information regarding Surplus Property: https://fmd.vcu.edu/physical-plant/surplus-property/.

  10. Order Lead Time Guidelines

    Please keep in mind that the "estimated order lead times" are approximate and are to be used as a guide to assist you in planning. Procurements of goods or services through the use of Request for Proposals (RFP) may add significantly to the order lead time. In addition, it is important to note that insufficient specifications provided by the requestor and evaluation team delays may also add to the order lead time.

    Estimated CostProcurement RequirementsEstimated Order Lead Time (Business Days)
    $0 – $10,000Departments may place purchase orders up to $10,000. University Purchasing or University Department must obtain and document a minimum of one written or telephone quotation. University Purchasing encourages departments to solicit small, minority-owned and/or woman-owned (SWAM) businesses.5 Days
    > $10,000 – ≤ $200,000University Purchasing solicits a minimum of four written or telephone quotations or written proposals. SWAM firms must be solicited if there is sufficient registration.10 Days(quotes)
    20 Days(offers)
    $200,000University Purchasing solicits a minimum of six written, sealed bids or proposals. SWAM firms must be solicited if there is sufficient registration. Public advertising is required.30 Days(IFB)
    50-75 Days(RFP)
    Sole SourceSole Source Documentation Form10-15 days

Locations & Hours

Office of
Procurement Services

Mailing Address:
Box 980327
Richmond, Virginia 23298-0327

Physical Address:
912 W. Grace Street, 5th Floor
Richmond, Virginia 23284
Phone: (804-828-1077)
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Procurement Services is a
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For the health and welfare of our team please do not wear/use any personal hygiene or care products that contain a fragrance when visiting our environment.

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