Purchasing Policy

University Policy 601.11, Purchasing Policy

Executive Summary: 

The Purchasing Department has the sole authority to place purchasing orders for the supply of a product or service on behalf of the University. Requests for purchases must be submitted to the Purchasing Department on a purchase requisition, which may be prepared and submitted electronically. The Purchasing Procedures Manual provides detailed instruction on electronic requisitioning.

The State of North Carolina Purchase and Contract Division and the University of North Carolina have delegated to the UNC Charlotte Purchasing Department the authority to make all purchase contracts entered into on behalf of UNC Charlotte. The Purchasing Department is responsible for achieving economical and effective procurement of goods and services, consistent with applicable State statutes and related rules, regulations, and procedures.

Procurements normally fall into one of the categories discussed below:

I. Purchasing Methods

1. Purchases From State Contracts

Many items that are repetitively used by North Carolina agencies are purchased through State contracts. This system is designed to make goods available at a competitive price for all State users. State contracts are binding agreements and should normally be used for University purchases. However, in certain instances in which better or lower pricing is available, purchases from non-contract vendors may be made under specific guidelines available from departmental purchasing agents. Users are encouraged to document by memo to the Purchasing Department any instances of poor quality or service by State contract vendors. That documentation will be presented to the State for action, so that additional sources thought to be more competitive may be identified and encouraged to bid in the next competition for the State contract. A listing of State contracts is available on the Purchasing Department web page.

2. Purchases Not on State Contract

A. Purchases From University Facilities

On-campus service providers include, but are not limited to, the Stores Department, Printing and Reprographics, Facilities Management, Mail Services and Telecommunication Services. Goods or services from these units should be requested directly, utilizing forms prescribed by the unit. Books and other copyrighted materials should be acquired directly through the University Bookstore. Office supplies are obtained by an online ordering system found on Receiving and Stores’ website. Food and catered events should be acquired directly from the University’s contracted food service management company. Library material purchases are processed by library acquisitions through specified library vendors.

B. Petty Cash Purchases ($100 or less)

The holders of petty cash accounts may make purchases of $100 or less by using their Petty Cash Funds. The guidelines for using this account are set forth in University Policy 602.3, Petty Cash Fund and Change Fund Policy.

C. Small Dollar Purchases (less than $5,000)

Purchases amounting to less than $5,000 may be made without seeking formal competition; however, all users are encouraged to actively seek the most value for each purchase. The Purchasing Department may direct purchases to other sources if better value is available, or if an opportunity is identified to make use of a Historically Underutilized Business (HUB). (See description of HUB vendors below.)

D. Local Competitive Purchases ($5,000 to $500,000)

Purchases amounting to more than $5,000 but less than $500,000 must be subjected to formal competition but do not require approval beyond the campus. Purchases exceeding $5,000 may not be split into multiple requisitions as a way to avoid the competitive bid process. Within this category there are two benchmarks. (1) Requirements between $5,000 and $25,000 may be subjected to phone or fax quotations providing they are backed up by proper documentation (see University Purchasing Procedures Manual for bidding procedures). (2) Requirements between $25,000 and $500,000 must normally be acquired through a formal written solicitation for bid or proposals. This document must have a complete description/specification or scope of work and appropriate terms and conditions. Processing of these documents must be handled fairly, openly, and in accordance with good general administrative practice. Participating vendors have the right of protest should they feel that improper decisions have been made. Two weeks should be allowed for the local bidding process. [Note: Printing jobs involving 4-color printing process must be approved by North Carolina Division of Purchase and Contract in Raleigh regardless of the dollar amount.]

E. Purchases Based on Sealed State Bids (Above $500,000)

Purchases amounting to more than $500,000 must be submitted to the North Carolina Purchase and Contract Division in Raleigh for sealed public bid advertising. Once the bids are opened, the Division requests a review by the University. The resulting joint recommendation for award is then presented to the State Board of Awards, whose members are appointed primarily by the Advisory Budget Commission. The actual award decision is made by the Board of Awards. Six weeks should be allotted for the sealed state bid process.

F. Informal Construction Projects

Informal Construction Projects are those construction or repair projects that are estimated to cost less than $300,000. Contracts for construction or repair work or for the purchase of construction materials and supplies that are for less than $30,000 are exempt from the formal bidding process.

G. Standing Purchase Orders

Those departments that have recurring needs for similar products throughout the year may request that Purchasing seek competition based on the anticipated need for a stated fixed period of time and award the Standing Order for the acquisition of goods or services directly by the end user. The limit on all goods purchased under a single blanket order cannot exceed the University’s purchasing benchmark of $500,000.

H. Direct Pay Request (DPR) and Pre-Payment Authorization

Direct Pay Requests have a number of functions for transactions handled through the Accounts Payable office, such as registrations, subscriptions, advertisements, membership dues, and honoraria. The DPR is also used to reimburse an employee or student for incidental out-of-pocket purchases made, or when a vendor does not take a purchase order and the University needs to issue payment to a company before the goods or services are provided. The DPR may not be used to avoid adherence to the University’s procurement policies or other purchasing guidelines. The DPR is not to be used to order products or services. The Pre-Payment Authorization should be used when a vendor does not accept a Purchase Order from the University. By signing the form, the using department acknowledges and assumes all risks of loss or non-performance by the supplier. The Pre-Payment Authorization form must be attached to the Direct Pay Request form when necessary. The Purchasing Department will sign-off on the Pre-Payment Authorization form acknowledging that the supplier or contractor will not accept a Purchase Order and will forward the documents to Accounts Payable for processing. The Purchasing Department should be contacted in advance in cases of doubt about use of a Direct Pay Request or the Pre-Payment Authorization.

II. Exemptions and Waivers from Competition

Certain situations may allow or require different processes for acquisition. Refer to the University Purchasing Procedures Manual for detailed instructions on Waiver of Competitive Bidding.Some waivers include:

  • Emergency purchases;
  • Sole source purchases;
  • Purchases of used equipment;
  • Purchases of items for resale;
  • Purchases of published materials;
  • Acquisition of certain personal services;
  • Services provided by individuals by direct employment contracts with the State;
  • Services that are merely incidental to the purchase of materials or equipment such as installation services;
  • Purchase of perishable articles such as fresh meats, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, poultry and eggs;
  • Purchases where standardization of compatibility is the overriding consideration

Sole source purchases are defined by the North Carolina Purchase & Contract Division as clearly and legitimately limited to a single supplier. Sole source purchases are normally not allowed except when based upon operational compatibility with existing equipment, strong technological grounds, or upon a clearly unique and cost effective feature requirement. In order for a sole source acquisition to be considered, the requisition must be accompanied by a Sole Source Justification Checklist form. The Purchasing Department should be contacted with any questions concerning the waiver of the competitive bidding process.

III. Support of Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBS)

Governor’s Executive Order 150 provides that “it is North Carolina’s collective expectation that all citizens of the State will be given equal opportunities to participate in providing State government with the goods and services it requires without regard to race, gender or disabling condition.” The University of North Carolina at Charlotte actively supports that expectation and continuously works to exceed the minimum goals established in the Executive Order. To accomplish that objective, the University will take the following actions:

  • Seek out HUB vendors, noting the types of goods or services they provide, and solicit quotations from them when the needs for such commodities arise. These vendors will be considered for non-competitive small purchases.
  • Participate in campus seminars to identify local HUB vendors and acquaint them with State and University purchase regulations and procedures.
  • Participate in an advisory group to advise the Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs on ways to improve participation of HUB contractors in University procurement.

The University will continue to emphasize internally through staff meetings and other departmental communications the importance of its commitment to these initiatives.

IV. Bid Protest Procedures

As a custodian of public funds, the University must adhere to applicable bidding practices established by State law, University policy, and good administrative practice. A bidder claiming wrongful treatment must formally notify the Director of Purchasing within 30 calendar days from the date of the award questioned. The Director of Purchasing will provide a formal response to the vendor within fifteen (15) calendar days. A vendor not satisfied with that response may appeal the decision to the Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs, provided such appeal is received within fifteen (15) calendar days after the response from the Director of Purchasing. If the appeal is not filed within that period, no other University redress is available.

Revision History: 

Initially Approved April 1, 1985
Revised July 14, 1997
Revised October 5, 1998
Updated January 21, 2004
Revised April 4, 2007