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Frequently Asked Questions
About Procurement

What services are available from other University of Texas at Austin departments?
Many services are available from other university departments – when service is obtained from another university department, bidding is not required, no purchase order is issued, and charges may be paid using an Interdepartmental Transfer (IDT) rather than vouchering against an invoice.

University Mail Services provides bulk mailing and other mail services.

The Campus Club provides catering services.

University Printing provides printing and binding services.

UT Copy Centers provides copying services.

How do I buy the goods and services I need to perform my job at UT?
The University of Texas at Austin purchases goods and services by determining the products and the suppliers that will afford the university the "best value."

What is "best value" and how is it determined?
Recent legislative changes in the purchasing statutes for higher education have made "best value" procurement possible.

Best value means the optimum combination of economy and quality to achieve the objectives of the end user and the university. To determine this optimum combination, decisions must be made on some pre-purchase evaluation criteria pertaining to specific purchases. There are different guidelines for purchasing goods and services as well as special services like consulting or professional services from architects.

These criteria might involve some or all of the following examples: price, quality, service after the sale, reputation of the vendor, delivery time, cost for training or installation and even trade-in or surplus value when you are through using the item. The list can go on to include as many specific criteria for your purchase that is needed to make the evaluation.

Is everything bought with a purchase order?
Some vendors will only work through a written contractual agreement and will not accept purchase orders. If that is the case, you may want to contact your buyer in Purchasing to see if we can find a way to issue a purchase order. If not, the contract is handled by Business Contracts. Do not sign the agreement yourself! Always contact Purchasing when dealing with any type of service agreement or written contractual agreement presented by a vendor.

Often with software licenses, the vendor will request that a software license agreement be signed in addition to the purchase order. This agreement will add terms and conditions concerned with use of the software that don’t appear on a standard purchase order. You should never sign a software license agreement! Always contact Purchasing when dealing with any type of licensing document or written contractual agreement presented by a vendor. Please contact the buyer for your department for assistance with agreements.

Agreements – including those processed through Contract Management or software licenses – are still subject to all of the Purchasing guidelines. If the agreement is in place of a purchase order, documentation of competitive bidding or sole source justification is still required. If a software license agreement is processed in conjunction with a purchase order, both the agreement and the purchase order are required and processed simultaneously. You must note the document ID of the purchase order on the software license agreement and include a note to your buyer on the purchase order document indicating a software license agreement is being processed.

Can I have both a purchase order and a written contract?
Generally speaking, you should never have a purchase order and a written contractual agreement for the same purchase. It would be almost impossible for both to have the same language and not have some conflicting terms or conditions, since there are standard terms and conditions for each type of document. If there are multiple contracts (a purchase order is a type of contract) with conflicting terms or conditions, who decides which is the valid legal document? Usually the courts. Typically the earliest dated document rules; however the court may decide that there is no valid contract.

It is best to have only one type of contractual document - the type that best suits the purchase. The written contractual agreement contains all the legal conditions pertaining to that specific agreement. Once it is signed by both parties as agreed upon, if something was left out and it is not contained within the "four corners" of that document, it isn't in the contract, regardless of who said what to whom.

Do I have to get competitive bids for everything I buy?
No, you do not. In fact your departmental purchasing representative can buy most items up to $5,000 without taking competitive bids. Of course, comparing prices and "shopping around" is always a good practice. You should also keep in mind purchasing from Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs) when possible to meet the university's HUB goals.

Also keep in mind, buying recycled products when practical helps to conserve our natural resources.

What else requires competitive bids?
Even though higher education is now almost entirely exempt from state purchasing rules, The Texas Legislature requires that we support the state's efforts to gainfully employ persons with disabilities. We must give first consideration to goods and services provided by persons with disabilities. Products and services offered by the Texas Industries for the Blind and Handicapped (TIBH) are listed on the TIBH Online Catalog.

TIBH offers these products and services through State of Texas contracts. We must check their pricing and availability. However if these goods do not meet your best value criteria, that failure is justification to buy the products from the commercial marketplace.

For purchases over $5,000, your department purchasing representative can take quotes by fax, phone, or e-mail on orders up to $25,000. We call this "informal bidding." "Formal bidding" is where purchasing handles the bidding and vendors must send in sealed envelopes containing their offers by a certain date and time in order to be considered. "Informal bidding" requires that your departmental purchasing representative takes at least three (3) quotes to determine the best value purchase source. At least one quote must be from an ethnic HUB and at least one quote from a woman-owned HUB. The third quote can be from any viable source. Your department representative should obtain a written quote for the departmental file from the awarded vendor whenever possible to verify that vendors honor their original quotes and that there is no misunderstanding of what is being purchased and/or quoted.

Your purchasing document must include a full description of the items being purchased and reflect other information from the vendor's quote such as the FOB, delivery time, any part numbers and shipping charges. Your buyer in the Purchasing Office may request a copy of the quote as backup documentation for the purchase order. See Appendix B below, Summary of Purchasing Authority, for bidding requirements.

Are there any orders already in place that I can use?
Yes. The university Purchasing Office has numerous "standing orders" or "blanket orders." These are orders that we set up each year for items that we know to be high demand or have multiple users.

Do you need a computer, film processing, bottled water, cars towed, uniform rentals, dry ice or nitrogen gas? We already have the orders in place. There is no need to go through the bidding process. Check the Purchasing Office Blanket Orders.

If you do not find what you are looking for, please contact us at (512) 471-4266 and ask to speak with the buyer for your specific department or school. Besides our standing orders, the State of Texas has many existing contracts for everything from paper to tires. In addition, we have access to other universities' contracts as well as cooperative buying agreements for everything from moving services to carpeting.

I still can't find what I need.
Then it is time to give your specifications and evaluation criteria to Purchasing and we will bid it out to the world and find what you need. These types of orders are usually the ones over the $25,000 threshold and require special handling by purchasing. End users do not have any authority to process these types of orders.

I do not know what I need. I know what I want to do, but don't know how to do it.
Purchasing also finds problem-solvers, headhunters, consultants, and professional services personnel including (but not limited to) engineers, architects, actuaries, lawyers, appraisers, and surveyors.

If you need this type of assistance, the state has a whole different set of rules we have to play by, which can get complicated. In a nutshell, if you think you need any of the following, please call Purchasing first:

Professional Services: These are all the professions that are actually certified by their peer groups, associations or state boards; they must continue to take training to maintain their certifications. Some examples are architects, accountants, lawyers, and engineers. If in doubt, check with Purchasing. We have to follow the official state of Texas definition of who is what for these types of services.

Consultants: Everybody calls themselves consultants, but the State of Texas has its own definition and determination of who a consultant is and what consulting is. Please do not guess; call Purchasing at the first inkling that you may need a consultant. Above all do not sign anything!

What can't I buy?
Really, you can't buy anything. Only personnel with delegation from the president of the institution can obligate the university to buy something. Only a small handful of personnel in Purchasing and a designated few areas have delegation from the president to issue purchase orders or sign contractual agreements that obligate funds for the university. Prior to making a purchase, a signed purchase order or contract must be in place and signed by an authorized signer. Most university personnel, including the person entering your electronic requisitions, only have "requisitioning authority."

The closest you can come to actually "buying" something is if you have been issued a university Procurement Card. When you make a purchase against the card, you obligate the University to reimburse the bank that owns that card.

You can't sign contracts either, nor can most of your bosses. If you attempt to do so, the contract is voidable - and causes untold problems. Unless specifically delegated by the president of the institution, no one can obligate the University by signing a business contract. No one but the president can delegate that authority (Regent's Rule, Part 2, Chapter XI, Section 1).

Business contracts can only be signed by the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the institution and/or his designees who have received delegated signature authority directly from the president of the institution.

AND, THEY ARE SIGNED ONLY AFTER extensive scrutiny of the contract language and the negotiation of acceptable terms and conditions between the university and the contracting party.


The purchase of standard services, professional services, consulting or any other services must be reviewed by Purchasing and/or the Office of the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer prior to any solicitation for such services. Each situation is unique and requires special permissions from the appropriate Vice Chancellor, the LBB, and or the Governor's Budget and Planning Office prior to proceeding with solicitations. Pre-solicitation fact-findings may be required. The selection criteria may vary depending upon the type of service being sought and must be advertised in the solicitation prepared and advertised by the Purchasing Office only. Pre-contractual, reporting, advertising of notice and fact finding with the Governor's Budget Office may be required.

The obligatory agreements will vary accordingly. Before the university enters into any written agreement, the agreement must be reviewed and approved by the appropriate institutional representative at a minimum. Additionally, the contract may require further review and approval by The University of Texas System Office of General Counsel, the appropriate Executive Vice Chancellor, and the Board of Regents prior to contract signature and implementation of services.

If you plan to purchase any of these types of services, please contact your buyer in the Purchasing Office and Debbie Stevens in the Office of the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at (512) 471-4412.


Appendix A:
Products and services not requiring a Purchase Order

  • Regulated utilities
  • Subscriptions to publications
  • Cell phones and Pagers1
  • Cell phone and pager monthly charges1
  • Internet service providers (ISPs)1
  • ISP monthly charges1
  • Professional memberships related to one's work
  • Exam fees
  • Seminar registration fees
  • Accreditation fees
  • Exhibit booth fees
  • Postage
  • Catering2
  • Freight only - not associated with a Purchase Order
  • Tuition
  • Books (Library only!)
  • Classified advertising3
  • Page charges for reprints
  • Books on local funds only from the publisher
  • Demurrage, or cylinder rental, fees
  • Items purchased for sole purpose of resale4
  • Items purchased solely using funds collected for conferences, camps or seminars4

1 If an instrument is purchased from a state TEXAN 2000 contract, a purchase order must be used and monthly charges paid by the appropriate voucher type if supplier requires a purchase order for instrument or service.
2 If a catering company requires a signature on a contractual agreement prior to providing the service, those documents should be directed to Debbie Stevens {(512) 471-4412} for review and processing.
3 Local newspapers prefer a credit card or invoicing a registered subscriber
4 Procurement process should follow purchasing guidelines and use best value standards in selecting supplier.

Appendix B
Exceptional purchase types requiring special handling by the Purchasing Office

  • Consulting Services, any dollar amount
  • Professional Services, any dollar amount
  • Vendor demands or suggests written contractual agreement in lieu of purchase order
  • Requests for Proposals, any dollar amount, must be handled by Purchasing
  • Requests for Qualifications, usually specific to professional services types, contact Purchasing first
  • Requests for Information, non-committal request to furnish information, again contact Purchasing first
  • Information Technology, licensing issues as well as other property issues involved, contact Purchasing first
  • Construction Services, NOT handled by Purchasing, but we can direct you to the appropriate division in Physical Plant, Architectural & Engineering Services or possibly the System Office of Facilities Planning and Construction. Construction has totally different purchasing statutes
  • Procurements from Foreign Suppliers, concerning import laws and who can represent the university in handling incoming shipments, contact Purchasing first
  • Procurements over $100,000, require HUB Subcontracting plans as determined by Purchasing and the HUB Director
  • Procurements over $500,000, involving leasing for 60 months or more or bonding
  • Procurements over $1,000,000, requiring docketing for Regent's approval

Summary of Purchasing Authority

Dollar Range Solicitation Process Who Creates/Who Awards UT Order Type
$0.00 - $5,000.00 Select best value. User Dept./ User Dept PBO
$5,000.01 - $25,000.00 Requires a minimum of three quotes (fax/email). A good faith effort should be made to include at least one quote each from a minority-owned and woman-owned business. A sole source justification form may be used if appropriate. User Dept./
$25,000.01 + Requires formal bidding by purchasing or the completion of the sole source justification form. User Dept./
Requests for Proposals (RFPs) Consult with buyer in purchasing. User Dept./

1 Use PB4 for sole source with sole source letter.


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Spotlights and Events

Purchasing Procedure Update meeting

Purchasing Newsletter**

Procurement Guidelines Matrix**

Wish Lists in TxSmartBuy**

FY 15-16 Processing Dates**

Software License Agreement Intake Form*

Texas Comptroller’s Office Post Payment Audit** to Charge Sales Tax for Texas Purchases

Meet our Office Supply Provider**

UT Market Training Resources

Change in Payment Process for Copier Leases in FY 2013-2014**

* Note: This document requires that you be able to view Word or Excel documents. If you do not have Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel, a free viewer may be obtained from Microsoft.

**Note: PDFs are best viewed with Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 or later. Earlier versions may result in incomplete rendering of information. A free update of Adobe Acrobat Reader may be obtained from Adobe.


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   Updated 2011 March 8
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