Procurement FAQs

Here are some of the questions we’ve received or we anticipate from the university community and our responses.

Will there be any positions in procurement posted for individuals doing this work in faculties/units? How will SET impact individuals at the faculty and/or department level?

We know some do procurement activities now within faculties and departments. Much of this work will shift to a central team. Staff doing this type of work in a faculty today will have an opportunity to apply and compete for any available positions including strategic procurement-related roles.

The goal of SET is to help us restructure our administrative functions so that we can continue to provide high-quality services with fewer staff.

  • Where administrative roles within the new model are the same or substantially similar to existing roles, we aim to transfer those existing roles (and the person in the role) from existing faculties and units into new central units within the model.
  • Where new roles — those substantially different from existing positions on campus — are created, existing staff will be asked to express their interest in those roles through internally restricted expressions of interest.
  • Where new roles require talents, experience or skills not normally found within existing staff roles, those roles will be posted both internally and externally. All things equal, internal candidates will be given preference over external candidates when selections are made.
What is Procurement doing to ensure we are receiving the best possible pricing with supplier agreements?

The preferred supplier agreement (PSA) rates have been competitively bid and offer the best overall price to the university. By combining the spend of the entire university, we are able to secure increased savings in each category. Many PSAs are suppliers through SupplyNet. This process allows for efficiencies through ordering, receipt and payment (administrative savings).

Established contracts are reviewed yearly to ensure they are bringing value to the university, which includes pricing and reduced or free shipping. Procurement completes surveys of departments and contacts high-volume-use departments for feedback. Procurement will address any issues identified with the vendor to explore opportunities for improvement.

Not all savings originate from the cost or sticker price for a product or service, but also come in the form of administrative savings when using preferred suppliers. This includes pickup and delivery of the product (the supplier agreements deliver all products directly to the end users location on campus), contracts and services agreement preparation that outline the requirement of the vendor and the university (legal requirements) and expedited payment methods.

I have been able to secure better pricing on my own. Why would I use the preferred suppliers?

There is a possibility that specific items could be obtained at a cheaper price in rare circumstances (e.g. sell-off site, discount stores, sale items, clearance items, etc.); however, typically this does not occur. We are confident in our negotiated pricing and encourage the campus community to provide feedback to the Procurement team if a specific item is found at a lower cost. We will investigate the circumstances around the price discrepancy and review with our preferred supplier to determine our future direction.

In the case of IT equipment, the university has a list of preferred hardware requirements. The university standard needs to be met to ensure continuity throughout the organization. When IT equipment is purchased that does not meet these standards, the cost to the institution increases due to software issues and/or additional support.

The preferred supplier does not sell what I am looking for. What do I do?

If the product/service is not available, Procurement can investigate alternative solutions for you. You are able to purchase the item elsewhere if the cost meets our threshold requirement and the preferred supplier does not provide the product.

Thresholds:

  • Under $5,000: SupplyNet or university P-Card
  • Over $5,000: SupplyNet issued purchase order
  • Over $75,000: a competitive bid would be completed by Procurement on your behalf
The processes that relate to purchasing goods and services at the university are difficult to understand, hard to find and time consuming. Why do I need to follow them if I've identified a workaround?

With our current organizational model, there have been many exceptions processed and workarounds accepted. For example, you may prefer to work with suppliers or contractors you’re familiar with, rather than using preferred suppliers we have agreements with or following the Contracting for Services Procedure. Workarounds like these have led to extraordinary spending and inconsistent practices.

To achieve the savings we need, it is critical that the entire university community changes its approach to procurement to benefit the university now and into the future. To accomplish this, the Procurement team is redesigning guidelines, processes and procedures as part of the Service Excellence Transformation (SET) procurement stream. We are committed to streamlining processes, and making them easy to follow and understand. We also need leaders, faculty and staff to commit to following these shared guidelines and prevent the development of future workarounds.

The university is legislated to comply with the New West Partnership Trade Agreement, the Canadian Free Trade Agreement, and the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement; the university must competitively bid goods and services, posting all opportunities to APC (Alberta Purchasing Connection) purchases greater than the following thresholds:

  • Goods and Services $75,000 CDN and above
  • Construction Services $200,000 CDN and above
What procurement processes am I supposed to use?

The processes pertaining to procurement are published on the Supply Management Services website and also in UAPPOL.

Procurement Contract Management | University Services and Finance.

The processes include the following thresholds:

  • Under $5,000: SupplyNet or university P-Card
  • Over $5,000: SupplyNet-issued purchase order
I completed a requisition in SupplyNet for my purchase. I was contacted by Procurement to obtain further information about my purchase, why?

Procurement retains extensive expertise in the university environment and will assist departments, units, and faculty when making decisions relating to spend. They will identify when the legal requirements have not been met, provide alternative solutions to the purchase, and ensure the process has been followed. In many circumstances, this will enable the unit to reduce or eliminate spend.

Cheaper rates are available through Expedia, Cheapflights and Kayak. Why would I use our preferred supplier for purchasing airfare?

The university has negotiated contracts with Maritime Travel and multiple airlines including WestJet, Air Canada, KLM, and Delta that have demonstrated substantial savings to the university.

The sell-off sites mentioned above will on occasion publish a reduced price at a particular time because the airline is “selling off the flight” to maximize capacity based on a rapidly approaching departure time. These flights in most cases are non-refundable and do not allow for any changes to the itinerary; they also do not usually include seat selection and free baggage above or below the plane. The additional costs associated with these flights are substantial.

In addition, the university’s negotiated contract allows for easily accessed travel agent support to assist with preparing timely and cost effective itineraries that improve the traveler’s experience. Spending time researching and preparing itineraries is costly and takes university employees away from their critical work relating to teaching and research.

Does the $5,000 include non-reimbursable expenses (such as flights and hotels) on HAP's and TAP's or only reimbursable expenses? What constitutes research, does it include Fund 330?

If the total claim amount exceeds $5,000, including non-reimbursable amounts, it will route to the budget owner after Central Compliance review and approval.

Research funds are F330, F530, F531, F535.
Operating funds are F100, F210, F310, F551, F552 and Exxx.

The university has paid for my home internet for many years. Will this still be covered?

The university views home internet as a utility. Similar to gas, water/sewage and electricity payments, internet is a common utility that the majority of employees are purchasing for personal use. The university is not responsible for other utility payments for employees or other expenses relating to the operation of their home residences. One of the procurement initiatives will review home internet payments.

*NEW* Can you provide clarity on the rumours surrounding the closing of certain faculty and unit managed stores, like Biochemistry Stores?

Across the institution, there are multiple faculty and unit managed stores currently operating. As part of the SET procurement review, Finance, Procurement and Planning is completing an independent review of each store to determine the cost effectiveness of the operation. Each review takes approximately four months to complete and takes into account the financials, infrastructure, and salary and benefits to operate. During the process, interviews are conducted with faculty representatives and site visits and surveys are completed with the stakeholders in the faculty or unit to determine current needs and explore alternative delivery models. A recommendation is then provided to the SET Steering Committee and unit. 

[Updated November 25, 2021]

Additional questions?

If you have a question or suggestion about procurement, processes, travel or supplier management, use the Feedback for the Procurement Stream Form.


If you have questions relating to the University of Alberta for Tomorrow, Administrative or Academic restructuring, visit the U of A for Tomorrow FAQ.