Purchasing goods and services at the U of A

An overview of the four different purchasing methods available.

03 February 2022

This article has been edited March 11, 2022 to update "two-quote" to "multiple-quote" terminology.

As previously shared in a Quad article released this past December, Procurement and Contract Management (PCM) will move forward with the implementation of five critical changes to U of A purchasing processes to increase cost-saving opportunities beginning April 1, 2022. These changes include: (1) mandatory use of Preferred Supplier Agreements (PSAs), (2) clear understanding and use of university purchasing methods, (3) multiple-quote process for non-PSA vendor purchases between $20,000 - $75,000, (4) discretionary oversight for Request for Proposals (RFPs), and (5) process identification for Contract for Services. In addition, adherence to university purchasing policies, processes and procedures will also be enacted.

To support the community as we move closer to an April 1 implementation date, Procurement and Contract Management (PCM) will distribute regular communications through the Quad on each of these upcoming changes. This week we will provide an overview of the four different methods available for purchasing goods and services at the U of A: Purchase Order for PSA Vendors, Purchase Order for Non-PSA Vendors, Corporate Purchasing Card (PCard), and Request for Proposal (RFP).


Purchasing goods and services

The following four methods are available to facilitate a purchase at the U of A.

  1. Purchase order for PSA vendors: used when purchasing goods, services, and construction of any value through the Preferred Suppliers in SupplyNet.
  2. Purchase order for non-PSA vendors: used when purchasing goods, services, and construction of any value up to $75,000 through the non-PSA vendors in SupplyNet. Purchases between $20,000 - $75,000 require multiple quotes or single-source justification.
  3. Corporate purchasing card (PCard): used for purchases below $5,000 and when the product is not available through the Preferred Suppliers.
  4. Request for Proposal (RFP): Used for purchases of goods and services equal to or greater than $75,000 and construction equal or greater than $200,000.

Please refer to our decision tree for an in-depth overview of each purchasing method and stay tuned for future articles on the purchasing process and dates for upcoming information sessions on these changes.

SupplyNet purchase order for PSA vendors

In most circumstances, Preferred Supplier Agreements (PSA) provide cost-effective and efficient processes for low value, repetitively purchased goods and services by leveraging the university's purchasing power to lower the total cost of goods and services, including transaction-processing costs for equipment such as office furniture, computer equipment, and office and lab supplies. Exceptions to this include enterprise-wide agreements for goods and services such as copiers, printing, and shredding. There are instances where higher valued goods and services are also available through a PSA.

Preferred Suppliers are selected through a competitive bid process and provide a high level of cost-saving opportunities as opposed to buying retail from various suppliers. PSAs are available for use by all university units and reduce the requirement to obtain additional quotes. We recommend at all times beginning your purchase through our Preferred Suppliers and using the alternate purchasing methods when the goods or services are not available through a PSA vendor.

To improve visibility and access to the Preferred Suppliers, Procurement and Contract Management (PCM) is engaged in an in-depth website redesign that will provide easy access and enhanced visibility to the PSA list, searchable by commodity. Stay tuned for updates.

SupplyNet purchase order for non-PSA vendors

In addition to our Preferred Supplier vendors, the University of Alberta has close to 19,000 active non-PSA vendors in SupplyNet. These additional vendors are not preferred suppliers however a purchase requisition can be completed by the requisitioner which will trigger the issuing of a purchase order to the vendor.

Non-PSA vendors can be used for purchases of any amount up to $75,000. If the vendor does not exist in SupplyNet, the requisitioner can complete a requisition to initiate a new vendor review and potential vendor addition.

Multiple quote requirement for purchases between $20,000 to $75,000

Starting April 1, any purchases placed in SupplyNet by a PO valued between $20,000 to $75,000 will require multiple quotes (excluding PSA vendors and existing contract extensions or renewals). Purchases valued between $5,000 to $20,000 (excluding PSA vendors) are recommended to have multiple quotes, but are not required.

The use of multiple quotes in the purchasing process ensures the U of A is receiving the best value available for high-dollar purchases. This purchasing process is used when purchasing goods, services, and construction.

If multiple quotes are not available, justification for purchasing through a single supplier must be provided. This reasoning (termed single or sole source justification) should be included when completing the purchase requisition for the order to proceed.

Templates to facilitate purchasing, and a how-to guide to navigate this process, will be made available on the Finance, Procurement and Planning website in the near future.

Corporate purchasing card (PCard) for purchases below $5,000

A Corporate Purchasing Card (PCard) should be used for purchases below $5,000 only and where the good or service is not available through a Preferred Supplier. Examples of purchases that should be made by PCard include memberships and subscriptions, registration, books, goods not available from preferred suppliers, online purchases, one-time purchases, and in circumstances where the vendor does not accept a purchase order.

PCards cannot be used when purchasing goods from Preferred Suppliers and/or purchasing of restricted goods.

Request for proposal (RFP)

Requests for proposal are used for goods and services where values are equal to or greater than $75,000 and construction where values are equal to or greater than $200,000. Use of an RFP ensures proper oversight and approval are given for large value projects.

Connect with us

For questions on purchasing methods and processes, please contact Finance, Procurement and Planning (FPP), previously referred to as Supply Management Services (SMS), by email at procure@ualberta.ca or visit our website.