A downloadable PDF version of the handbook is available at College Employee Handbook.


General Policy. Purchasing for the College is a function of the Administrative Services division and administered by the Purchasing Manager. The Purchasing Office has responsibility for procuring virtually all equipment and supplies as well as contracting for certain services for the College. The Purchasing Office provides assistance to all College departments in satisfying their requirements at the lowest possible cost consistent with quantity, quality, and delivery requirements.

The Purchasing Office is authorized to negotiate the purchase of materials, equipment, supplies, and services (see exceptions below). Selection of sources and vendors is normally the responsibility of the Purchasing Office by use of the Standard Purchase Order. Suggestions for sources by departments are welcomed and will be considered whenever economically feasible. Orders or commitments by the departments should be accompanied by a purchase order approved by the Purchasing Office. Purchases considered exceptions to the above are divided into the following categories.

Category A. Category A exceptions are purchases made through independent order systems maintained by certain departments. Departments allowed to maintain standard purchase orders are to contact the Purchasing Office. Purchasing will log out purchase orders by number to the department. Departments who maintain standard purchase orders must return the yellow and pink copies to the Purchasing Office whenever a purchase order has been placed by one of these departments.

Exceptions to Category A:

  • Library books
  • Physical Plant supplies and equipment
  • Special purchases by the President’s Office
  • Computer equipment and software
  • Scientific supplies, equipment, and teaching supplies and materials.
  • Contracts for outside printing, typesetting, camera and art work arranged by the Communications Office.
  • Transportation and travel, other than athletic charter service.

Category B. Category B exceptions are purchases of items selected on a regular basis by individual departments without the assistance of the Purchasing Office. These purchases should, however, be processed through and approved by the Purchasing Office by issuance of standard purchase orders.

Exceptions to Category B:

  • The Meeman Center bookstore books
  • Special materials used in teaching and administration such as periodicals, books, testing programs, memberships, grants and films.
  • Contracts for computer maintenance and license agreements negotiated by Information Technology Services.

If a department wants independently to place standard purchase orders, the department head must contact the Purchasing Office for approval and proper training.

No College employee is authorized to purchase, in the name of the College, items for personal use. No employee is authorized to submit a request or approve a purchase order for items for personal use, nor may petty cash funds be used for such purposes. This stipulation shall apply regardless of payment of normal sales and other taxes by the employee, directly to the vendor or to the vendor through the College. The expense to the College of such transactions is prohibitive.

Exempt from this rule is the inclusion on maintenance contracts of personally owned typewriters used on campus primarily for teaching or administrative purposes. The contractor must be aware of any personally owned machines on the contract and must know that the machine owner is paying for service through the College.

The special ordering of books by employees through the Bookstore is also allowed. Any other personal purchases must be approved by the Vice President for Finance and Business Affairs.

Some vendors who sell to the College will extend a courtesy discount to College employees. Any transaction between employees and these vendors must be made on a private basis. The employee must pay tax as not doing so endangers the College’s tax exempt status.

The Purchasing Office may give general advice regarding personal purchases but cannot make in-depth studies or detailed inquiries on behalf of employees.

Year End Purchases. If an item is to be paid from the current fiscal year’s operating (departmental) budget, that item must be received on campus by June 30th and the invoice must be dated prior to or on June 30th. Ample notice must be given to the Purchasing Office to insure a June 30th delivery. This applies to all types of purchases made by any department, even office supplies. Keep in mind some items can take weeks or months to ship. No purchases can be made after June 1, without the permission of the Vice President for Finance and Business Affairs.

Unauthorized Purchases. No individual has the authority to enter into purchase contracts, or in any way obligate the College for a purchase unless specifically authorized by the Vice President for Finance and Business Affairs, the President, the appropriate Dean or the Purchasing Office. An individual making an unauthorized purchase may encounter a personal obligation to pay the vendor. Firms ordinarily doing business with the College are aware of this policy and are advised that all purchases chargeable to the College must be authorized by an official College purchase order signed by the Purchasing Office. Exclusive of the petty cash and check request procedures, the College will not reimburse employees for the cost of any such purchases on behalf of the College unless previous arrangements have been made and the Purchasing Office notified.

Standard Purchase Requests. To obtain materials with a value greater than $1000, departments should anticipate requirements as far in advance as possible to insure that enough lead time is provided for adequate research, solicitation of bids, and delivery time. The department should clearly state if it is authorizing the purchase of the needed item(s) or if the department first wants price quotations and detailed information on the item(s) before the purchase is made.

Requests for goods to be purchased through Purchasing should include:

  • an accurate description of articles needed
  • estimated cost of items (or spending limit the department wishes to place on the purchase)
  • if price quote is needed before order is placed, please inform the Purchasing Office
  • suggested sources, if any known or preferred
  • account number to which the purchase will be charged
  • delivery instructions: when, where (department, building and room number), and to whom.
  • signature of individual responsible for the department’s budget.

The Purchasing Office will then proceed with an investigation of sources for the needed items. In most cases the Purchasing Office will confer with the requesting department regarding information obtained, samples, and prices. Purchasing decisions are generally made as a result of these discussions and approval to issue purchase orders is often verbal.

In some cases the department may wish to examine catalog and price materials themselves to determine requirements. The Purchasing Office maintains product information files, and departments may use them provided they are returned promptly. The Purchasing Office is also available to locate sources and obtain product information on any items not included in these files.

Standard Purchase Orders. The purchase order is the instrument by which most College supplies, equipment, and services are procured. It is the seller’s authority to ship and to invoice for the goods specified on the order, and it is the buyer’s commitment for the value of the goods ordered. It a legal document which expresses the College’s part of a contract of sale. Once accepted, establishing an agreement, it is a legally binding contract.

Procedure. A five-part purchase order is issued by the Purchasing Office for items which are not listed under Check Request Payment Method. Essential information required on a purchase order includes:

  • Purchase order number
  • Bid number (if applicable)
  • Date of order
  • Name and address of vendor
  • General instructions (e.g. marking of shipments, shipping address)
  • F.O.B. (point at which vendor’s responsibility of freight charges terminates)
  • Shipping instructions (e.g. destination, carrier, and traffic routing to be specified)
  • Cash discount terms
  • Quantity and description of material ordered
  • Price, both unit and extended
  • Desired delivery date (on or before)
  • Other special terms and conditions as may be necessary for clarification of the order
  • Account number to be charged
  • Purchasing Office staff member’s signature or an authorized member of a department 
  • Whether the order is an original order or confirmation only
  • Name of the person with whom the order was placed

The Purchasing Office will fax purchase orders for departments if the department asks. Most vendors will take a verbal P.O. #, but a hard copy should be sent to the company to prevent any misunderstandings and to assure correct pricing. The green and gold copies of purchase orders will be returned to the department chair. The green copy is the department’s file copy which can be used to record shipment receipt dates, quantity received or backordered, amounts of money approved for payment, date invoice approval form is sent to the Finance Office, and vendor’s invoice information. The gold copy should be attached to the vendor’s invoice with approval for payment form and submitted to the Finance Office.

Changes. Any change in a purchase order after the order is placed alters the contract with the vendor. Please notify Purchasing and the vendor so the purchase order can be promptly updated.

Bidding Procedure. When time permits and the estimated cost of items is large enough, requests for written quotations will be sent. Quotations are solicited from the widest practical selection of vendors with proven performance in the areas of price, service, quality, and delivery. These factors, as well as product availability, proximity, and technical competence, will be considered in the award of bids.

Verbal Rush Orders. Verbal orders (usually an emergency or an item which can only be ordered through one source—also see under General Policy, Category B) should be kept to a minimum but a purchase order number may be obtained from the Purchasing Office when it becomes necessary for a department to place a verbal order via the telephone or a visiting sales representative. To initiate a verbal transaction the authorized person in the department must contact Purchasing with the vendor name, amount of money to be spent, account to be charged, and description of items needed. A purchase order number will be issued at the discretion of the Purchasing Office. Proper planning eliminates many rush transactions but real emergencies will be handled as expeditiously as possible.

Delivery. The College receives goods shipped in many ways; i.e. by truck (common carrier), U.S. Postal Service, United Parcel Service, FedEx, local company-owned vehicles, etc. Since the College does not have a central receiving area, many people are involved in receipt of goods. Large orders for one department are generally delivered directly to that department, and it is imperative that departments specify delivery location in detail. (Example: “Ship to Rhodes College, Attention Purchasing Dept., Physical Plant Building.”)

Items delivered by mail, FedEx or UPS are distributed through mail services. It is imperative that ordering departments instruct vendors to ship to the attention of a department and appropriate person. Departments are notified of receipt and should make arrangements to pick up their orders promptly as space is limited.

Items that are part of a large order for several departments are handled by Purchasing. When the invoice arrives for a multi-department order, the charges are approved by the Purchasing Office. Departments will have already been asked to provide correct account numbers. Copies of the invoice approval form will be forwarded to the departments.
Receiving: When material received is not acceptable (i.e., defective, damaged, not as ordered, or not ordered at all) notify the Purchasing Office immediately. Purchasing will assist the departments with filing a claim or with return or exchanges of incorrectly shipped items as long as the department has followed the proper procedures in receiving the items. Departments will be required to complete the appropriate forms from freight companies. Here are a few tips to aid you in receiving goods:

  • Except in the case of UPS and U.S. Postal Service deliveries, which are handled through the mailroom, you’ll always be asked to sign something to show you’ve received the goods. Be sure that the number of cartons or packages you sign for is indeed the number the deliverer has brought in. Note any shortages or overages on the delivery ticket. Many items delivered by freight lines are received at the Physical Plant Building, but some freight deliveries go directly to the building.
  • If cartons are damaged, be sure to note it on the ticket you sign. It’s wise to go ahead and open the carton(s) to see if the damage has affected the contents. Get the driver to sign the delivery ticket (all copies).
  • Never refuse a shipment because it is damaged. Always leave the cartons exactly where they were delivered (otherwise, the freight company can claim we damaged it by moving it after delivery). Don’t throw away anything until the claim has been settled.
  • Never throw away packaging materials until you’re satisfied that the contents are undamaged and complete. Check packing slips against what’s actually in the cartons.
  • If you’re uncomfortable about receiving a shipment and need help, contact Purchasing who will be happy to assist you.
  • Report damages, shortages, etc. to Purchasing so we can help you get the order straightened out.

Correspondence. Correspondence concerning quotations, orders, delivery, loss, or damage, returns, i.e., any communication related to any purchase or proposed purchase, should be handled by the Purchasing Office. If departments communicate directly with vendors, the Purchasing Office should be notified. This simplifies the routing of any responses received by Purchasing from the vendor, particularly when the department or purchase order number is not mentioned in the vendor’s correspondence.