Eastern Mennonite University Federal Grants & Contracts Purchasing Policy
Eastern Mennonite University maintains the following purchasing procedures for Federal Grants and Contracts. EMU designates this as the prime resource for faculty and staff in the administration and management of the procurement process for their respective grant awards.
The Federal government provides rules for how all grantees must spend, track, and report on Federal funds. These rules are located in 2 CFR Chapter I, Part 200 titled the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards also known as the “Uniform Guidance.” For procurement, EMU must follow 2 CFR Part 200 Subsections §200.318 General procurement standards through §200.326 Contract provisions.
While this is a primary resource for EMU, it is not intended to replace or supersede any Federal guidance on grant administration or replace the procurement standards contained in 2 CFR Part 200 aka the Uniform Guidance, Federal agency regulations, individual award terms and conditions or other applicable laws regarding grant administration.
The procurement process involves researching and negotiating with vendors to acquire products and services at the best competitive pricing, while considering quality, delivery and service. This policy explains the various threshold levels that have been established to promote competitive bidding and increase efficiency of the procurement process, including the process for making sole source purchases.
At the University level, EMU provides wide latitude to departmental staff and faculty in procuring goods and services, as long as the proper approvals and procedures are followed. EMU does not utilize a central purchasing office, but the Director of Finance and the Business Office review all purchase transactions to verify policy guidelines.
Uniform Grant Guidance regulations provide five methods for procurement:
- Micro-Purchases: below $3,500
- Small Purchases: up to $150,000
- Sealed Bid: greater than $150,000
- Competitive Proposal: greater than $150,000
- Sole Source: available for any dollar amount
These five-procurement methods must comply with EMU’s documented purchasing procedures, the necessity of the purchase, open competition to the extent required, EMU’s conflict of interest policy, and sufficient and proper documentation of the purchase. An overview of EMU’s purchasing levels and required approvals is noted below, along with the classification under Uniform Guidance. Regardless of EMU’s internal policy for approval level, faculty and staff must follow the appropriate Uniform Guidance principles in procuring goods or services for a Federal Grant or Contract.
EMU Approval Hierarcy
Uniform Guidance Category
Chair or Director
$3,001 - $10,000
Chair or Director + Dean or VP
$10,001 - $25,000
Chair or Director + Dean or VP + VP Finance
Chair or Director + Dean or VP + VP Finance + President/Provost
Small Purchase, Sealed Bid, or Competitive Proposal
Purchases up to $3,000 (Micro-Purchases)
For purchases below $3000, departments may follow their own judgment in identifying potential suppliers and do not need to advertise or obtain quotes if the price is considered reasonable.
Per Uniform Guidance, EMU is required to distribute such purchases equitably among qualified suppliers, if possible. If the goods or services can be obtained from a contracted/preferred supplier, it is recommended that the requestor purchase from this source.
Micro-purchases may be completed through vendor billing arrangements (invoiced and paid through Accounts Payable) or by an EMU purchasing card. The invoice, along with any other relevant documents identifying the need for the purchase activity, acts as the source document for Business Office records and Uniform Grant policy. Invoices paid via Accounts Payable should be submitted in paper form to the Business Office; invoices paid via purchasing card must be scanned into Concur (or other EMU approved p-card process). The purchase must be approved at a minimum by the department Chair or Director. Use of a purchase order is not required.
Purchases Between $3,001 - $10,000
The micro-purchase threshold was increased to $10,000 for institutions of higher education in an amendment attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018. The Uniform Guidance for Grants and Contracts remains the same in this purchase range as micro-purchases. Departments may use judgment in identifying potential suppliers and do not need to advertise or seek bids or quotes. EMU, however, requires additional internal processes for purchases in this range.
Purchases of goods or services over $3,000 must be approved via purchase order before purchase, with some exclusions:
- Purchases and payments related to employee benefits do not require purchase orders
- Formal contracts and subcontractor agreements for goods or services do not require purchase orders. Such contracts must be approved at the level required in the EMU approval hierarchy (a contract between $3,001 and $10,000 requires approval from the Chair/Director and associated VP/Dean).
Purchase order forms are available in the Business Office. To complete the form:
- Fill in the vendor name and address.
- Complete shipping information
- Complete order information, including departmental account number(s) and project code, if applicable
- Obtain appropriate signatures for approval based on purchase amount.
- Take the signed Purchase Order to the Business Office for assignment of a PO number and final signature from the Controller after obtaining all other signatures.
- A purchase order is not valid until signed by all parties and assigned a number. The form is in triplicate, with the pink copy retained by the Business Office, the yellow copy retained by the purchase for receiving, and the original for the vendor.
- Upon receipt of the goods or services, the yellow copy of the PO should have the “received” column filled out indicating the date, time, and receiver, and forwarded to the Business Office for payment to match up with the vendor’s invoice.
- Partial deliveries will require copies of the receiving yellow copy until everything has been received. Variances to the Purchase Order must be explained and reconciled by the receiver and Business Office before processing payment.
Purchases Between $10,001 - $25,000
Purchases in the range above $10,000 to under $150,000 are covered under the Small Purchase method of the Uniform Guidance. EMU personnel tasked with purchasing for a Federal grant or contract must obtain price or rate quotations from an adequate number of qualified sources, but are not required to follow a formal bid process. One price quote is not an adequate number unless the purchase qualifies as a sole source purchase, discussed in a later section. All quotes should be documented in writing and retained as source documents for Federal grants or contracts, and forwarded to the Controller/Director of Finance. This documentation is required to remain on file for as long as the Federal Grant or Contract is open to inspection by the awarding agency, typically three years after the date of closing.
Once a vendor is selected, the purchase order process applies unless one of the exceptions, like a formal contract, is signed by the proper approval hierarchy. At this purchase level up to $25,000, the Chair/Director, appropriate Dean/VP, and the VP for Finance must all approve the expenditure, and any contracts in this range must be approved by the VP for Finance.
Purchases Above $25,000
Per EMU approval hierarchy, purchases above $25,000 must be approved by the following parties: Chair/Director, appropriate Dean/VP, VP for Finance, and President/Provost. For non-Federal grants and contracts, the purchase order process applies for purchases above $25,000 at EMU.
Under the Uniform Guidance, an additional threshold of $150,000 is added with purchases between $10,000-$150,000 eligible for the Small Purchase method, but Federal grant or contract purchases above $150,000 must include a competitive proposal or sealed bid.
Federal Grants and Contract Purchases above $150,000
Competitive Proposals: The technique of competitive proposals is normally conducted with more than one source submitting an offer, and either a fixed price or cost-reimbursement type contract is awarded. It is generally used when conditions are not appropriate for the use of sealed bids. If this method is used, the following requirements apply:
- Requests for proposals must be publicized and identify all evaluation factors and their relative importance. Any response to publicized requests for proposals must be considered to the maximum extent practical;
- Proposals must be solicited from an adequate number of qualified sources; and
- Contracts must be awarded to the responsible firm whose proposal is most advantageous to the program, with price and other factors considered.
Sealed Bids: For purchases over $150,000, bids are publicly solicited and a firm fixed price contract (lump sum or unit price) is awarded to the responsible bidder whose bid, conforming with all the material terms and conditions of the invitation for bids, is the lowest in price.
If sealed bids are used, the following requirements apply:
- Bids must be solicited from an adequate number of known suppliers, providing them sufficient response time prior to the date set for opening the bids;
- The invitation for bids, which will include any specifications and pertinent attachments, must define the items or services in order for the bidder to properly respond;
- All bids will be opened at the time and place prescribed in the invitation for bids;
- A firm fixed price contract award must be made in writing to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder.
Contract/Price Analysis: EMU must perform a cost or price analysis in connection with every procurement action in excess of $150,000, including contract modifications. 2 C.F.R. §200.323(a). A cost analysis generally means evaluating the separate cost elements that make up the total price, while a price analysis means evaluating the total price, without looking at the individual cost elements. Such analysis must be completed with or approved by either the Controller or VP for Finance.
The method and degree of analysis is dependent on the facts surrounding the particular procurement situation; however, EMU personnel must come to an independent estimate prior to receiving bids or proposals. 2 C.F.R. § 200.323(a). This is accomplished by analyzing prior procurements, industry research, and a thorough review of the conditions required by the Federal grant or contract.
When performing a cost analysis, EMU personnel negotiates profit as a separate element of the price. To establish a fair and reasonable profit, consideration is given to the complexity of the work to be performed, the risk borne by the contractor, the contractor’s investment, the amount of subcontracting, the quality of its record of past performance, and industry profit rates in the surrounding geographical area for similar work. 2 C.F.R. §200.323(b).
Noncompetitive Proposals (Sole Sourcing)
Procurement by noncompetitive proposals is procurement through solicitation of a proposal from only one source and may be used only when one or more of the following circumstances apply:
- The item is available only from a single source;
- The public exigency or emergency for the requirement will not permit a delay resulting from competitive solicitation;
- The federal awarding agency or pass-through entity expressly authorizes noncompetitive proposals in response to a written request from EMU personel; or
- After solicitation of a number of sources, competition is determined inadequate.
A cost or price analysis will be performed for noncompetitive proposals when the price exceeds $150,000.
Full and Open Competition
All procurement transactions must be conducted in a manner providing full and open competition consistent with 2 C.F.R § 200.319. In order to ensure objective contractor performance and eliminate unfair competitive advantage, contractors that develop or draft specifications, requirements, statements of work, or invitations for bids or requests for proposals must be excluded from competing for such procurements. Some of the situations considered restrictive of competition include but are not limited to:
- Placing unreasonable requirements on firms in order for them to qualify to do business;
- Requiring unnecessary experience and excessive bonding;
- Noncompetitive pricing practices between firms or between affiliated companies;
- Noncompetitive contracts to consultants that are on retainer contracts;
- Organizational conflicts of interest;
- Specifying only a “brand name” product instead of allowing “an equal” product to be offered and describing the performance or other relevant requirements of the procurement; and
- Any arbitrary action in the procurement process.
Avoiding Acquisition of Unnecessary or Duplicative Items
EMU must avoid the acquisition of unnecessary or duplicative items. Additionally, consideration is given to consolidating or breaking out procurements to obtain a more economical purchase.
Debarment and Suspension
EMU awards contracts only to responsible contractors possessing the ability to perform successfully under the terms and conditions of a proposed procurement. Consideration will be given to such matters as contractor integrity, compliance with public policy, record of past performance, and financial and technical resources. EMU may not subcontract with or award sub-grants to any person or company who is debarred or suspended. For all contracts over $25,000, EMU must verify that the vendor with whom we intend to do business with is not excluded of disqualified. 2 C.F.R. Part 200, Appendix II(1) and 2 C.F.R. §§ 180.220 and 180.300. This may be accomplished by checking the excluded list at the System for Award Management (SAM) website www.sam.gov.
Maintenance of Procurement Records
EMU must maintain records sufficient to detail the history of all procurements when above the micro-purchase level. These records will include, but are not necessarily limited to the following: rationale for the method of procurement, selection of contract type, contractor selection or rejection, the basis for the contract price (including a cost or price analysis), and verification that the contractor is not suspended or debarred. All such records for Federal grants and contracts should be forwarded to the Controller in the Business Office for appropriate retention and storage.
Settlements of Issues Arising Out of Procurements
EMU alone is responsible, in accordance with good administrative practice and sound business judgment, for the settlement of all contractual and administrative issues arising out of procurements. These issues include, but are not limited to, source evaluation, protests, disputes, and claims. These standards do not relieve EMU of any contractual responsibilities under its contracts.
Approved by Provost's Council, June 18, 2020
The VP for Finance is responsible for this policy.
This policy is to be reviewed every three years.