Purchasing Methods

The following methods may be used to procure goods and/or services:

Institutions may make non-recurring purchases totaling less than $10,000, cumulatively in expense or revenue, without documenting any quotes or proposals from multiple vendors. Purchasers should take appropriate steps, e.g. conducting price comparisons, processing appropriate agreement documents, etc., to ensure that such Small Dollar Purchases are made based upon terms, conditions and pricing that are in the best interest of the Institution.

Institutions may make purchases totaling less than $50,000 in expense or revenue based upon written, telephone or electronic bids. For purchases totaling $25,000 to $100,000 written bids * must be solicited from at least three (3) Responsive/Responsible Bidders/Proposers. Informal bids do not require an original signature, and bids may be written, electronically transmitted or telephoned. Complete file documentation shall be maintained.

* Except for small dollar purchases (under $25,000), for purchases totaling less than $100,000 in expense or revenue, including renewal terms of multi-year awards, Institutions shall solicit bids, by sending written documentation detailing the good and/or service being requested with detailed specifications, to at least 3 bidders.

A formal solicitation process shall be used when the estimated aggregate total of the expense or revenue is $100,000 or more, including renewal terms of multi-year awards. Written sealed bids must be solicited from fifteen (15) vendors or the number of vendors on the Registered Vendors List--whichever is less and to all that request the specific ITB/RFQ/RFP. The Purchasing Director must approve the use of less than fifteen (15) vendors. In addition, if the annual estimated aggregate total of the purchase is $100,000 or more, solicitations must be sent in a manner that verifies proof of delivery.

The types of formal solicitations are provided below.


Request for Information (RFI)

An RFI may be used to gather information regarding the capabilities, including technical aspects and services offered, by various suppliers/vendors for particular goods or services. The information resulting from the RFI shall typically be followed by a competitive process for the actual procurement.

Request for Quotation (RFQ)

Goods, materials, and supplies (cumulatively called "goods") should be awarded to the lowest Responsive and Responsible Bidder pursuant to an RFQ.

An RFQ may be used to procure services, if the specifications for delivery of such services are defined to a level of detail such that the award is made to the lowest Responsive and Responsible Bidder. Examples of these types of services may include, but are not limited to:

  • Pest control
  • Security services
  • Moving and hauling
  • Refuse collections
  • Charter services
  • Printing services, and maintenance services

Request for Proposals (RFP)

  • For competitive procurements of goods and/or services, where cost is not the only determining factor for award.
  • An RFP shall specify all steps and evaluation criteria as necessary to finalize selection of the successful proposer.
  • A multi-step RFP process should be used when additional steps are necessary to qualify and/or demonstrate the goods and/or services proposed.

Determining Type of Solicitation

  • For competitive procurement of goods, an RFQ is appropriate, and in general, a purchase order may be used to finalize the purchase.
  • For competitive procurement of services, an RFP is more appropriate, and a purchase order is generally not sufficient to serve as the written contract for the services.
  • For procurement of services which will require TBR System Office approval, the Standard RFP Format shall be used.

A reverse auction process allows for specified goods or services to be made electronically during a specified time period. When conditions are favorable, Institutions may elect to use a reverse auction procurement method to achieve maximum competition among qualified Respondents, and to obtain the highest level of quality at the lowest price for goods or services. An award shall be made to the lowest Responsive and Responsible bidder.

Institutions may purchase goods or services using the competitive procurement process of another state entity. The process of the other state entity, except for the Central Procurement Office, must have specified that other Institutions would be permitted to purchase under the process. Institutions may purchase goods or services using the competitive procurement process of the Central Procurement Office which do not so specify. Institutions are strongly encouraged to include language in their competitive processes to allow extension of their process for use by other TBR and/or UT institutions as well as state departments. This Section does not preclude Institutions from using a Statewide Contract as a bid in accordance with its competitive bidding process.

When a vendor maintains a General Services Administration (GSA) agreement with the United States of America, or any agency thereof, the Institution’s procurement office may directly negotiate with that vendor for the commodity/services provided for in the GSA agreement. The price shall not be higher than that contained in the contract between the General Services Administration and the vendor affected.

When a vendor maintains a General Services Administration (GSA) agreement with the United States of America, or any agency thereof, the Institution’s procurement office may directly negotiate with that vendor for the commodity/services provided for in the GSA agreement. The price shall not be higher than that contained in the contract between the General Services Administration and the vendor affected.

Pursuant to the Tennessee Inter-local Cooperation Act, T.C.A. § 12-9-101, institutions may purchase goods and services through TBR System Office approved Cooperative Purchasing Agreements. The current approved list of TBR contracted cooperatives may be found at http://www.tbr.edu/purchasing/cooperatives.

Institutions may make purchases of goods or services, without utilizing formal solicitation procedures, to meet bona fide emergencies arising from any unforeseen cause. Bona fide emergency purchases must be approved by the Chancellor, President, Director or their designee, and file documentation of the circumstances of any such emergency shall be maintained. Emergency purchases must be made on a competitive basis and processed by the Institution’s procurement office, if practicable.

A competitive negotiation process may be used only in cases when the Institution is unable to obtain needed goods and/or services by a traditional competitive bid process. Reasons to use a competitive negotiation process include:

  • Public need will not permit the delay incident to the RFP process.
  • No acceptable proposals have been received after the RFP process.
  • Rates payable for the services are regulated by law.
  • Other circumstances as approved by the TBR System Office.

The requesting party shall work with the Institution’s procurement office to define the process to ensure the safeguarding of the information and provide fairness to the vendors in the process.

Use of the competitive negotiation process requires prior approval of the Chancellor, President, Director or their designee.

File documentation specific to each use of competitive negotiation shall be maintained.

Contracting with Another State/Governmental Entity. Personal, professional and consultant service contracts may be obtained by non-competitive negotiation when the contractor is a State Agency, a political subdivision of the state, or any other public entity in Tennessee, or an entity of the federal government.


Sole Source and Proprietary Purchases

Whenever specifications are not so worded or designed to provide for competitive bidding, a Sole Source or Proprietary Purchase may be allowed. A Sole Source Purchase is available only from a single Supplier; a Proprietary Purchase allows for a competitive procurement process to be used that specifies a particular good or service.

Written justification for Sole Source or Proprietary Purchases must be submitted in writing for approval by the Chancellor, President, Director, or their designee.

In addition to the Justification for Non-Competitive Purchases and Contracts Form, the following additional documentation may also be required as a part of the request:

  • A letter from the supplier, which details the basis for non-competitive procurement, based upon the factors listed in Section b. (4) below.
  • A letter from the business or industry which supports the purchase of a particular good or service as industry or business standard.
  • A letter from the manufacturer specifying their distribution practices, i.e. available only directly or through distributors.
    (Note: All letters mentioned in this section are to be provided on the originator’s company letterhead and must be signed by an authorized official of the company.)

Factors to be considered in determining Sole Source and Proprietary Purchases include the following:

  • Whether the vendor possesses exclusive and/or predominant capabilities or the items contain a patented or copyrighted feature providing superior utility not obtainable from similar products;
  • Whether the product or service is unique and easily established as one of a kind;
  • Whether the program requirements can be modified so that competitive products or services may be used;
  • Whether the product is available from only one source and not merchandised through wholesalers, jobbers, and retailers;
  • Whether items must be interchangeable or compatible with in-place items;
  • Whether the cost of conversion, including but not limited to disruption, retraining, and replacement precludes bidding competitively;
  • Whether the product is to be used in an instructional setting and the intent is to provide instruction on the specific product or diversity of products;
  • For personal, professional and consultant services, whether the use of non-competitive negotiation is in the best interest of the Institution;
  • Other justification(s) as approved by the Chancellor, President, Director or their designee.

Purchases for Resale in Auxiliary Enterprises

Certain items for resale for which customers have expressed a preference, and/or promotional items procured under accepted retail merchandising practices, may be purchased without adherence to requirements for minimum notice and number of bids. Appropriate documentation shall be maintained which supports the action taken.

Purchases for Libraries

  • Purchases of books, electronic or hard copy are capital expenditures and can be made without formal bids or quotations.
  • Purchases of electronic journals, subscriptions, and databases for libraries shall be procured through the Institution’s procurement or contract office in instances when a competitive process can be used or when the Fiscal Review Committee is required.
  • In addition, any required electronic or written agreements to license journals, subscriptions, or databases shall be routed through the Institution’s procurement or contracts office for review and approval prior to use.
  • Appropriate documentation must be maintained for purchases to support Sole Source Purchase.
  • Library purchases for electronic media may be subject to Accessibility Standards.

Grant Purchases

Purchases utilizing grant funding shall comply with the conditions of the grant and applicable state and federal guidelines.

State grant purchases for goods or services shall not be made from vendors on the State of Tennessee Debarred Vendors List.

Federal grant purchases for goods or services shall not be made from vendors on the List of Parties Excluded from Federal Procurement and Non-Procurement Programs, available at http://www.sam.gov.

Utility Contracts

Institutions shall purchase or contract for all telephone, electric light, gas, power, postal and other services for which a rate for the use thereof has been established by a public authority in such manner as the Institution deems to be in the best interest of the State of Tennessee.

Each such purchase or contract shall be made on a competitive basis, whenever possible unless it has been determined that such purchase is single source. If such purchase has been determined to be single source, the purchase shall then be made pursuant to the section above related to Non-Competitive Negotiation.

Gifts do not require a procurement process subject to this Guideline. See TBR Policy 4:01:04:00 Solicitation and Acceptance of Gifts.

Institutions are encouraged to determine whether some services can be delivered more economically by the private rather than the public sector. The following process is hereby permitted and encouraged:

  1. The state's cost of the service may be ascertained and kept confidential as part of the evaluation process. This cost must be finally determined and provided to the Chancellor, President, or Director, as appropriate, in a sealed envelope prior to bid/proposal due date.
  2. The service may be the subject of an RFQ/RFP, as appropriate, which approximately describes the services provided by the Institution.
  3. The RFQ/RFP may require that if the proposer’s/bidder’s price exceeds the state’s confidential cost, the proposal/bid may be rejected.


Purchasing Procedures

The following specific steps are taken in the operations of the Purchasing Department.

When requisitions are received via email, mail or dropped off:

  1. All requisitions should be entered through SciQuest unless it is a Blanket order.  Employees who have not gone through SciQuest training should contact the Purchasing Department for training.
  2. Review requisition to see if it should be processed in Banner or SciQuest, if requisition should be entered in SciQuest, the requisition is sent back to the department.
  3. If requisition is a Blanket order it is processed in Banner.
  4. Review requisition for grants or IT approvals.
  5. Check for dollar amounts and appropriate signatures.  
  6. All requisitions should have a current price quote.  If requisition is for a Subscription, then the order form or renewal notice should be attached.
  7. Requisitions exceeding $9,999 must have 3 quotes. Requisitions exceeding $49,999 must be bid unless it is a Sole Source, meaning that it can only be provided by one vendor. If the requisition is a Sole Source, the Sole Source documents must be attached. 
  8. Print purchase order and distribute to the Vendor, A/P, and the requesting department, file purchasing copy.

  1. Approver receives notification by e-mail or check notification icon to see if there are pending requisitions for approval.
  2. Check to see if requisition is using TAF Funds, and check for correct PO type, Shipping Location, Accounting Codes, Notes and Attachments and commodity codes.
  3. Review requisition to see if using Punch out or Non-catalog items.  If using Non-catalog items check for quotes, contracts or sole source documents.  Verify that quotes are current and the total dollar amount of requisition matches quote.  Make sure that quote does not include taxes.
  4. Check status for final review or pending status before approving requisition for a purchase order.

  1. Review for President’s approval if traveling out of state.
  2. Assign TA number and log in on Purchasing log sheet.
  3. E-mail the TA number to the Requestor.
  4. Email or take Travel Form with T/A number to A/P.

All agreements and contracts affecting the College must be approved and executed by the President or the President's designee. This is in accordance with TBR Policy Approvals of Agreements and Contract:  Whether a document is called an agreement, contract, memorandum of agreement, memorandum of understanding, terms and conditions, purchase order, work request or other similar name, it is subject to the requirements of this policy.

A complete list of contract policies and guidelines that must be followed is below:

Approvals of Agreements and Contract: 4:02:01.00
Contracts Guideline: G-030
Delegation of Authority/Signature Authorization

In order to comply with contract policies, the following process must be followed when routing contracts or agreements for signature:

  1. All contracts must be secured in accordance with the proper purchasing method based on the dollar value of the contract as outlined on the Purchasing Methods website. This applies to both revenue and expenditure contracts. A Justification For Non-Competitive Purchases and/or Contracts form is required if a non-competitive purchase is requested, and must be attached to the contract documents. Consult with Purchasing Director if necessary to confirm the justification is valid. (This does not apply to Dual Enrollment, Dual Service or Clinical Affiliation Agreements)
  2. All contracts must be reviewed for acceptable substance by the requesting department. For expenditure contracts, it is imperative that ample budget is available to fund the entire contract cost.
  3. There are several different types of contracts that will be processed including:
    1. Standard Agreement Template
      1. Use this template for creating Standard Agreements
      2. On the template, information that will need to be completed for each vendor/service is in red font color and instructions related to certain sections are noted in blue font color.
    2. Workshop Seminar Agreement
      1. This template can be used for speakers, workshops, meetings, seminars, etc. and is more concise than the Standard Agreement Template
      2. The template is already tailored to Southwest Tennessee Community College, the only information that will need to be entered is related to the event/contractor.
    3. Dual Enrollment Contracts
    4. Dual Service Agreements
    5. Vendor Generated Contracts.
      1. TBR will provide a redline as well as the final draft of the agreement so that changes are evident.
      2. For all contracts (Standard Agreement or Vendor Generated), the final version will include "..._Final" in the file name.
  4. The initiating department will route all contract documents and supporting required forms, if any, for approvals via DocuSign.
    1. DocuSign login address: https://account.docusign.com/#/username
    2. Southwest email address is the username
    3. Use company login option
    4. Enter Southwest credentials and DocuSign will load
    5. Select “Start” and “Send an Envelope”
    6. Populate requested information, including upload of required documents
    7. Contract Summary Sheet stipulates required approvals (addressed in 5 below)
    8. Very important: After all required approvers have been entered sequentially, select the box titled “Add Recipient”, then click the drop-down box “Needs to Sign” and instead select “Receives a Copy”.  Purchasing Department should be added with these parameters at the email address Purchasing@southwest.tn.edu
  5. A Contract Approval Summary Form must be included with the contract routing. All applicable signatures must be obtained in sequence.
    1. Initiating department head
    2. Other department approval or dean, if applicable
    3. Divisional vice president or division head of requesting department
    4. Grants review, if agreement is a grant
    5. Chief of Administrative Services, if the agreement includes technology, hardware or software services
    6. Purchasing Director (delete this signature for now as position is currently vacant)
    7. Chief Financial Officer
    8. Do not route to the President. TBR will do so when review is complete. As a note:
      1. Contracts less than $50,000 are delegated to the CFO for signature approval on behalf of President
      2. Clinical Affiliation Agreements are delegated to VP Academic Affairs for signature approval on behalf of President
  6. In addition to processing contracts through DocuSign, in all cases,
    1. a Word version of the contract must be routed to Purchasing at the time the DocuSign is entered.
    2. If terms and conditions are referenced in the contract, a Word version must be obtained from the vendor and sent to Purchasing along with the contract via email.
    3. Include vendor name, email and phone number in the email when sending the above information.
  7. Any contracts processed with a retroactive effective date must be accompanied by a memo from Dr. Hall to Chancellor Tydings explaining why the contract was routed after the effective date. This should be avoided as much as possible. Contact the Purchasing or the CFO for a template if you have this situation.
  8. Timing: All non-template vendor contracts must be routed four weeks before the due date and standard contracts two weeks prior to the due date. This is the same timeline required by Southwest.
  9. The requesting department will be notified via an email from TBR DocuSign when the contract has been fully executed. A copy of the executed contract will be attached to the email. The executed contract may also be obtained from Purchasing.
    1. You can check your "sending and receiving" notifications in your DocuSign Profile to ensure you and others receive copies of routed documents
    2. To ensure Purchasing has a copy of the contract on file, make sure Step 4.h. has been implemented in routing process.

After a contract is fully executed via DocuSign, a requisition must be entered into Saluqi Buy/SciQuest/Jaggaer.  If the contract will require multiple payments, each payment should be listed as a separate line item. This process results in the issuance of a Purchase Order based on the executed contract.

If the business vendor is new to Southwest, the department will complete a Vendor Request Form and submit to purchasing@soutwhest.tn.edu.

NOTE: All individual vendors will still fill out the new vendor forms.

Reference the Purchasing website for specific information regarding purchasing and for links to the relevant forms.

For more information, email Purchasing@southwest.tn.edu.

  1. Southwest may enter into Dual Service Agreements (DSAs) in one of two different roles: Vendor Party or Procuring Party.

    1. Vendor Party 
      1. Southwest employee is used to provide services to another State agency (e.g., another State institution of higher education).
      2. The Procuring Party initiates the Dual Services Agreement.
      3. Vendor Party Human Resources completes and confirms DSA Compensation section before returning the DSA to Procuring Party.
      4. The Vendor Party signs the DSA contract first.
    2. Procuring Party
      1. Southwest is procuring services from an employee of another State agency (e.g., another State institution of higher education).
      2. Southwest originating department initiates DSA Form with an internal Contract Approval Form (CAF) for internal review.
      3. Vendor Party Human Resources completes and confirms DSA Compensation section before returning the DSA to Procuring Party.
      4. The Vendor Party signs the DSA contract first.

  2. Dual Service Agreements (DSAs) are logged in the Purchasing contract log after Purchasing verifies assigned roles of Vendor Party and Procuring Party.

  3. Vendor Party Dual Services Agreement
    1. Agreement from the Procurement Party is routed through DocuSign for approval/review before obtaining the President’s signature.
    2. After the STCC President’s signature, the Agreement is returned to the Procuring Party for executing signature.
    3. Procurement uploads fully executed Agreement received from the Procuring Party to P-Drive and provides copies to originating department.
    4. Procurement provides copies of fully executed Agreement to Payroll, Human Resources, and Accounts Receivable (A/R).
      1. Payroll pays STCC employee and A/R bills the Procuring Party per contract terms.
      2. Payroll and A/R work together collaboratively to ensure payment and billing is handled in a timely manner.

  4. Procuring Party Dual Services Agreement
    1. STCC originating department Admin Assistant routes CAF and DSA through DocuSign for internal approval/review and the President’s executing signature
    2. Purchasing provides copy of executed contract to Vendor Party and originating department Admin. 
    3. After contract has been full executed, STCC originating department admin must verify all employee services have been completed by filling out the completion form and forwarding to A/P so the invoice can be processed.
    4. The Procuring Party department receives an invoice from the Vendor Party to process the invoice for payment through A/P.


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