The following key questions guide the Purchasing process:

1. Are there special considerations or requirements for the good/service?

  • Some goods and services or processes differ from standard procurements and processes. Examples include, but are not limited to: Legal services, Printing, Vehicles, Telecomm Equipment, and Travel.
  • Different processes exist which might apply for Emergency procurements, Grants, Non-procurement transactions, Inter-agency purchases or “Sole Source” situations. Contact Purchasing if you feel any of these circumstances may apply.

2. Is there an existing contract for which I must or may buy from?

  • If what you need is on a mandatory (usually statewide) contract, UWM must buy from the contract. The State Board of Procurement’s centralized purchasing acts in the best interests of the state to aggregate spend, leverage price, and standardize contracts for commonly used products across agencies and campuses. If there is a mandatory contract for the good or service that you need but there is a justifiable business reason why purchasing from another source is in the best interest of UWM, it may be possible to get a waiver from the State to use an alternate supplier. Note that price alone may not be a good enough reason to obtain a waiver.
  • If what you need is available on an existing contract managed by the Purchasing Office, another state agency, a collective purchasing consortium, or another state, another state agency, or the federal government, UWM may have the option to purchase from the existing contract, taking advantage of already negotiated costs, terms, and conditions.
  • See the Department of Administration’s contract listing here.

3. What is the appropriate process for the dollar value of my purchase?

If no special considerations and requirements or mandatory or optional contracts exist, then the dollar value of the good or service determines the procurement process.

  • Less Than $5,000 – a “Best Judgement” procurement. If there is no mandatory contract, then you can purchase from a vendor you judge best able to supply the goods or services. Consider origin and delivery location, quality, price, conformity of specifications, purpose, date, etc., when determining which vendor is best able to supply. UWM’s preferred payment method for purchases under $5,000 through “best judgement” is your Purchasing Card (P-card).
    • You must avoid serial contracting/purchasing under the ‘Best Judgement’ threshold. “Serial Purchasing”, which is prohibited, is the practice of using the purchasing card for purchases to the same vendor for the same commodity or service to avoid a competitive bidding process. 
  • Between $5,000 and $50,000 – a “Simplified Bid”. A minimum of three bids for the good or services should be collected and recorded by the Purchasing office in an official document (DOA-3088). Specifications for the item being bid should be developed to allow competitive bids from multiple vendors wherever possible; generic specifications are preferred and the use of trade names is discouraged unless it is to communicate a level of quality, performance or compatibility. The Purchasing office can assist you with building specifications, finding vendors to bid, and soliciting bids. An RFP can also be used for services under $50,000 – please contact Purchasing to determine whether an RFP may be appropriate for your procurement.
  • Over $50,000 – an Official Sealed Bid (an RFB) for goods, or a Request for Proposal (RFP) for services. You should contact the Purchasing office immediately when you require a procurement over $50,000, so that our trained Purchasing Agents can work with you through the RFB or RFP process. Different levels of Departmental involvement will be required, but the Purchasing Office manages these formal processes in line with State procurement guidelines. An official sealed RFB can take 3-6 months from beginning to end; an RFP, depending on the complexity, will likely take at minimum 6 months to complete and can last up to a year.

What is the difference between a Bid (RFB) and a Proposal (RFP)?

  • An RFB is appropriate where clearly definable specifications, often with ‘Yes or No’ answers, can be met; the RFB criteria should not restrict competition or limit the number of bidders – see also the above notes regarding trade names. Purchasing can assist the Department with developing specifications, and subject matter experts may offer assistance during this process. The specifications must be written so that the award can be made to the lowest cost bidder.
  • An RFP is appropriate where an award cannot be made strictly on specifications or price, and several firms are qualified to furnish the product or service. Rather than meet detailed and precise specifications, vendors are given an opportunity to propose how they would meet the Department’s needs. Purchasing and the Department will develop the solicitation and vendors’ proposals will be scored by a committee, to allow for subjective determination of the best outcome. While lowest cost is important, it is not the single determining factor in the award of an RFP.

4. What other key policies do I need to know?

  • The State has codified key policies relating to: Minority Business Enterprises, Disabled Veteran-Owned Business, State Use Program, Bureau of Correctional Enterprises/Badger State Industries, Wisconsin Reciprocity Law, American-made Preference, Contract Compliance, Ineligible Vendor Lists, and Prompt Payment. The Purchasing Office will guide you through the technicalities related to any of these policies when it comes time to complete your procurement.

5. Who manages Suppliers after orders are placed by Purchasing?

The UWM Division or Department requesting the goods or services is responsible for the management of contractors, including any required onboarding, training, compliance, managing deliveries, returns, deliverables and deadlines, and initiating and approving payments (excluding payments for ShopUW+ orders placed with catalog vendors).

Purchasing will assist with contract compliance issues that are raised by the unit or the Supplier. Any complaints about Suppliers must be substantiated (e.g. a documented history of late arrivals to a work site).