A major management process supporting financial accountability in Texas public schools is the purchasing function. Purchasing has several links to overall accountability initiatives which include the:
• Strategic Link. The overall mission of purchasing is to use available fiscal resources to obtain the maximum product or service for the resources expended.
• Operational Link. Purchasing supports instructional delivery, administration, and other services. Performance and goal achievement throughout the school district depend on its effectiveness.
• Tactical Link. The purchasing process influences day-to-day financial functions including budget management, accounting, and accurate financial reporting.
Purchasing in the public sector environment presents numerous challenges including:
• The requirement to comply with numerous statutes, policies, legal interpretations, and procedures. The complexity of these requirements demands not only knowledge of purchasing laws and standards but compliance in implementing a purchasing system that also meets user needs.
• The dynamic and diverse nature of the public education organizational environment. School districts are complex organizations with diverse functions. Although instruction is the heart of the organization, numerous other services -- ranging from custodial services to food service to tax collection -- support the overall educational mission. These distinct organizational units need a procurement process that is responsive to their needs.
• The competition among vendors for school district business. The strong competition among vendors for school district business may create pressure on school district personnel for product selection, bid or proposal awards, and dispute resolution. Most school districts seek to foster both good vendor relations and strong competition but balance them with objective purchasing decisions.
• The consistent oversight by interest groups. School district purchasing is scrutinized by diverse groups including those from the public, the media, state and federal agencies, and auditors. Strict adherence to established guidelines and consistency in record keeping, documentation, and execution of procedures assists the school district in withstanding this scrutiny.
• The many "gray" areas relating to purchasing methods and procedures. Complex and diverse needs create challenges for districts to determine the appropriate purchasing methods. Ever-changing legislative, executive, and judicial decisions at both the state and federal levels further complicate the procurement process.
To meet these challenges, this module provides tools for managing the purchasing process by examining:
• Purchasing Process describes the actual process for goods and services procurement including purchase order creation, vendor selection and relations, and merchandise receiving techniques.
• Purchasing Responsibilities details purchasing function organization and staffing and includes information on areas such as staff development and interfacing with the users.
• Competitive Procurement Options addresses competitive procurement options including legal requirements for procurement and award of contracts.
• Cooperative Purchasing provides a review of cooperative purchasing arrangements and ways they can benefit school districts.