The school district objective is to purchase the best products, materials, and services at the lowest practical prices within relevant statutes and policies. Procurement policies must, of course, accommodate the school district's unique operating environment and needs. While school district administrators are not authorized to override state law or board policy, they can customize the purchasing function to provide for regulatory compliance while minimizing procedures and related costs.
The purchasing function should be the result of conscious process design and be reviewed and challenged periodically. The elements should be systematic, comprehensive, and creative. The structure itself, therefore, should not be based on historical methods and "the way it's always been done." It should begin with a strategic focus and end by linking operations, strategy, technology, and human resources school district-wide. Development of this structure must be an interactive process which is cross-functional in providing a sense of ownership for user/designers.
A good design identifies the best purchasing methods and subsequently employs them throughout the school district. It correlates the diversity of school district operations and the important nature of the services with the timing of service delivery. As an example, planning for and subsequent procurement of instructional support materials for both students and teachers should be coordinated at the school district and campus levels to meet both the school calendar and class schedules.
Accurate record-keeping and documentation should be a fundamental element of the procurement process. Precise and systematic record-keeping and records management withstands the constant scrutiny of various interest groups including vendors, the general public, and outside agencies as well as internal groups which are the users or customers of the purchasing system. This records management function should support the school district's overall information management plan described in the Data Collection and Reporting module and generally provide for:
• Both the flow and retention of forms including requisitions, purchase orders, petty cash and cash reimbursement receipts.
• Full documentation of all competitive procurements with comprehensive competitive procurement files containing specifications, competitive procurement advertisement, pre-competitive procurement conference minutes (as appropriate), competitive procurements submitted, competitive procurement tabulation, board minutes indicating competitive procurement awards (or a similar award notice) and related records.
• Full documentation of procurement procedures utilized to obtain goods and services through competitive sealed proposals, design/build contracts and other procurement options.
• Documentation of price quotations if there are quotations obtained by school district staff for local policy compliance.
The records management function may rely on electronic formats including automated systems, diskettes, CD-ROM, imaging and microfiche. Alternatively, it may use hard copy or a combination of methods. Each school district should select the methods best suited to its needs.
Quality assurance and quality control should be reflected in all administrative procedures and extend to areas such as analysis of products provided, review of services and review of vendor performance. Specific areas of quality control may be grouped as:
• Administrative Control activities may include:
− Independent review of account coding
− Confirmation of availability of funds
− Confirmation of utilization of approved vendors
− Confirmation of legal compliance with bid, proposal and quotation requirements
• Review of pricing and price extensions
− Product and Services Control activities may include:
− Product testing
− Ongoing analysis of product quality and quality of service delivery
− Product reliability analysis
• Vendor Performance Control activities may include:
− Review of compliance with contractual terms for prices
− Analysis of timeliness and accuracy of product delivery
− Responsiveness to problems
A consistent program for purchasing staff development and training is important to effective purchasing activity. The complexity of the purchasing environment demands that staff members responsible for purchasing goods and services periodically receive training in policy and procedures. Purchasing training should include all levels of employees providing at least basic information about the school district's purchasing function. Training should be on-going to accommodate:
• Employee advancement and staff turnover that create training needs for employees
• Procedures, processes, functions and support mechanisms that may be modified or enhanced
• Purchasing changes that may be mandated by legislative, executive or judicial action
Many school districts include purchasing training in scheduled in-service classes, academies, continuing education programs and departmental meetings.