The competitive nature of the public purchasing arena and the expenditure of significant amounts of public funds require that ethical standards be incorporated into the foundation of all purchasing functions. Purchasing personnel and school district staff face the difficult task of developing good vendor relations and encouraging vendor competition while avoiding even the appearance of favoritism or other ethical misconduct.
Numerous problems may be encountered including:
• Employees, in an effort to get the job done successfully and on time, are tempted to circumvent policies, procedures, and laws, or to make their own liberal "legal" interpretations of existing policies. Such activity, although well intentioned, will cause ethical problems.
• Sequential purchasing of the same items or type of items over the course of twelve months may exceed the school district and/or state competitive quotation and procurement requirements. Although some sequential purchasing is intentional, it usually results from needs that could not be anticipated. It may also result from lack of centralization and/or centralized control of the purchasing function.
• An item (usually equipment) is purchased in component parts. Component purchasing usually is an attempt to circumvent bid or proposal laws or other requirements by buying an item through the issuance of multiple purchase orders for the component parts of the item versus a single purchase order for the entire item. Repeated purchases of additional optional equipment or parts after an initial purchase may create the perception of component purchasing.
Ethics relating to conflicts of interest, financial interests in firms conducting business with the school district, kickbacks and gratuities, and improper use of a position or confidential information should be clearly communicated throughout the school district.
Additionally, school district personnel should be made aware of the penalties for violations of purchasing laws and ethics which may include criminal prosecution and loss of employment opportunities.