Office of Purchasing & Contracting -- Frequently Asked Questions

1. What services does the Office of Purchasing & Contracting provide to my Agency?

The Office of Purchasing & Contracting has the responsibility under 29 V.S.A. § 902 to contract for and/or purchase all supplies for state government. To simplify the acquisition process, BGS maintains numerous statewide contracts for supplies, which include materials, equipment, parts, and commodities. Unless otherwise approved in advance, these BGS contracts must be used by all state government entities. To find out if a contract exists that meets an agency’s need, contact the BGS Office of Purchasing & Contracting or refer to the BGS web site at: http://bgs.vermont.gov/purchasing

2. What is VISION? Who can instruct me on it?

VISION is the statewide financial management system and it is the method used to place requisitions, issue contracts, prepare orders for items on contract, and search for commodity information and access contract details. For assistance call the VISION Help Desk at 828-0407. The Office of Purchasing & Contracting staff can also assist in answering contracting-related VISION questions.

3. How can I find out if what I want to buy is on Contract? What do I do if it is on Contract?

You can look it up in VISION or check the Purchasing & Contracting web-site at http://bgs.vermont.gov/purchasing for listings of current statewide contracts. Contracts are easily printed from the VISION system or from the web-site. If the item is on contract, review it carefully for the method of ordering and other terms and conditions. A purchase order must be prepared for all items ordered.

4. What is the dollar limit for a "local purchase order"?

The Commissioner of Buildings and General Services can delegate authority to other agency/department heads to make certain types of purchases without going through the Office of Purchasing & Contracting. A “Blanket Delegation of Authority” (BDA) enables agencies to maintain the continuity of everyday operations. The purchases made under a BDA, however, are still subject to the underlying requirements of competitive bidding as stated in Bulletin 3.5.

BDA#1 grants authority to make any single purchase up to $3,500 provided that the item being purchased is not available through an existing state contract, is not otherwise restricted by statute or administrative bulletin (for example, filing cabinets are restricted by 3 V.S.A. § 219), and is not an ongoing need of the department. The full text of BDA#1 can be found online at: http://bgs.vermont.gov/purchasing/bda. (For items that are needed on an ongoing basis, departments are expected to work with the Office of Purchasing and Contracting to establish a contract.) Dollar thresholds also apply. Specific authority covering certain classes of items (for example, fresh produce purchased from local farmers at market prices) can be requested through the Office of Purchasing & Contracting. All BDAs, including BDA#1, are subject to the ongoing approval of the Commissioner of Buildings and General Services and can be revoked or modified at any time. All purchases made under a Blanket Delegation of Authority are subject to annual audit to determine compliance with this Bulletin and with the applicable BDA.

If the needed item(s) is (are) not available under an existing contract and is (are) not covered by an existing BDA, the agency must prepare a requisition through the VISION system. The Office of Purchasing & Contracting will not have access to the requisition until the Agency/Department budget checks the requisition for sufficient funding by the VISION system.

For example, you could buy a video camera if it was under $3,500 but not a FAX machine, as these are covered by a contract. Always check your own internal agency rules and procedures.

5. Why should we bid out a job when my local vendor has what I need for a fair price?

The Office of Purchasing & Contracting is governed by Title 29, Chapter 49, of the Vermont Statutes Annotated. We are responsible for purchasing all commodities that are needed by the state and are required to engage in an open, competitive bid process prior to making such purchases.

The purpose of the competitive bid process is twofold: to ensure that any person or company has the opportunity to get the state’s business, and also to ensure that the taxpayers get the best possible value when their money is being spent by state agencies.

Unlike many jurisdictions, which are required to award contracts to the lowest bidder, in Vermont we evaluate bids based on a variety of factors such as quality, ease of supply, and environmental impact, in order to determine which proposal will provide the best value to the state.

The competitive bid process will establish the best price in the market at a given point in time. The bid process also provides a public record to support purchasing decisions.

6. What if my requirement also includes installation and maintenance?

Any contract for the purchase of a product, commodity, equipment, or software that also involves the contractor’s personnel coming onto state property to install or service the purchased item or to train state personnel in the use of the item purchased should be developed as a commodities contract under Bulletin 3.5 by submitting a requisition to the Office of Purchasing & Contracting, Department of Buildings and General Services.

7. I found an item on contract for a lower price from a different vendor. Can I order it from this new vendor?

No. To simplify the acquisition process, BGS maintains numerous statewide contracts for supplies, which include materials, equipment, parts, and commodities. Unless otherwise approved in advance, these BGS contracts must be used by all state government entities. Contracts are intended as the prime source of supply for state agencies with commodity requirements. If an agency has a requirement for an item on contract that the contractor cannot meet effectively or the agency has justification to have the Office of Purchasing & Contracting solicit bids from another source, they should contact the Purchasing Agent who is responsible for that commodity item and/or contract. The Purchasing Agent will review the justification to purchase the item off-contract and approve or disapprove the request as appropriate.

8. I called three vendors and got quotes for my requested product. Do I still have to do a requisition?

Discuss further with the appropriate Purchasing Agent.

9. How do I get approval for a "Sole Source" purchase (i.e. no competitive bidding)?

A Sole Source purchase situation arises when only one vendor can supply an item. Examples of when a sole source purchase might be appropriate include when time is critical for performance of the required services (such as emergency repairs) and/or when only one contractor is capable of providing the needed service or product. To get approval to make such a purchase, you must send a memo to the Office of Purchasing & Contracting fully justifying why this is the only possible item to meet your requirements. If the price is under $15,000 the Office of Purchasing & Contracting can review the request and make the determination. If there is justification to support a sole source purchase and it exceeds $15,000, the request will be sent along with our recommendation supporting the request to the Secretary of Administration for consideration.

10. I bought something without going through Purchasing. The cost is greater than $3,500. I have the invoice here. Now what?

Talk with the purchasing agent in charge of the commodity, explaining why the purchase was made outside established guidelines and explain what steps will be taken to prevent this happening again. The Purchasing Agent will ask you to follow up with an e-mail message. The agent may reply with an authorization number. The original message and the response should be printed and kept with the payment file.

11. What are "political subdivisions"?

Political Subdivisions are city, town, and village governments, public schools and school districts, and other municipal entities established by the legislature. Whenever possible, the Office of Purchasing & Contracting tries to have vendors make the state contracts available to these groups.

12. Do we have to go with the lowest bidder?

There are a number of factors that are used in making an award. Product quality, delivery time, environmental impact, and vendor ability are a few of these criteria. The lowest bidder that meets all the requirements usually gets the award. Awards to other than the lowest bidder meeting all requirements must be well justified.

13. I haven’t received my goods although a Purchase Order was issued several weeks ago. What do I do?

First make sure your business office has approved the order in the VISION System and sent to the vendor. Check the delivery stated on the purchase order. If appropriate, call the vendor. If that doesn’t bring results contact the Purchasing Agent listed on the purchase order.

14. I didn’t check my goods when they were delivered two months ago. Unpacking them I find they are damaged. Now what?

Contact the vendor and request they be replaced. If the issue cannot be resolved, contact the Purchasing Agent.

15. Why should I ask for recycled content in my product specifications?

The State of Vermont is dedicated to recycling and source reduction. Buying recycled reduces waste and preserves valuable resources. There are several statutes and Executive Orders covering the purchase of these products.