The Catholic University of America

Before You Buy

Purchasing Basics

What you should know before buying anything on behalf of the University.

Do not conduct any business with members of your family or with businesses in which you have a financial interest.  As an employee of The Catholic University of America, you are responsible for following University policies at all times.  Questions about this should be directed to your supervisor or department head. See CUA conflict of interest policy.

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Do You Have Enough Money in Your Budget?
Be sure your department has sufficient funds to cover your purchase(s) before you attempt to purchase anything.  If you do not ensure that your budget contains sufficient funds to pay for your purchase(s) prior to attempting your purchase, expect to encounter processing delays or purchasing denials.  The above includes Procard purchases.


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Do You Have Permission to Buy?

Be sure that you have been authorized to acquire goods or services by your Department Head/Chair/Manager.  If you have not been authorized to make purchases on behalf of the University, the University is under no obligation to pay the supplier or reimburse you for whatever was purchased.

Signature Authority delegation for sponsored research projects must follow the CUA Grants and Contracts Policy.  Some federal sponsors require prior approval by the agency before any equipment items can be purchased. See CUA's policy on Financial Transaction Authority

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Delegation of Procurement Authority

Although you may be adhering to the University's purchasing policies, (ethical purchase, sufficient funds in budget, authority over University funds), you may not have the authority to make a commitment to a supplier or individual on behalf of the University.  A simple way of identifying whether you qualify, is to check if you have been issued a CUA Procard.  If you have, then you have been delegated purchase authority up to the limit of your Procard.  If you have not been issued a Procard, your purchase(s) must be processed by Procurement Services.  Making any commitments or promises to any supplier or individual on your own is prohibited.  See the CUA Procurement Policy.

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Special Circumstances/Restrictions

Contact Procurement Services (x.5044) to determine if there are any special requirements you need to know about before you buy. You may also view the most common instances at CUA’s listing of centralized or restricted items.  For example, there may be exceptions for which your department is responsible when ordering and receiving specific goods and services such as the handling and storage of hazardous materials.  In addition, the IRS has rules for determining when an individual can be paid as a contractor rather than through payroll.  [return to top]

Agreement Signatures

Do not sign any supplier's agreement, even if the purchase is within the delegated procurement authority of your Procard. This may constitute a contractual agreement and all such agreements must be reviewed and properly approved before execution, regardless of the dollar amount.  If a supplier requires that its standard form be signed, send the agreement to Procurement Services for review.  Suppliers' agreements protect their interests and may need to be revised in order to protect the University.  See CUA’s Contract Policy.

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Can You Use a Procard?

The Procard is the preferred method for purchasing items under $2,500.  Your department may have a special Procard that allows purchases greater than $2,500.  Check with your Department Head/Manager.  If a supplier accepts credit card purchases, using your Procard is an easy way make purchases, results in immediate payment to the supplier (which may result in discounts), reduces paperwork and facilitates expense reconciliation.  See CUA’s Procurement Card Policy.

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Sales Tax Exemption

By virtue of its 501 (c) designation, CUA is exempt from paying sales tax and has obtained a sales tax exemption certification for most states (See list of tax exemptions).  Make sure you inform the vendor of CUA's tax exempt status before any purchase transaction is totaled.  The same is true for Procard purchases. The University's tax exempt number for the District of Columbia and Maryland are embossed on the face of the Procard.  Tax exempt numbers and tax exempt certificates are available by contacting Procurement Services (x5044).  If you contact us in a timely manner, a tax exempt certificate can be obtained from most states if one does not already exist . 

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Delivery Dates

For purchases greater than $3,000 that have a firm deadline for receiving purchases, enter the delivery date on the online purchase requisition and emphasize your delivery date requirements in the requisition comments.  For all purchases, regardless of the dollar amount, please contact the supplier once you have placed your order to confirm the delivery date and to have a contact name with whom you can follow-up at the time of shipment to ensure that your delivery will arrive on time.

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Receive Your Purchase on PSfinancials!

Even though your purchased items will be delivered directly to your location, the invoice will be sent to Accounts Payable in Leahy Hall.  Accounts Payable cannot pay the invoice for your purchase(s) if you haven’t completed the transaction in PSfinancials by “receiving the purchase”.  It is not good business practice to delay supplier payment by not completing your transaction [See How to Receive].

Make sure that the items you receive match the items you ordered and that they work in a satisfactory manner.  If items are damaged, contact the supplier immediately.  If you encounter other problems with delivered items and the supplier will not correct them for you, notify the Buyer who placed your order.

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Emergency Purchases
Contact Procurement Services for exceptional emergency situations.  Should such an emergency arise, your Vice President has the authority to make emergency procurements and must approve them.  Nevertheless, emergency purchases must be brought to the attention of the Vice President for Finance and Treasurer within one business day and also approved by the VP for Finance and Treasurer.  Not submitting proper purchasing paperwork in a timely manner does not constitute an emergency.  
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