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The COVID-19 pandemic presents many challenges and ongoing uncertainty for the University. In addition to the previously announced University-wide hiring freeze, it is also critical that we remain diligent in the procurement of goods and services – and properly vet such purposes during this time to ensure that we are limited to purchasing mission-critical supplies only.

To that end, University leadership has mandated several processes that we must put in place (albeit on a temporary basis). Detailed information on the specifics of these processes is as follows:

Purchasing Cards

  • Our current charge is to identify a small subset of “super users” based on several factors – including who is making P-Card charges within units, and how many are being made.
  • The finance office staff are already working with the administrative coordinators in the units to determine who will best serve in that role for each area. Once these determinations are made, we will provide the information to the units to share with their faculty and staff.
  • Depending on usage, there may be a need for 1, 2, or more of these “super users” for a unit (particularly if there is someone making regular purchases related to a research project, especially when material and supplies are not typically found in eBuy). Based on the transaction data we’ve pulled, this should not be difficult to identify. 
  • Those who are not identified as super users will have their P-Card limits reduced to $1 (effectively suspending usage during this time).
  • We are able to modify the number of super users over time, so if units are operationally strained with the initial configuration, adjustments can be made.
  • The University has also suggested implementing a pre-approval process for all P-Card purchases; however, we have decided that an additional pre-approval step will be unnecessary for HHD and will only serve to the make the process more onerous. Many of the super users will be the lead staff within our departments. For department-specific purchases, we trust their judgment and have already discussed various details with them. In the event that a purchase request comes through that appears to be questionable and/or not “mission critical”, these super users can first discuss with their department heads and will have a direct line to my office to seek further clarification before processing.
    • For purchases directly related to research, the PI or a related staff member will be the ones possessing the knowledge as to what is appropriate to purchase relative to their project. In cases where a large number of purchases are continuing to take place on research projects, we will potentially assign the “super user” as the person who normally makes those purchases. For projects with less volume, the research staff may need to make a request to another super user within their department in order to process a purchase.
    • The above process and review of mission-critical purchases does not circumvent HHD practices for review of our sponsored research purchases. If a Cost Accounting Justification (CAJ) or lift control review was required before these changes, it will still be required now.
    • Finally, it is extremely important to note that – as part of this larger process – the University will be paying much closer attention to ensure people are following the Payment Decision Matrix (this matrix provides detailed information, based on types of purchases, as to which method of payment is required to be used. 
      • To cite a specific example, with very limited exceptions it is against policy for an employee to make a personal purchase (one that should have been made by P-Card) and then have a reimbursement processed through the SRFC (Special Request for Check) process. If these situations come up, it is your responsibility to inquire beforehand with you unit super user as to whether your situation represents an acceptable use case. Otherwise, you may wind up being personally responsible for the purpose.

Current P-Card Transaction Activity

As a reference, we pulled the data for all of HHD’s P-Card transactions during the month of April (essentially, our first month working remotely). A few things to note:

  • Total transactions were way down – only about 1/3 of our regular volume.
  • Though we have over 430 active P-Card holders across the college, only about 100 of them actually made purchases over this period. 
    • Of these 100, the vast majority made 1 or sometimes 2 purchases.
    • A small handful (likely all research related) had a much higher volume of purchases. As previously noted, employees in these scenarios will likely be identified as “super users” as well, so as not to disrupt these active research projects.