University of Pittsburgh

General Purchases

How do I buy goods for my department?


To purchase goods, departments must use a University approved purchase order generated from either the University's PantherBuy system PRISM. In order to minimize risks to your department, you should always purchase using the University's standard terms and conditions of purchase. The only purchases covered by these terms are those done through a University purchase order from PantherBuy, PRISM, or through a contract approved by the Purchasing Department and the Office of General Counsel. If you're buying without a purchase order or approved contract, you may severely limit your department's ability to file a claim against the supplier if the goods are defective, cause injuries, or cause property damage. Additionally, if the goods are damaged, late or incorrect, you may have little or no rights to have the goods returned or replaced.

FIRST: Check to see if the product is available from one of the University-wide contracted suppliers. If so, then you should purchase it on PantherBuy. This is the fastest, easiest way to buy quality products at discounted prices with many other pre-negotiated benefits and contractual protections.

SECOND: If a University-wide contract is not available, then the proper method for ordering goods is a University of Pittsburgh purchase order generated through PRISM. PRISM purchase orders carry the University's standard contractual terms and conditions.

THIRD: A Procurement Card (P-Card) may be used for emergency or non-routine purchases, however, unless you're buying from a University-wide contracted supplier, P-Card purchases do not provide you with the University's contractual protections.

NO OTHER METHOD IS PERMITTED: In order to protect the University, no other method such as a Disbursement Request, is permitted. Reimbursement for purchased goods via Travel and Business Expense Report is only permitted for emergency purchases, such as when equipment breaks while traveling on business.

How do I process a purchase order?

A University of Pittsburgh purchase order may be generated only through PantherBuy or PRISM. No other forms may be used, including forms internally-created by a department. Purchase orders or purchase order numbers are never to be given verbally to a supplier. They must be transmitted to a supplier in writing through PantherBuy or PRISM.

Use of the proper forms is important for several reasons.
First, these forms ensure the University is legally protected from defective equipment, poor supplier performance, late deliveries, and insurance related matters. Second, the forms ensure compliance with the University's Board of Trustees resolutions regarding authority to sign contracts. Third, unauthorized methods, especially verbal orders, lead to incorrect orders, late or no delivery, and invoice discrepancies.


What backup documentation must be included with my requisition?

The required supporting documentation for requisitions is stated on The Requisition Checklist. Providing all necessary backup documentation at the time of requisition submission will ensure your order is processed as quickly as possible. Requisitions lacking proper documentation will be returned to the requestor.


Can a disbursement request be used to pay for products from a supplier or vendor?


A disbursement request may not be used to purchase goods. Purchasing goods via a disbursement is a violation of University policy. Goods must be purchased via PantherBuy, PRISM or P-Card to protect your department and the University. The University is not protected if goods are acquired by disbursement because the University’s terms and conditions are not associated with this transaction. This means that you are at significant risk for the following:

    • Little or no protection against lost, stolen or damaged goods
    • No formal proof of order.
    • Default acceptance of the supplier’s terms. These terms are often unfavorable.
    • Minimal or no warranty protection.
    • Difficulty returning or replacing items.

My department does not have access to PantherBuy, PRISM, or a P-Card. Can I submit a paper requisition to Purchasing?

Because purchasing at the University is decentralized, any order under $5,000 must be processed at the department level using PantherBuy, PRISM or a P-Card. If the order value is over $5,000, an electronic requisition must be submitted through PantherBuy or PRISM. However, paper requisitions must be submitted for ATCC items (along with a completed Material Transfer Agreement), ethanol alcohol, and radioactive chemicals not available through PantherBuy. See How do I order material from American Type Culture Collection (ATCC), How do I order ethanol alcohol, and How do I order radioactive materials.

Enrollment information for PantherBuy is available here. PRISM access information may be found here. Application forms for P-Card are found here and should be submitted to Payment Processing.

When is competitive bidding required?

Competitive bidding is required whenever a planned purchase of goods or services will be $5,000 or higher.  University policy 05-02-16 outlines the competitive bidding requirements.  It is important to note that competitive bidding is not required when using University contracted suppliers. If your department needs to do competitive bidding for an order of $5,000 or greater, you should contact Purchasing Services via a web inquiry and select “Other” as the inquiry type.  State that you are requesting assistance with a competitive bid. 


Competitive bidding is advantageous for several reasons.  It ensures that your pricing will be competitive within the marketplace. If a supplier is in a competitive situation, It is are more likely to provide its most aggressive pricing and other terms.  Bidding also ensures you are in compliance with University policy and other applicable federal and state regulations for grants and research.


What is the Directed or Sole Source Justification Form?


University policy number 05-02-16 requires competitive bidding for all purchases of goods or services greater than $5000 with the exception of directed or sole source purchases.  University policy number 05-02-17 governs the use of directed or sole source purchases.  University purchasers must use the Directed or Sole Source Justification form to request an exception to competitive bidding by stating the reasons a particular supplier is a directed or sole source.

Who can sign as an approver on the Directed or Sole Source Justification Form?


Only deans, department directors and department chairs may sign as the approver on the Directed or Sole Source Justification Form.


While many people at the University consider the Directed or Sole Source Justification Form to be just another “purchasing form”, it is rather a document that is confirming the fact that the requester does not have any personal financial conflicts with the requested supplier.  Only deans, department directors or department chairs would have this information and may sign as approvers on the Directed or Sole Source Justification form as they are the only individuals who will know the personal financial conflicts of faculty and staff and thus it is not an administrative duty and cannot be delegated.  Thus associate deans, assistant chairs and others with similar titles may not sign as the approver on the Directed or Sole Source Justification Form.  Also, only those directors who are the highest ranking individuals in their departments are considered “department directors”, for example, the Director of the Office of Research, Director of the Payroll Department or the Executive Director of the DLAR.  Thus an “administrative director” or “finance director”, for example, may not sign as a department director.

The approver must sign affirmatively recognizing and acknowledging 1) the financial conflict (and how it is being managed) or lack of in his or her area of responsibility and 2) that University business is being directed to a particular company.  These items are important as conflicts of interest and competitive bidding are serious concerns for both the University and federal agencies.

Can I place orders with suppliers using their web/internet based order processing tools rather than using University systems?  

No. It is against University Policy to enter into purchase agreements or place orders using any other method except PRISM, PantherBuy, or the P-Card.  Any other system may expose the University to terms and conditions that are not in agreement with our own.  Please contact Purchasing if you feel there is a unique need.


Can we purchase goods on Ebay or Amazon?


Yes, but it is not recommended.  Presently, there is no policy that prohibits purchases from EBay or Amazon that are legitimate, prudent, and otherwise not in violation of any existing University purchasing, P-Card, or other policy.  Generally, while purchases of under $5,000 do not need competitive bidding, it is in a department's best interest to conduct due diligence in all cases to ensure that the lowest total cost of ownership is achieved.  This would include salary dollars spent shopping for items; the risks of purchasing from unknown suppliers;, including buying "gray market" products that seem new, but are actually being repurchased and do not have warranties; receiving damaged goods and the difficulty in getting replacements or refunds.  Also, Purchasing may not be able to provide any assistance if a problem develops with a non-contracted supplier.  The ultimate costs can far outweigh any immediate perceived savings. 

From a departmental policy standpoint, Purchasing strongly recommends that departments require that their buyers comply with Policy 05-02-15 to use contracted suppliers and that PantherBuy be used if the product is available there.




Copyright© 2003 - Financial Information Systems
Updated: 07/08/2011


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