This handbook is intended to provide general procurement information to businesses and staff interested in the procurement practices and procedures of Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS).
The procurement regulations of the FCPS do not deny a person(s) or firms(s), on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age or handicap, the right to provide materials, equipment or services to the FCPS.
Questions concerning the contents of this handbook should be directed to the
Purchasing Officers at 33 Thomas Johnson Drive, Frederick, Maryland 21702,
Assistant Purchasing Officer
Assistant Purchasing Officer
THE PURCHASING DEPARTMENT
The Purchasing Department is responsible for obtaining materials, supplies, equipment, and services essential to the operation of the school system. The fundamental objectives are to:
1. Conduct all procurement transactions in accordance with Board of Education policy and state and federal laws;
2. Develop and maintain adequate and reliable sources of supply;
3. Secure materials, supplies, equipment, and service of the quality and quantity specified for delivery at time and location needed;
4. Obtain, on all purchases, the lowest cost that quality, quantity and safety permit;
5. Promote and maintain good vendor relations;
6. Submit information on recommendations regarding new or improved products
to the appropriate department or division; and
7. Promote and maintain good community, public, and interdepartmental relations.
ADMINISTRATIVE - BUSINESS EXPENDITURES
It is the policy of the Board that the Board strictly abide by, without exception, to the letter and the spirit of all laws and regulations relating to purchases by the school system and the control of its finances and property.
Within the framework of applicable laws and regulations, purchases and use of materials and manpower shall be accomplished in accordance with good business practices with the primary purpose of serving the program of instruction.
The board holds the Superintendent of Schools directly responsible for carrying out this policy, and toward that end, the Superintendent and staff shall detail the procedures for executing this policy in written administrative directives.
ADMINISTRATIVE - BUSINESS EXPENDITURES
The Purchasing Department of the Board of Education of Frederick County shall be responsible for obtaining all materials, supplies, equipment, and services essential to the operation of the school system.
All negotiations between the Board of Education of Frederick County and contractors or vendors involving new school construction materials, equipment, supplies, and/or services shall be conducted by or with the approval of the Purchasing Department.
All contractual agreements between the Board of Education of Frederick County and a contractor involving financial consideration of public funds in exchange for materials, equipment, supplies, or services must be made on purchase orders, agreements, or contract forms that specify all of the contractual obligations and must be signed by a corporate official and by the Superintendent of Schools or his authorized representative.
II. PURCHASING FUNCTION
The function of the Purchasing Department is to obtain, without favor or prejudice, the proper amount of the suitable product, at the best possible price, and to have it available when it is needed. Each order shall be placed on the basis of quality, safety, price, delivery, and with fast service being a factor.
The Purchasing Department will conduct all procurement transactions in accordance with federal and state laws, and the rules and regulations of the Board of Education, and as approved by legal counsel.
III. PURCHASING METHODS
Purchasing is accomplished by using various methods:
A. Competitive Procurements
1. Competitive procurements occur when bids are solicited from multiple vendors through an advertised bidding process as required by state law for the purchase of any school building, school improvements, supplies or equipment exceeding $15,000. In addition, the board of education requires that when the cost of any school improvements, supplies, equipment, or services exceeds $7,500 but is not more than $15,000, telephone or written quotations will be solicited from at least three vendors. The advertised bidding process will be used for the procurement of most services exceeding $15,000. Quotations may be obtained for procurements over $7,500 yet not exceeding $15,000, by departments other than the purchasing department, yet will be subject to review and verification by the purchasing department. The purchasing department should be contacted for advice regarding the procedures for obtaining and documenting quotations. Bidding of procurements exceeding $15,000 shall occur only through the purchasing department.
2. Specifications may describe the functional characteristics or the nature of an item to be procured. Specifications may provide for the submission of samples, inspection, or testing of the item before procurement. Specifications that use one or more manufacturer's product(s) to describe the standard of quality, performance, or other characteristics needed to meet the requirements, must allow for submission of equivalent products, except as noted under Single and Sole Source Procurements.
3. Materials of instruction, textbooks, and computer software are excluded by state law and board of education policy from quoting or bidding.
B. Single and Sole Source Procurements
1. Single Source Procurements
A single source procurement occurs when alternate sources of supply are not
solicited or when a request for quotation or competitive bid is sent to more
than one supplier, yet yields only one responsive quotation.
2. Sole Source Procurements
A sole source procurement occurs when alternate sources of supply are not available
3. The requirement for submission of equivalent products does not apply if it is determined in the written specification that a particular manufacturer's product must maintain compatibility of service or equipment, must meet the health needs of students, must consider replacement parts or after purchase maintenance, or is to be purchased for resale.
4. The approval process for single and sole source procurements will consist of the following:
Dollar Value Approved By
Less than $7,500 Purchasing Officer or designee
Between $7,500 and $15,000 Executive Director of Fiscal
Services or designee
Exceeding $15,000 Superintendent or designee
5. At the superintendent's discretion the appropriate board members will be informed of single and sole source procurements for services exceeding $15,000 that are not handled as competitive quotations or bids.
6. Single source procurement, either through the bidding process, quote process, or the purchase order process, should only occur on an exception basis through intentional approval as directed in #4 above. Single source procurements will be scrutinized carefully by the purchasing department. Whenever possible, quotations will be obtained. The reasons for the single source procurement must be documented in a memo accompanying the purchase requisition or in internal notes and shall remain with the requisition in the files.
7. In the case of a bid recommendation for award, the reasons for the acceptance of single source procurements will be incorporated in the recommendation and reviewed by the Superintendent and the Board, as part of the routine recommendation review process.
C. The procedures for obtaining architectural/engineering services and pre-qualifying
general contractors for new school construction, renovation and major repair
services where the budget exceeds $250,000 in scope are covered under separate
IV. ADVERTISING OF BIDS AND QUOTATIONS
Bids are to be advertised in one or more newspapers widely
circulated in the county at least two weeks prior to date when bids are to be filed.
Quotations may be advertised in one or more newspapers widely circulated in the county at least two weeks prior to date when quotations are filed. Advertising will be done based upon recommendation by staff.
The Purchasing Department shall insure that adequate geographic coverage of the content of the advertisement is affected. In placing the advertisement, due consideration shall be given to volume of circulation and cost per circulated copy.
V. AWARDS OF BID AND QUOTATION
The lowest responsible bidder conforming to specifications, with consideration given to quantities involved, time required for delivery, purpose for which required, competency and responsibility of bidder, his ability to render satisfactory service, and the plan for utilization of minority contractors, shall be awarded the contract.
In the event of tie bids/quotations where all other factors, such as past performance, are considered comparable, the award shall be made to the Frederick County based vendor; the out-of-county but Maryland based vendor; and the out-of-state based vendor in that order of preference.
1. Approval of bid awards exceeding $15,000 will be made by the Board of Education based upon recommendation of staff.
These recommendations, including all bidders who are recommended for award,
and the reasons for rejection of low bids shall be submitted to the executive
director of fiscal services, superintendent, and the facilities and finance
committee for review. After careful analysis by these individuals, the recommendation
shall be forwarded to the superintendent and the board of education, which will
review the recommendation for award of the contract.
2. Approval of bid and quotation awards less than $15,000 will be made by the purchasing department.
VI. BID/QUOTATION PROTESTS
On those occasions whereby bidders have objections to any aspect of the bid process, the following procedures will be followed in order to assist the Board in processing the information made available to it pertaining to the objection.
A. Objections to Award Recommendation
Any vendor objecting to the Purchasing Department's recommendation for award
must protest the Purchasing Department's action by formally notifying, in writing,
the Executive Director of Fiscal Services five (5) days prior to award being
made at the next scheduled Board meeting. It is the vendor's responsibility
to ascertain the date and time of the pertinent Board meeting. This information
is usually included in the request for quotation.
B. Objections to Awards
Any objections to an award made by the Board of Education must be filed, in writing, to the Executive Director of Fiscal Services and received within ten (10) days following the date of the award by the Board of Education. It is the vendors responsibility to ascertain the date and time of the pertinent Board meeting. This information is usually included in the request for quotation.
VII. VENDOR SELECTION/REVIEW/DEBARRMENT
Vendor selection and the maintenance of a bidder's list will be a function of the Purchasing Department. Quality, reliability, responsiveness, and fair pricing are factors, which will be considered when selecting or continuing a vendor on the bidder's list. Potential bidders must have adequate financial standing and facilities to discharge their commitments. Before any negotiations are finalized or bid/quotations awards made, a satisfactory financial report on prospective vendors may be obtained. An attempt will be made to determine the capability of the firm to satisfy the contractual relationship.
The bidder's list is reviewed annually. Applications on file for more than three years will be subject to renewal. Failure to resubmit an updated application upon request will result in removal from the bidder's mailing list. Vendors violating contract terms on procurements and who are unwilling or unable to resolve the conflict to the satisfaction of the staff and Purchasing Department shall be debarred from the bidder's list for a period of at least one-year. Thereafter, they may make reapplication. Approval will be subject to the vendor's ability demonstrated that similar problems in a contractual relationship are not likely to recur.
Vendors recommended to permanent debarment from participating in any financial transactions with the Frederick County Public Schools will be notified in writing by the Executive Director of Fiscal Services and Superintendent. The Executive Director of Fiscal Services and Superintendent will consult with staff, legal counsel, the superintendent and the Board of Education before making this decision.
VIII. SALES REPRESENTATIVES IN SCHOOLS
Sales representatives should not be permitted in schools for the purpose of conducting sales, which commit the board of education. As it is necessary for schools to consult sales representatives regarding special or highly technical details of their product, the sales representatives should request such visits through the purchasing department. The purchasing department may discuss the merits of the products with the applicable curriculum specialists, department supervisors or instructional directors prior to authorizing visits to the schools. Schools are not obligated to meet with sales representatives who have been authorized to visit the schools. Nonschool-based personnel may consult with sales representatives without the prior approval of the purchasing department. If, at any time, sales representatives are considered intrusive, the school or nonschool-based staff can request the visitors to leave or may contact the purchasing department for intervention.
IX. CATALOG FILE
The Purchasing Department will maintain, for the use of all department and offices, a file of current trade catalogs to keep other departments informed of new materials, equipment, services, sources, prices and processes in manufacturing. Where it is not practicable to maintain all catalogs of interest to be used by staff, the Purchasing Department will forward such information to the appropriate departments for their retention.
X. CONTRACT BINDER
The Purchasing Department will maintain a contractual binder, which reflects all items presently under contract noting the successful vendor, item description, unit price, delivery point, warranty information and special instructions for ordering and receipt. At least one copy of this binder will be distributed to all departments and schools upon publication. Updated copies of contracts and addendums will be issued periodically to insure current and valid information.
XI. PROCEDURES MANUAL
The Purchasing Department will maintain a procedure manual, which reflects the policies and procedures under which it operates. In addition, detailed instructions for implementing these and other procedures will be documented. One copy of this binder will be distributed to all departments and schools upon publication. Additions, changes, and deletions will be issued periodically to insure current and valid information.
XII. REQUISITIONING PROCEDURES
A. All equipment, supplies, and most services shall be purchased by schools and departments through the Purchasing Department using the automated procurement system as prescribed by the purchasing department. The originators of the requisitions are responsible for expediting all changes to them. Correspondence to vendors affecting price or model changes or substitutions should be copied and sent to the accounts payable department. Schools or other departments may contact the purchasing department for advice in handling vendor relations. Forms of contractual agreement shall be as follows:
1. Standard Purchase Orders for Fixed Amounts - Purchases, which are not established as open orders, must include specific information about each item to be purchased. Rotation among vendors in Frederick County is encouraged, where feasible, with availability, price difference and service given consideration. When appropriate, requisitions for services shall include the contracted services purchasing agreement form #A-45, signed by the prospective contractor and the order originator.
2. Open Purchase Orders - These orders do not identify specific items to be purchased. Equipment shall not be purchased under the open purchase order process. The dollar amount shall be no more than $7,400 for supplies and services. Rotation among vendors in Frederick County should occur, where applicable, with the exception of problems relating to availability, service and significant price differences. Where rotation is not feasible for these reasons and single source procurement is the result, a statement must accompany the requisition and the executive director of fiscal services and the superintendent must approve the requisition before processing through the Purchasing Department.
3. Blanket Purchase Orders - These orders may be used to procure items under contract through telephone quotation, written quotation or formal bid. The dollar amount for quotations shall be limited to $15,000; the dollar amount for formal bids is unlimited but can not exceed budget availability through the close of requisition processing at the end of the fiscal year.
4. Approved Emergency Requisitions - These orders may be required under special circumstances where standard procedures are not utilized because the procurement requires immediate action.
B. Goods or Services not processed by requisition will be processed via voucher check request. Examples are: mileage, travel advance, tuition reimbursement, and petty cash reimbursement.
XIII. STANDARD "INSTRUCTIONS TO BIDDERS"
Each bid for supplies, equipment, construction and selected services will contain instructions to bidders known as a "boiler plate". There are three standard boilerplates to select from: one for supplies and equipment; one for maintenance and miscellaneous service contracts; and one for professional services. Examples of information contained within these instructions include: time and receipt of opening bids/quotations; warranty; bonding; objections to award recommendations and awards; and other regulations governing the procurement transaction. Changes to the boiler plates will be approved by the Board attorney.
When applicable, minor modifications to the standard boiler plate, as well as terms and conditions not covered in the boiler plate, will be contained within the bid in an accompanying section entitled Special Notices. Where the standard boiler plate is not appropriate at all, applicable instructions will be written instead to accompany the bid.
XIV. CONTRACT ADMINISTRATION
Contract administration includes expediting, enforcing provisions for price reductions, handling requests for price increases, assuring compliance to contract terms and conditions, resolving disputes, inspecting the work or materials, authorizing payment, and maintaining contract documentation for a period of four years.
Each procurement shall define the lead contract administrator or administering department. This person or department has the prime responsibility of overseeing inspections and assuring compliance to contract specifications. The Executive Director of Fiscal Services and his staff shall have the responsibility to fully explain the elements of contract administration to the lead contract administrator or designee and to insure that the plan is followed.
Every procurement requires some administering and a few calls for continuous interaction between Frederick County Public Schools and the supplier(s). The development of working relationships between the Frederick County Public Schools and suppliers begins with the pre-bid conference. This conference offers a forum for discussion of bid terms and conditions, budget constraints and specifications. In addition, a post-award conference may be necessary to review specific requirements, expectations and schedules. Construction procurements or procurements involving highly technical specifications may necessitate a series of progress meetings and checkpoints for action. Documentation of these meetings is required and should be on file in the office of the contract administrator.
The primary method of contract completion is the acceptance of the final invoice for payment approval. Construction type bids define a more involved process of payment approval. Open-ended contracts having a series of standard or blanket purchase orders issued against them utilize the receiving copy of the purchase requisitions as the sole means of releasing payment. The finance department is not authorized to make payment without receipt of the proper documentation. Deviation in invoicing from the encumbered amount is not to be accepted without authorization in writing from the Purchasing Department or, in the case of construction contracts, from the construction or maintenance departments.
XV. QUALITY ASSURANCE
The four major activities of the quality assurance program are standardization (within limitations of federal, state, and local laws and procedures); specification writing; inspection; and testing. The Purchasing Department relies upon complete and timely documented information (negative and positive) from the ultimate users of the products and services that it procures. Personal preference is not appropriate in governmental purchasing. User complaints will be reviewed and given consideration in making procurement decisions.
The objective of the purchasing manual is to establish the standardization of procedure. Likewise, all bids and quotes will be retained in binders and organized in a similar manner for consistency. All formal bids shall contain the following sections: general terms and conditions; special notices; technical and/or performance specifications; proposal forms; and signature/addenda acknowledgement forms.
The standardization of specifications can be developed where items that have similar usage are needed frequently or repetitively by a particular user department (s). This allows Frederick County Public Schools to establish performance and quality levels for common usage, which reduces the varieties of things bought, simplifies inventories, facilitates the consolidation of requirements into large volume bids and contracts, and eliminates duplicative specification writing.
The change order process, including format of documentation, will be standardized.
B. Specification Writing
Procurement specifications shall be written to provide for and encourage full competition. Responsibility for the final correctness, competitiveness and suitability to specifications is an integral function of the Purchasing Department. Specifications may be originated by a user/contract administering department, an independent architect, engineer or consultant, another governmental entity, a professional society or association, or the Purchasing Department itself.
Changing specifications before award or a contract can only
be made through the Purchasing Department and must be in accordance with bid procedures, law and Board of Education policy and regulation. Documentation will be kept on file in the Purchasing Department as a part of the contract binder. Changes in specifications after award of contract shall only occur by using appropriate change order procedures. The change order procedures delineate the limits of authority in making changes, where the documentation for the approval of the change orders will be filed, and how much documentation should be kept.
Documentation of changes shall include the rationale for the change and signatures of those staff and/or outside consultants/professionals who are authorizing the changes.
Timeliness is critical in the inspection and acceptance of merchandise and construction activities, and in the processing of receiving reports. This requires the cooperation of user departments, inspectors, the Purchasing Department and the accounts payable department. Where nonconformance with specifications, noncompliance with contractual terms and conditions or other types of complaints concerning suppliers' performance occur, they should be recorded and maintained in the files of the contracting department. Records of complaints, actions taken and final resolution will be filed and accessible to all that have need to review them.
Specific inspection procedures and frequency of progress reports will be prescribed, as applicable, within each procurement.
A final close out of the project shall include documentation by the lead inspector verifying that the specifications have been complied with except where documented.
D. Quality Control and Safety
At the discretion of the contract administrator, a qualified safety officer, employed by the general contractor, will be on site. This will be stipulated in each procurement.
In addition, at the discretion of the contract administrator, construction/maintenance specifications will require the general contractor to provide certified quality performance tests and/or reports.
The need for tests and testing occurs for different reasons and at different times throughout the procurement cycle. Products bought on the basis of qualified product lists, as may apply to such items as videotapes and carpets, go through certain tests for approval or rejection prior to issuance of the bids. Tests also can be used in numerous ways in the development of specifications are met, or to evaluate the various performance capabilities of competing products. Following the award of contracts, tests may need to be conducted on a pilot or prototype or during production as a measure of quality control. Upon delivery, testing may be necessary to ascertain compliance with specifications. Finally, tests conducted after an item has been placed in service can be helpful in solving problems associated with complaints by user departments about the product or its performance.
XVI. PROCUREMENT DURING CRISES
Crises requiring emergency repairs during the school year qualify as an exception to the state law on bidding, (reference Annotate Code 5-110). In such cases, the Executive Director of Fiscal Services and Superintendent or designee, in conjunction with the department supervisors involved in the crisis, will be authorized to make single source procurements where time is of the essence in securing the safety of the building, occupants or nearby residents. Where time permits the solicitation of competitive quotes for services will be obtained. The Purchasing Officer shall be notified and involved in this decision making.
Thorough records will be maintained and procurement decisions documented and on file in the Purchasing Department. The Board of Education and Superintendent are to be notified of the status of the situation and the need for single source procurements. Procurements for supplies or equipment will be made as quickly as possible. If a waiver of the bidding process for these items is required, it will be channeled through the Purchasing Department and authorized only by the Board of Education in a special session, if necessary.
XVII. RECORDS RETENTION & REVIEW PROCESS
The Annotated Code of Maryland and the Maryland State Department of Education define what documents are considered public records and the procedures for records retention and disposition. (Refer to Records Retention and Disposition Manual for Public School Systems of Maryland, 1973).
An annual review of non-bid procurements shall be conducted by the Purchasing Department to evaluate the achievement of rotation among vendors. A report will be prepared and given to the executive director of fiscal services. The executive director of fiscal services will notify the appropriate department had if improvements are needed.
Spot reviews shall be conducted by the Purchasing Department to assure that single source procurements are properly documented.
An annual review of policies, regulations and operating procedures should be conducted by the director of purchasing and the executive director of budget and purchasing in order to make modifications.
XVIII. AVAILABILITY OF BID TABULATIONS
A copy of the complete bid tabulation for any procurement is available upon request and can be obtained via mail or in person. The cost varies with the size of the tabulation. A check payable to the Frederick County Public Schools must be received prior to mailing. Partial bid tabulations may be obtained at a cost per sheet if the representative of the company comes to the Purchasing Department and make the copies himself/herself.
XIX. SUBMISSION OF INVOICES AND PAYMENT PROCEDURES:
A. For prompt payment of claims, purchase orders must be covered by an invoice prepared in triplicate showing our order number and bid/quote number with all items listed in the same sequence as they appear on the order, and any other special provisions requested.
B. All delivery tickets and packages must bear the purchase order and bid/quote number.
C. No invoice will be considered for payment unless merchandise is shipped PREPAID and items received in acceptable condition.
D. The conditions of purchase orders are not to be modified by any verbal understanding.
E. Charges for boxing and cartage will not be allowed unless previously agreed upon.
F. Acceptance of purchase orders includes acceptance of all terms, prices, delivery, instructions, specifications and conditions stated.
G. ALL DELIVERIES MUST BE PREPAID.
H. THE BOARD OF EDUCATION WILL NOT ASSUME THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY MERCHANDISE PURCHASED WITHOUT AN APPROVED SIGNED PURCHASE ORDER.