Chapter 11 – Purchasing

(Amended 9/93; 10/94; 10/95; 9/97; 10/00; 7/01; 1/03; 5/03; 6/04; 12/04; 6/05; 12/05; 7/1/06; 12/13/06; 8/1/07; 10/1/07; 3/08; 11/09; 3/30/11; 10/11; 8/14; 4/16; 11/16; 7/1/17; 7/18; 1/19; 7/15/22)

Effective July 15, 2022, this policy has been revised. For individual changes, see the redlined versions of V-11.4, V-11.5, V-11.7, V-11.9, V-11.10, V-11.15, V-11.16,  V-11.17, V-11.20, V-11.21, V-11.22V-11.25, and V-11.26.

11.1 General

(Amended 5/02)

The policies in this chapter apply to the purchase of goods and services from all sources of funds administered by the university. 

11.2 Authority for Procurement

The Purchasing Department administers the procurement of goods and services for all university departments by the authority delegated through the President by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa. The Chief Procurement Officer is vested with authority to obligate the university, while ensuring adherence to the statutes and administrative rules of the State of Iowa and to the policies and procedures of the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, and the university. 

11.3 Responsibility and Objectives

The function of the Purchasing Office is the organization and administration of centralized purchasing services for all departments of the university. In providing these services and in accordance with sound business practices, the office seeks to realize for the university the maximum value for every dollar expended.

To achieve this goal, the Purchasing Office has been charged by the President of the university and the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, with responsibility for the following:

  1. Securing competitive bids to obtain maximum value from the expenditures of university funds.
  2. Maintaining liaison with the vendors that provide goods and services to the university.
  3. Coordinating the procurement of goods and services for the academic, administrative, and research departments of the university.
  4. Developing sources of supply to assure that the university departments have an adequate number of vendors from which to obtain supplies, equipment, and services.
  5. The Purchasing Department follows the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Educational Procurement (NAEP), the professional association serving the purchasing/materials management professionals who support higher education and not-for-profit health care organizations. 

11.4 Signatory Authority

(Amended 7/13/22)

Effective July 13, 2022, this policy has been revised. For individual changes, see the redlined version.

The President has delegated contracting authority to the Chief Procurement Officer for purchase orders and purchase contracts. Purchasing commitments made by employees who do not have contracting authority are voidable. (See V-6.1 Contracting Authority.)

11.5 Competitive Bidding

(Amended 12/11; 7/18; 7/13/22)

Effective July 13, 2022, this policy has been revised. For individual changes, see the redlined version.

  1. General. Competition within a free marketplace provides the best value for the consumer. By encouraging competition among viable vendors, the university strives to obtain goods and services at the best possible cost and quality. Negotiations for purchases, including requests for quotations of prices, must be accomplished through the Purchasing Department.

    Purchases less than or equal to $25,000 may be delegated to individual department purchasers. Purchase of goods and services between $25,001 and $50,000  may be purchased through an informal competitive bid with an adequate number of vendors. Federally funded purchases must follow the Uniform Guidance policy. The Board of Regents, State of Iowa, requires competitive bidding for the purchase of all university goods and services greater than $50,000 in value.

    Certain purchases involve terms or conditions that require legal or risk managerment review. Contracts involving such terms or conditions are forwarded by the Purchasing Department to the Director of Risk Management  and/or to the General Counsel's Office for review, as appropriate.

    The three most effective formal methods of competitive bidding are the Request for Quotation (RFQ), the Request for Proposal (RFP), and the Request for Qualificatons (RQFL). These methods provide:
    1. Increased savings;
    2. Exact communication of wants and needs;
    3. Equal and fair access to all qualified vendors;
    4. Compliance with university, Regent, state, and federal acquisition regulations and laws;
    5. Improved information provided by vendors;
    6. Objective evaluation for awards; 
    7. Services of an experienced purchasing professional; and
    8. An established contract under which the vendor is legally obligated to perform.
  2. Request for Quotation (RFQ). The Request for Quotation is used for acquisitions based on lowest cost that meets specifications. The university issues formal RFQs for all goods and services greater than $50,000 in value unless a sole-source justification is received and approved. (See V-11.9 Waiver of Bid Requirements.)

    The Purchasing Agent routinely obtains several quotes, seeking the best price available. Purchasing Agents, in concert with the end users, develop specifications and send the RFQs to potential vendors. Vendors may then reply with a bid showing exact price, shipping costs, delivery schedule, payment terms, and other particulars of the items sought.

    Purchasing makes the award to the vendor who submits the lowest priced offer whose goods meet  the specifications stated in the RFQ. 
  3. Request for Proposal (RFP). The Request for Proposal (RFP) is used for acquisitions based on other significant factors in addition to price. Examples include capabilities, past performance, support, service, warranty and maintenance. 
  4. Request for Qualifications (RFQL). The Request for Qualifications process is used primarily for selecting professional services. This process enables the evaluation committee to select the awarded vendor based on the professional's unique skill set, experience, and expertise that are most critical to the success of the project or services requested.
  5. Negotiations. The use of negotiated, noncompetitive, and sole-source purchasing procedures must be approved by the Purchasing Department.With appropriate institutional review, both competitive negotiation and noncompetitive negotiation processes may replace written competitive bidding when the purchase is anticipated to exceed $50,000.  

11.6 Bid Security

Bid security shall be used in cases where the purchasing agent determines there is a need to protect the interest of the university. The need for bid security may, in part, be determined by the size of the proposed purchase, the item or items being bid, the competitive conditions surrounding the purchase, and the history of such purchases including general reliability of vendors being requested to bid a particular purchase.

Bids requiring security shall be accompanied by and secured only by a cash deposit, cashier's check, certified check, or a bid bond in an amount of 5 percent of the bid. Bids accompanied and secured by any other form of bid security shall automatically be disqualified.

Certified checks and cashier's checks shall be made payable to the University of Iowa. Bid security shall be agreed upon as the measure of liquidated damages which owner will sustain by failure, neglect, or refusal of bidder to honor their offer and accept an award in accord with the contract documents.

Bid security, if in the form of a cash deposit, cashier's check, or certified check, will be returned within 48 hours after the contract has been executed. 

11.7 Release of Bid Information

(Amended 7/13/22)

Effective July 13, 2022, this policy has been revised. For individual changes, see the redlined version.

The names of the bidders and the amounts bid shall be supplied to any person upon request after the  evaluation of the bids is completed and the award is made. Information will not be released in situations in which the release would provide a competitive advantage to any of the bidders. 

11.8 Withdrawal of Bids

Bids may be withdrawn prior to the time set for receipt of bids. Bids may not be withdrawn after that time, except as noted herein, without penalty. (For capital projects, see the Board of Regents Policy Manual 2.3.) Only in the event of an obvious and documented error where it would be a manifest injustice to require the vendor to perform, can a vendor withdraw a bid after the time set for receipt of bids. Such withdrawal of bids can be done only upon the recommendation of the institution under procedures approved by the executive director (BRPM 2.2.6v).

11.9 Waiver of Bid Requirements

(Amended 7/18; 7/13/22)

Effective July 13, 2022, this policy has been revised. For individual changes, see the redlined version.

The Purchasing Department has sole discretion to waive competitive bidding requirements in certain situations, including but not limited to:

  1. Immediate need. It can be demonstrated without question that the requiring department could not have foreseen the required purchase in sufficient time for normal purchasing procedures to be used.
  2. Emergency need. Life will be endangered, property will be destroyed, or considerable cost will be incurred because of events beyond the control of the department if the procurement is not completed without delay. An emergency includes but is not limited to one of these conditions:
    1. In which an immediate or emergency need exists for the item or service because of events and circumstances not reasonably foreseeable.
    2. Critical to sustaining patient care or human life, maintaining critical equipment or services, or similar.
    3. In which there is a need to protect the health, safety, or welfare of persons occupying or visiting a public property.
    4. In which the university must act to preserve critical services or programs.
    5. Purchases that are considered time sensitive and would result in increased costs due to delay or the inability to continue to provide necessary services to patients, students, public, etc.
  3. The university will submit a quarterly summary of emergency purchases over $50,000 to the Executive Director, Board of Regents, State of Iowa.
  4. Sole source. There is only one person or vendor that can provide the requirement. No other known person or firm is available with an equivalent service or supply. Departments must complete a sole source justification form (see and receive approval from Purchasing prior to commencing the purchase process.

     In order to justify a sole-source purchase, one or more the following criteria must be substantiated in support of the justification:
    1. Compatibility with existing equipment. This justification may be used if the goods or services are being purchased to directly interface with or attach to equipment of the same manufacturer, and no other manufacturer's goods will correctly interface with existing equipment.
    2. Compatibility for instructional purposes. This justification may be used if the goods are being purchased to supplement existing equipment in a classroom. The goods must match the existing equipment and is being purchased to provide uniformity for instructional purposes.
    3. Compatibility for research. This justification may be used if the main purpose for acquiring equipment or supplies is to replicate specific experiments, using the exact goods that produced the original results. You may also use this justification if you are collaborating with another researcher and can show that identical goods are required to fulfill your part of the research grant or contract.
    4. Compatibility for medical services. This justification may be used if the main purpose of acquiring medical equipment or supplies is for the specific need of patient(s) at the discretion of the physician.
    5. Only one supplier can be identified to supply compliant goods or services. In limited cases, only one supplier may exist to provide particular goods or services. When providing a justification based on the availability of one supplier, the goods or services must be defined in generic terms. Specifying patented products or processes, when not necessary to meet functional requirements, is not acceptable as a sole source justification. Justifications can be accepted more readily by providing information regarding attempts to locate other suppliers, such as letters, informal quotations, or telephone contacts.
  5. Noncompetitive justification. The following may be reasons for using noncompetitive procurement methods:
    1. Patent rights, copyrights, secret processes, or control of basic raw materials may preclude competition, although they do not in and of themselves always justify using noncompetitive procurement.
    2. Bids have been solicited and no responsive bid (conforming to the central requirements of the solicitation) has been received. 

11.10 Purchases Requiring Regent Approval or Special Handling

(Amended 1/03; 10/11; 4/16; 11/16; 7/14/22)

Effective July 14, 2022, this policy has been revised. For individual changes, see the redlined version. 

  1. Professional service contracts.
    1. Professional service agreements are contracts for unique, technical, and/or infrequent functions performed by an independent contractor qualified by education, experience, and/or technical ability to provide services. In most cases these services are of a specific project nature, and are not a continuing, ongoing responsibility of the institution. The services rendered are predominately intellectual in character even though the contractor may not be required to be licensed. Professional service agreements may be with partnerships, firms, or corporations, as well as with individuals.
    2. Selection of a provider. Professional service agreements for greater than $50,000 must be selected through a competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Qualifications (RFQL) process unless the service is a sole source purchase that is appropriately documented and approved by the Executive Director, Board of Regents, State of Iowa. The $50,000 threshold is not based on a one-time cost, but rather on a cumulative cost for ongoing services under the terms of the project engagement. Professional service agreements, which are less than $50,000 over the course of service, may be entered into without using the required competitive bidding process. Total payment to a professional services provider for services provided to any one university department may not exceed $50,000 in a fiscal year, unless subject to competitive bidding or review and approval by the institutional purchasing department. Selection of a professional service provider shall be based on a variety of criteria including, but not limited to, demonstrated competence, knowledge, references, and unique qualifications to perform the services, in addition to offering a fair and reasonable price that is consistent with current market conditions. Additional criteria may be used as appropriate to the circumstances.
    3. Provider accountability. Work requirements should clearly define all performance objectives, work expectations, and project milestones, and hold the contractor accountable for successful completion of the resultant agreement. Requirements may include, but not be limited to, reports, training sessions, assessments, evaluations, or other tangible services.
    4. Provisions of professional service agreements. The following terms and conditions must be addressed:
      1. Performance requirements. Performance requirements should be precise and written in such a way that it can easily be determined if and when the contractor has successfully fulfilled their obligations under the agreement. Consequences for noncompliance such as non-payment and/or termination of the contract must also be defined. Scheduled due dates that specify milestone targets must be clearly identified and may include, but not be limited to, regular meetings scheduled to evaluate progress, identification of problem areas to determine actions to be taken to resolve any concerns, dates for formal written reports, required oral progress reports, and contract monitoring requirements.
      2. Period of performance. The resultant agreement must specify a start date and a completion date. While there may be exceptions, in most circumstances an end date to the agreement will be required. If an end date cannot be determined, a maximum time limit or maximum number of hours must be stated. Agreements with organizations are typically written for a specific term of successive years. In some instances, these agreements are annually renewable. Other provisions of an agreement may include a renewal clause beyond the original term of the agreement. Extended term agreements for individuals are discouraged.
      3. Compensation and payment. Compensation and payment terms include elements relating to cost and payment, such as maximum cost (i.e., not to exceed cost), cost per deliverable, hourly rates for individuals providing services, number of hours required, allowable expenses and total authorized-for expenses, and payment and invoicing procedures. Compensation and payment terms should also include a statement as to whether the Regent institution will pay expenses incurred by the contractor and, if so, which ones. Such expenses may include, but not be limited to, airfare (economy or coach class), lodging and subsistence necessary during periods of required travel, expenses incurred during travel for telephone, copying and postage, and private vehicle mileage. If other types of expenses are allowed, they must be clearly defined.
      4. Performance monitoring. The institution shall monitor the compliance with the terms and conditions of the agreement and applicable laws and regulations.
      5. Provision of liability. The provider may be required to show proof of insurance coverage and Workers' Compensation in compliance with statutory requirements, in the form specified by the institution.
  2. Other special purchases. For information on the following, see the Board of Regents Policy Manual 2.2.6C.v:
    1. Moveable and fixed equipment:
      1. Equipment with a unit cost of less than $1,000,000 will be purchased by the university’s Chief Procurement Officer;
      2. Equipment with a unit cost greater than $1,000,000 and less than $2,000,000 will be submitted to the Executive Director, Board of Regents, State of Iowa, for approval;
      3. Equipment costing more than $2,000,000 will be submitted to the Board of Regents COO for approval.  At the discretion of the Board of Regents Executive Director, the equipment purchase may be submitted to the Board of Regents for approval.
    2. The Board of Regents Executive Director will provide a summary of all equipment purchases of $1,000,000 or more to the Board of Regents on a quarterly basis.
      1. Iowa prison industries;
      2. Iowa products and labor;
      3. Targeted small business.

(For policy on moving expenses [formerly paragraph b above], see

11.12 Delegation of Purchasing Authority

The Chief Procurement Officer, with the approval of the Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations or the University Business Manager, may delegate purchasing authority to employees who have satisfactorily completed training and who have demonstrated competence and prior compliance with purchasing requirements. The degree and nature of such delegation will be specific for each such delegation and will be stated in writing by the Director of Purchasing. A delegation is subject to being rescinded at any time.

11.13 Master Lease

Purchases of equipment that are to be financed on a lease-purchase or similar basis shall be forwarded to the Chief Financial Officer for review and shall contain a summary setting forth the financing cost for comparison with the terms offered for equipment financing under the Regents' master lease agreement. 

11.14 Conflict of Interest

(Amended Regents 3/30/11)

It is the policy of the University of Iowa to comply with state and federal law regarding purchases from "conflict of interest vendors" or "employees." A conflict of interest exists when there is a divergence between an employee's personal interests and their professional obligations to the university as an employee. Employees conducting business on behalf of the university have a responsibility to do so in a manner that is objective and ethical. The goal of all such business dealings must be to benefit the university. The university is committed to complying with applicable procurement laws and regulations, including requirements that apply to conflicts of interest, as provided by the following:

  1. Iowa Code 68B.3 and 68B.4
  2. Board of Regents Policy Manual 2.1.4F
  3. Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-110 

11.15 Purchases from University Faculty or Staff

(Amended 5/02; Regents 3/30/11; 7/14/22)

Effective July 14, 2022, this policy has been revised. For individual changes, see the redlined version

  1. Definitions.
    1. "Employee":
      1. a paid employee of a Regent institution or the Board of Regents office;
      2. an employee of another state of Iowa agency (Iowa Department of Transportation, Department of Administrative Services, Department of Human Services, Iowa Department of Personnel, etc.)
    2. "Conflict of interest vendor":
      1. any firm of which any of the above referred persons is a partner or sole proprietor;
      2. any corporation in which any of the above referenced persons holds five percent or more stock either directly or indirectly.
  2. General policy.
    1. A conflict of interest arises when a faculty or staff member is or may be in the position to influence the university's business, research, or other decisions in ways that could lead to any form of personal gain for the faculty or staff member or other