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PCard Program - FAQ’s

Marketplace versus PCard Use at the University of Maine

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Background

MaineStreet Marketplace is the preferred procurement tool for purchase of goods. The PCard should be used only when necessary for small dollar purchases at vendors that will not accept a purchase order, for travel, or for emergencies.

 

Why is MaineStreet Marketplace the preferred tool?

Marketplace has been in place since December 2010 and the system reached a critical mass of vendors for widespread  in July of 2011. Buying through the Marketplace takes advantage of automated processes that require less manual intervention and overall combined price plus overhead savings are achieved by entering into broad contracts with selected vendors. MaineStreet Marketplace allows users to select and purchase products from among 19 separate vendor catalogs and lists over 17,000 additional vendors that will accept purchase orders from the University of Maine. Thus, there is typically little to no need to use a PCard with these vendors.

 

What Changes have been made to the PCard Program?

The University of Maine System recently issued Administrative Practice Letter VII-C which is located at http://www.maine.edu/pdf/VII-CPurchasingCards.pdf. All University of Maine System campuses are required to comply with the practice letter and the University of Maine has adopted the following in order to align itself with this policy directive:

  1.  Each potential P-Card user needs to have his/her own P-Card.
  2. Supervisory pre-approval for use of the P-Card is required.  Purchasing will work with individual departments to establish the necessary supervisory roles for P-Card use, to avoid placing subordinate staff in conflict situations.
  3. Supervisors or CFO approved Designates need to be aware and approve transactions in advance rather than after a transaction is made.
  4. The UMaine PCard Administrator may authorize and charge transactions to default chartfields for unresolved transactions.
  5. The University System PCard Program Manager (in consultation with UMaine PCard Administrator) may force approval of transactions, not otherwise in dispute or noted as exceptions, which remain unresolved after four weeks.
  6. PCards with no activity for over a six-month period may be closed. At least one month prior to closing a PCard account, the UMaine PCard Administrator will notify the appropriate supervisor or CFO approved designate that the closure is imminent.

 

Why has the PCard Program been changed?

  1. Changes have been made to enable the University to use the PCard for the most strategic reasons; small dollar purchases that cannot be easily procured through the Marketplace and emergency purchases.
  2. The cost of the PCard program is higher than Marketplace when the following issues are taken into consideration:
    • A 3% merchant fee is incurred within the cost of any product purchased with a PCard and that cost is contained within the price charged to the UMaine.
    • Costs associated with the PCard holder fulfilling the required accounting documentation of each PCard transaction, including securing  and processing original receipts, signatures, project identification and other requirements, all of which require considerable manual intervention are higher.
    •  Record keeper time and effort to review and approve transactions within the PCard computer system are higher.
    • In some PCard situations accounting practices require a secondary approval level before a transaction is pushed into General ledger to ensure segregation of duties.
    • Review and approval of the PCard statements and transactions by administrators above the purchasing unit level are higher.
    • The University of Maine is now required to show prior approval of a supervisor or CFO approved designate of all its purchases prior to items being secured. 
    • MaineStreet Marketplace enables the University to obtain spend data that can be analyzed for trends and strategic opportunities, whereas this is not easily accomplished with the PCard.  These trends enable the University to negotiate discounts and save money.

 

Marketplace does not have any of the vendors from which I desire to order. How do I get my work done?

This situation should be remedied over time. Marketplace has a vendor create functionality that can be accessed through the system and is overseen by the University Systems office.  The UMaine Purchasing department is more than willing to assist in the process of getting new vendors into the system and acquiring any needed information from the vendors if help is requested.  Marketplace currently has 17,977 vendors in the system.   New vendors can be added to Marketplace when they provide the University with information related to their ability to setup a corporate account for purchase on credit.  The University has been able to setup vendor accounts for small farm stand owners up to global international companies for unique or rare components.  The Purchasing office will be reviewing PCard transactions to find possible additional vendors to add to the system based on repetitive purchases and purchase amounts.  The Marketplace is intended to be used as the primary University procurement tool, with the PCard used only for very small dollar purchases, or in the case of true emergencies.

 

Does my supervisor have to approve all my purchases?  Isn’t that costly and time consuming?

While recognizing that supervisors have responsibility for all purchases under their authority, Purchasing will work with individual areas to identify how pre-approval can be granted in the simplest manner to meet compliance expectations and daily operational needs.

 

Can we find a simpler mechanism for pre-approval for purchases on a grant?

Discussions are occurring between the campus and the System Office on how to enable a process whereby the grant itself serves as the pre-approval mechanism to comply with the P-Card APL.  The preliminary plan which requires additional work and discussion recognizes that:

A sponsored grant is awarded to the University through a Principal Investigator (PI).

  1.  When the sponsored budget is created, Purchasing will create a one-time pre approval for the life of the grant for the researcher/PI, as well as for specified support staff who will help to buy/secure products and services.
  2. For the life of the grant no other approvals will be required unless there are some changes in the personnel assigned to the grant (support staff for example) OR if there are significant changes to the original budgeted project approved by the sponsor.

This plan fulfills the spirit of the policy and appears to be fairly easy to implement.  Additional work is needed to develop forms and signature authorizations. 

At this time, EPSCOR, MEIF and MAFES are areas that continue to need work on simplifying approval concepts.

We will communicate back prior to October 31st with the new process.

 

I am on the road all the time for my job research or otherwise, how do I procure goods and services while I travel?

Travel is technically part of another APL that governs expenditures during travel.  There are rules about preapproval of budgets for trips etc. that are defined within that APL.  Although a PCard can continue to be used for travel expenses (registration, hotels, meals), the procurement of non-travel related items should be limited to very small purchases and/or emergency situations in the field.

 

Will vendors get paid in a timely manner in MaineStreet Marketplace?

Yes, in fact the University can benefit from negotiating prompt payment discounts and ensuring that late payments do not occur resulting in additional fees.  Accommodations can be made for immediate payment if required. 

 

How is one able to pay conference registrations on a website?

There are many instances where this is the only method to register for a conference.  If that is the case, an approval by the campus PCard Administrator to waive the $500.00 small dollar threshold or to up the single transaction limit will make this possible.  This is a process that has been in place for years with the card.  This will still require preapproval as described above.

In other cases we are able to do a check request for the conference registration.  This typically takes 5-7 days to receive the check based on the check run cycle at the systems office.  The check request form is part of Marketplace and this processed has worked very smoothly since go live in 2010.

There is no need to use a personal credit card and be reimbursed.

 

How do faculty and staff take advantage of purchasing through eBay, holiday sales, and inventory liquidations when time is of the essence?

This has always been a good source of procurement for the University over the years.  There is no plan to block this type of transaction.  It does require pre approval per the APL, however the emergency clause of the APL may be invoked if we can reasonably state an emergency situation to purchase without pre approval.  The emergency policy is discussed below. 

Purchasing is also at the ready to help with this type of situation, approving the purchase, using our own cards, working with eBay vendors to pay via check, all of which have proven successful in the past.

 

How does an end user receive notice of an out of stock item in Marketplace?

This depends on how the product was sourced.  If the order was placed through a catalog vendor, the punch-out sites show whether an item is in stock or not.  In this case the end user knows before they even place the order that the item is out of stock.  For Non-Catalog orders the method of sourcing becomes even more important.  A web search tends to show stock status, a call to a sales rep to get a quote allows for information to flow from the rep to the end user, and finally we have quite a few very good non-catalog vendors who will contact us back after they receive a PO to inform us of backorder.

 

Why is a cardholder acknowledgement form required for the change in APL?

When a cardholder initially applies for a card they receive several forms they must fill out, read, and/or sign.  The cardholder application is required to be filled out by the cardholder, the department head, the PCard administrator and the CFO Designate, all of which must sign the form to acknowledge the terms and conditions of having the card.  Each applicant receives a letter from Vice President Waldron explaining the procurement standards of conduct.  The letter states that the use of the PCard is contingent upon receipt of the signed acknowledgement of reading and understanding the APL, procurement standards of conduct, and Federal circular a110.  This acknowledgement must be renewed each year.

The acknowledgement is a contract between the Cardholder and the University and with the level of changes within the APL a new signed acknowledgement was determined to be the proper course of action.   

What is considered an emergency and how is that required to be documented?

In the course of University business emergencies come up.  Things break and are mission critical, deals that require immediate response for purchase, and any number of other examples come up and need to be handled in an expeditious manner.  The card limits of field personnel with travel will not change giving them the ability to address emergencies in the field as they always have.  The only change will be the after the fact documentation of the emergency.  Emergencies will be reviewed post transaction through documentation in PaymentNet.  A request has been made to the systems office to specifically define the backup required for the documentation of an emergency purchase.  The University is committed to making the process as simple and efficient as possible.

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Purchasing
5765 Service Building
Orono, ME 04469-5765
Phone: (207) 581-2695 | Fax: (207) 581-2698
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
207.581.1865