To provide an overview of UTSA's purchasing process.

This guideline applies to UTSA employees who participate in the purchase of goods and services (including those who approve, process or influence purchases). This is not intended to be a technical manual for Purchasing Department personnel.


University of Texas (UT) System UTS 159 Purchasing requires the primary procurement officer of each institution and System Administration to promulgate procedures to facilitate and expedite the purchasing function.

University Guidelines

Table of Contents
  1. Overview
  2. Purchasing Ethics
  3. Best Value
  4. Key Requirements
  5. Contracts
  6. Competitive Procurement Threshold
  7. Exceptions to Requirements for Competitive Procurement
    1. Exclusive Acquisitions
      1. Proprietary and Best Value
      2. Professional Services
      3. Emergency Purchases
    2. Exempt Purchases
  8. Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Program
  9. Preferences
  10. Purchases with Specific Requirements
  11. Group Purchases
  12. Purchases from Employees
  13. Purchasing Process
  14. Receipt of Goods and Services

A. Overview

UTSA purchases in accordance with the Contract Management Handbook (CMH), which contains UTSA’s official rules and regulations for purchasing; this guideline outlines key points departments should follow as a general guide.

The following apply to the purchasing process

Purchases exceeding the competitive procurement threshold must involve the Purchasing Department (Purchasing). Purchases may not be split to avoid the threshold.

Certain purchases, such as those listed in Purchases with Specific Requirements, may require involvement or approval from Purchasing or another office regardless of value.

Upon completion of training recommended by the Purchasing Department, UTSA departments may be delegated the authority to complete purchases in Rowdy Exchange below the competitive procurement threshold. Rowdy Exchange is UTSA’s purchasing system.

B. Purchasing Ethics

UTSA is committed to maintaining ethical business practices, both as an institution and as individual employees. Some examples of upholding high ethical standards in purchasing include (but are not limited to)

  • Serving the best interest of UTSA, UT System and the state
  • Knowing and upholding laws, regulations and policies governing purchasing
  • Not accepting personal gifts or gratuities that might in any way result in an obligation to individuals or firms seeking business
  • Obtaining maximum value for each dollar of expenditure
  • Avoiding conflicts of interest
  • Avoiding acts that are improper or give the appearance of impropriety
  • Not disclosing confidential information

For more information, see University of Texas (UT) System UTS 134 — Code of Ethics for Financial Officers and Employees; UTSA Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP) 1.33 — Conflict of Interest, Conflict of Commitment, and Outside Activities and UTSA Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP) 4.01 — Code of Ethics.

C. Best Value

UTSA makes sure each purchase provides the best value. Best value is the optimum combination of economy and quality resulting from fair, efficient and practical decision making that achieves UTSA's purchasing objectives.

Consider the following factors when determining best value

  • Purchase price
  • Reputation of the vendor and of the vendor's goods or services
  • Quality of the vendor's goods or services
  • Extent to which the goods or services meet UTSA's needs
  • Vendor's past relationship with UTSA
  • Impact on UTSA’s ability to comply with laws and rules relating to the HUB program and to purchases from WorkQuest (applicable to state-funded purchases only)
  • Long-term total cost to UTSA of acquiring the vendor's goods or services
  • The purchase of sustainable products and services when applicable
  • Any relevant factor that a private business entity would consider in selecting a vendor
  • The use of material that is not unique to a single vendor

For more information, see Texas Education Code (TEC) Section 51.9335 Acquisition of Goods and Services.

D. Key Requirements

Purchases require prior approval using one of the following:

  • An approved purchase order (POs route for approval based on the requisition created in Rowdy Exchange)
  • An authorized One Card transaction (authorization is per the department’s procedures and the One Card Program guideline)
  • A formal contract signed by a UTSA authorized signer and the vendor

Payments to vendors will be made only with a properly completed PO, an authorized One Card transaction or non-PO voucher or an authorized contract.

If a department receives goods or services without first using one of the methods described above, significant non-compliance consequences apply, including an employee potentially being personally liable for the purchase. Also, the department will be required to complete an After the Fact (ATF) form in Rowdy Exchange explaining why the above methods were not used prior to the delivery of services or goods. The form will be recorded as a Non-Conforming purchase and will route to a department lead for review. ATFs involving $15,000 or more also route to the executive vice president for Business Affairs  and chief enterprise development officer.

E. Contracts

Where a PO is not sufficient, a mutually signed contract is required to complete the purchasing process. Only an individual with express written delegation from the president can execute a contract. The Business Contracts Office facilitates UTSA's business contracts processes and provides the expertise necessary to draft, negotiate and finalize business contracts. The Purchasing Department and Business Contracts Office collaborate to finalize contracts.

A contract is the final phase of a purchase and must never precede the appropriate purchasing procedures.

F. Competitive Procurement Threshold

The competitive procurement threshold is $15,000. Competitive procurement involves obtaining quotes/bids/proposals from multiple vendors.

Except for group purchases, purchases of $15,000 or more require competitive procurement. Purchasing Department involvement is required for these purchases. Refer to Purchasing Process for more information.

Purchases may not be split into smaller amounts in an effort to avoid the competitive procurement threshold.

G. Exceptions to Requirements for Competitive Procurement

1. Exclusive acquisitions

Departments must submit a completed Exclusive Acquisition Justification form for the exceptions below, which Purchasing may consider depending on specific circumstances surrounding purchases. For all exceptions valued at $15,000 or greater, consult with the department’s assigned procurement specialist.

a) Proprietary and Best Value

A sole source purchase is a purchase of goods or services available from only one source, such as

  • Items that are available from only one source because of patents, copyrights, secret processes or natural monopolies
  • Films, manuscripts or books published and available from only one source
  • Captive replacement parts (equipment-specific parts)
  • Maintenance services required to maintain warranty coverage

A sole brand purchase is a purchase of goods or services of a particular brand that may be available from multiple sources. A sole brand purchase results from competitive procurement of equipment or competing brands to determine the best brand. Usually, a brand is selected to standardize purchases over a period of time when an investment (such as specialized training) must be made. Sole brand purchases should not be confused with sole source purchases. Sole brand purchases require competitive procurement for amounts of $15,000 or greater.

If the cost of a good or service is equal to or greater than $15,000, a written justification of why competing vendors cannot satisfy the requirement for the good or service must be provided (use the Exclusive Acquisition Justification form, Proprietary and Best Value section).

b) Professional Services

For the purposes of this financial guideline, professional services are as defined in Texas Government Code Section 2254.002. For designated professional services where competitive bidding/procurement processes are not permitted and the vendor has not been pre-qualified, the department must provide a written justification using the Exclusive Acquisition Justification form, completing the required fields.

c) Emergency Purchases

Conditions for an emergency purchase occur when the situation requires UTSA to make a purchase more quickly in an effort to prevent hazard to life, health, safety, welfare or property. An emergency situation is one in which normal purchasing procedures cannot be followed, but does not necessarily negate the use of competition. Competition is encouraged when possible.

Departments need to plan ahead for purchasing needs. Delay or neglect on the part of UTSA or an employee do not qualify as emergencies.

The department must provide a written justification for an emergency purchase using the Exclusive Acquisition Justification form and include the following information:

  • The reason for the emergency purchase (describe the emergency situation and what caused it),
  • The financial or operational damage/risk to UTSA if the need is not satisfied immediately,
  • Why the need was not or could not be anticipated so that standard procedures could have been followed, and
  • The reason and process for selecting the vendor.

Prior to a request or issuance of a PO for the good or service, contact Purchasing for guidance.

2. Exempt Purchases

Certain purchases have been expressly exempted from competitive procurement requirements as allowed by the Texas Government Code. The department should consult Purchasing when purchasing any good or service interpreted to be exempt. The full exempt purchase listing is on the Purchasing website at Procurement Exemptions; examples are below:

  • Publications purchased directly from the publisher
  • Subscriptions, allowable membership fees, training conference registration fees, allowable accreditation and professional license fees and renewal fees
  • Goods purchased by UTSA for subsequent retail sale by UTSA auxiliary enterprises
  • Travel expenses reimbursed per the State of Texas — Comptroller of Public Accounts: Textravel (Travel Allowance Guide)
  • Interagency cooperation agreements
  • Original existing artwork
  • Artists commissioned to complete art projects for UTSA
  • Performances by theater groups or entertainers where UTSA pays the fee for the performance
  • Museum exhibits where UTSA pays the exhibit fee
  • Demonstration and speaking fees
  • Hotels and venues for UTSA sponsored events, including development activities, when a state venue is not available
  • Allowable U.S. Postal Service postage (excluding courier and overnight delivery services)
  • Water, electricity, gas and other regulated public utilities, if the services are not deregulated
  • Allowable advertisements, including advertisements related to UTSA marketing initiatives, that are placed in written publications, on billboards, in radio or television broadcasts, and in other multimedia venues
  • Catering services selected from UTSA's approved list of catering providers in accordance with UTSA procedures
  • Library books, periodicals, subscriptions, educational databases and other related library materials purchased by the library or on behalf of the library

The Exclusive Acquisition Justification form is not required for exempt purchases.

H. Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Program

UTSA is committed to a good faith effort to increase purchases from and contract awards to HUB firms, consistent with the State of Texas goals for HUB participation and overall economic development.

Employees who make purchases using UTSA funds or influence such purchases must be aware of the HUB program and participate in UTSA's good faith effort to provide opportunities for HUB participation.

For more information on HUB requirements, see UTSA Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP) 9.26 — Historically Underutilized Business Program and the Purchasing HUB website.

I. Preferences

As an agency of the State of Texas and a public institution of higher education, UTSA has a responsibility to support matters of public policy, including giving preferences as specified by Texas law.


UTSA is required to give preference to WorkQuest (formerly the Texas Institute for the Blind and Handicapped) for state-funded purchases. WorkQuest should be used except when quantity, quality, delivery or life cycle specifications are not met. If purchasing goods WorkQuest offers from other sources, please supply a reason in the requisition internal notes.

For more examples of other preferences encouraged by the State of Texas, visit the Comptroller of Public Accounts General Preferences website.

J. Purchases with Specific Requirements

Departments should note requirements related to certain purchases regardless of value:

  • State funds: No food, drink, entertainment or floral arrangements
  • Federal funds: Purchases using Funds 5100 - 5499 must comply with applicable federal requirements
  • Certain purchases require Purchasing involvement. These require a requisition, which will automatically route to Purchasing, for example
    • Amount Only items
    • Equipment leases
    • Equipment shipped to a non-UTSA location
    • Multi-functional devices
    • Professional services (such as accounting, architecture, engineering)
  • Restricted commodities (lasers, animals, biologics, controlled substances, cylinder gases, hazardous chemicals, radioactive materials, vehicles, temporary staffing or search firm services and other restricted commodities): These require a requisition, which routes automatically to Purchasing, and approval from key areas such as the Laboratory Animal Resources Center, the UTSA Fleet Manager or People Excellence
  • Maintenance: Submit a Facilities work order
  • Purchases from foreign suppliers: Contact Purchasing
  • Purchases from employees: Refer to Purchases from Employees
  • Renovation or modification of a space: Submit a Real Estate and Property Management project request
  • Technology purchases: Contact the University Technology Solutions Tech Café

K. Group Purchases

A Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) procures contracts on behalf of the members it serves. The UT System GPO Accreditation Program only recognizes/approves GPOs that satisfy UT System procurement standards. Departments can use any UT System GPO contract without the need to do a formal solicitation. Using a GPO can help UTSA reduce processing time and obtain cost savings. To search on the Group Contracts Search page, enter a keyword in the Basic Search field; further instructions are on the page.

L. Purchases from Employees

University of Texas (UT) System UTS 159 Purchasing requires the prior approval of the UTSA president for a purchase from, or sale to, any employee. Such a purchase may be made only if the cost is less than from any other known source.

M. Purchasing Process

All purchases

To begin the purchasing process, departments must

  • Determine functional specifications, requirements and specific quantities for goods and/or services needed
  • Calculate the estimated total dollar amount of the purchase for budgeting purposes (UTSA purchases are exempt from state sales tax)
  • Determine the source of funds (local, gift, grant, etc.) and assign a Chartfield string for the purchase transaction (see Financial Guideline — Chart of Accounts)
  • For local funds and One Card purchases over $500, verify the vendor's hold status by using Texas Identification Number System (TINS) — Vendor Hold Search. Vendors whose status is on hold with the state are ineligible to sell goods or services to UTSA. NOTE: Vendor status is automatically verified for purchases made with state funds
  • Obtain one firm quote
  • Initiate the purchase process, as below

For more information on the purchasing process, visit the UTSA Purchasing website.

Purchases less than $15,000 (direct purchase)

Departments process these purchases using one of the following:

  • A Rowdy Exchange requisition. Requisitions entered in Rowdy Exchange route electronically for approval, and upon approval convert automatically to POs. The department must have a firm quote from the vendor before entering the requisition. For orders over $500, a written quote from the vendor is highly recommended.
  • A One Card (purchases up to $5,000). The One Card must be used in accordance with applicable rules and regulations; refer to Financial Guideline — One Card Program.
  • A non-PO voucher (see the Vendor Payments page for more information)
  • An executed contract (submit a contract request to the Business Contracts Office). Refer to the Contracts section.

Departments are strongly recommended to

Purchases equal to or greater than $15,000 (competitive procurement)

Purchases equal to or greater than $15,000 require specialized knowledge and training and must be processed by Purchasing.

Departments initiate these purchases by attaching one quote to the requisition (departments are strongly encouraged to obtain this quote from a Historically Underutilized Business). Purchasing obtains additional quotes as needed, routes any contract request and completes the purchase. For assistance, contact a procurement specialist.

Further, purchases of $50,000 or above (other than group purchases) require formal competitive procurement methods; departments need to contact the Purchasing Department or their procurement specialist as early as possible in planning the purchase.

N. Receipt of Goods and Services

After goods or services are received, departments create a receiving report in Rowdy Exchange. Other than the exceptions below, a receiving report must be created to pay for goods or services received under a PO; the receiving report serves as verification that the goods or services were received as ordered.

These types of purchases do not require a receiving report:

  • POs set up as Amount Only, indicating a service that cannot be tangibly received
  • One Card purchases
  • Purchases through Rowdy Exchange that meet all of the following criteria:
    • Less than $5,000
    • Not purchased with state or federal funds
    • Not a purchase of the following items:

For more information on Rowdy Exchange, visit the Purchasing training website

Because the receiving report serves as documentation for payment to the vendor, a department's failure to promptly create the report may delay payment to the vendor and result in late payment interest being charged to the department.

Visit the Central Receiving website for more information on receiving procedures.

Shipment Damage or Disputes

If a department believes payment should be withheld due to an incorrect delivery or damage, the department should not issue a receiving report. The department should submit a Vendor Dispute Form to Disbursements and Travel Services and contact the vendor to resolve the dispute. For more information, refer to Disputed Shipments or Invoices in Financial Guideline — Texas Prompt Payment Law.

Related Forms and Resources 

  1. Contract Management Handbook
  2. Exclusive Acquisition Justification Form
  3. Preferred Suppliers (list of UTSA’s preferred vendors)
  4. Purchasing Training (includes Rowdy Exchange resources)
  5. Vendor Dispute Form

Revision History

Date Description
03/15/24 In section G. Exceptions to Requirements for Competitive Procurement, reorganized the subsections and added a subsection for professional services. Clarified section K. Group Purchases and updated the search instructions. In section M, departments are strongly recommended to use a preferred supplier for direct purchases. Added non-PO vouchers and other edits throughout for clarity. 
05/11/23 Updated the restricted commodities list in section J for consistency between financial guidelines.
08/24/22 Clarified content throughout, including key requirements (section D), the competitive procurement threshold (F) and the purchasing process (M). Updated specific requirements (J). Edited section order and headings.
11/05/21 Specified that the Contract Management Handbook prevails in the event of any conflicts with this guideline. Updated and clarified processes (including adding After the Fact purchase processes, updating Procard references to the One Card and amending processes for purchases with specific requirements and for receiving goods). Updated headings, hyperlinks and other editorial details throughout.