The purpose and intent of this manual is to assist Union County personnel in the purchasing of goods and services using funds approved in the annual budget. All of the funds budgeted for these purchases come from publicly raised funds. The State of New Jersey has the authority to mandate how public funds are spent. The State exercises that authority by passing Laws* that pertain to governmental purchasing. The County of Union must follow these laws in order to make any purchase. The State Division of Local Government Services* assists all governmental entities in understanding and administering the Laws and Rules. The NJ laws are not unique and, in essence, guide local governments throughout the USA. A synopsis of national principles may be found on the next to last page of this manual. State law requires that encumberment of funds must always be made BEFORE the purchase of goods and services. Employees may NOT:
- place verbal orders without an official County of Union Purchase Order approved by Finance and Purchasing.
- purchase goods or services with their own funds or credit with the expectation for reimbursement.
The Division of Purchasing is a service division. It exists to assure the compliance of the County with the LPCL and to assist County personnel in the procurement process. That said, the Division processes approximately 15,000 requisitions per year and administers up to 175 Public Bids. These large numbers can only be managed properly with the cooperation of all County personnel. Routine purchases need to be made easily and quickly. A contact person who inputs the requisitions for routine purchases must have the proper training and keep adequate records in order to expedite approval by the Division of Purchasing. The following information is intended to be an outline of standard purchasing procedures. The online format was chosen to assure that updates to procedures caused by changing laws and regulations can be done quickly and efficiently. Left click underlined and asterisked words, phrases and names to navigate to websites and email addresses. If you need assistance, please do not hesitate to call the Purchasing Staff at 908-527-4130
The State of New Jersey passes laws and regulations to assure that the County of Union uses purchasing procedures that allow for fair and open competition. The Law * (LPCL), N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1 et seq., sets a figure of $44,000 as the bid threshold for one commodity or service with the presence of a Qualified Purchasing Agent as Director. The County of Union has as Director of Purchasing: Laura M. Scutari, a Qualified Purchasing Agent and a Registered Public Purchasing Specialist by Rutgers University. In 2005, the state passed Chapter 271, P.L. 2005 and Chapter 19, P.L. 2004 , commonly known as the “pay to play” laws which significantly changed threshold considerations. The new laws effectively reduce the threshold to $17,500 total in a calendar year to ONE vendor and require such contracts to receive Board approval by resolution. The $44,000 figure is the total that the County can spend in the aggregation for one specific good or service without offering a public bid. The period of the bid threshold begins on the date of first purchase and lasts for 12 months after that date. In regards to the bid threshold of $44,000, estimates of money spent on similar goods must be county-wide.
Simply put, purchases which in themselves would not reach a threshold must be considered with like goods or services and purchases done by each division must be combined also. E.G – a drill and a circular saw are in the same aggregate for power tools.
The Law allows for exceptions to bidding (N.J.S.A.40A:11-5&6), the most frequently used being:
- Professional Services – view section
- Extraordinary Unspecifiable Services view section
- State and National Cooperative Contracts view section
- Emergency Purchases two sections related to this: section | section
The County has established procedures to use these exceptions including updates due to the Pay to Play law for professional services and extraordinary unspecifiable services. If a using division feels that they have an exception situation, they should get the approval of County Counsel and Purchasing before initiating a request for resolution.
Aggregation also applies to the $17,500 Pay to Play threshold with the further complication that the $17,500 applies to a county wide aggregate for any and all types of goods or services. So, in this example, if Public Works bought $15,000 of power tools from Home Depot and subsequently Facilities wanted to buy $15,000 worth of trash bins from Home Depot, the purchase of the trash bins from the ONE vendor would exceed the $17,500 Pay to Play threshold and a formal public bid for at least one of the commodities would be required. The only exceptions recognized by the Pay to Play laws are NJ state, governmental cooperative, emergency contracts, certain professional contracts and government to government purchases. Using Divisions can call the County Counsel assigned attorney for guidance.
Formal Written Public Bids
Initiating a bid requires a written request on the behalf of the Director of the using Division. The formal letter must include a description of goods and services, the cost estimate, and the approved capital expense approval form signed by the County Manager (as required).
In addition, the using Division shall advise if the goods and/or services will be funded at all by a Federal grant or funding. Note the use of Federal grants shall result in the inclusion of a debarment and suspension provision pursuant to a Federal Executive Order (specifically, EO 12549 and EO 12689).
Detailed specifications and a bid form price page, which are the responsibility of the using Division, should be attached to the formal letter. Purchasing will assemble a bid package that will contain all statutory paperwork required to allow for an open and competitive bid.
The request for bid with all correct specifications must be received by the Purchasing Division a MINIMUM of two months prior to anticipated contract award. This allows for adequate time to set the bid opening date, receive the Dept./Div. recommendation, the signing of contracts by all parties and the official award of the contracts by Freeholder resolution. Purchasing will then advertise the bid in accordance with the Local Public Contracts Law.
A Public Bid Opening will be held and only proposals presented at the designated time and place will be considered. After the bid opening has been conducted, County Counsel will examine the written proposals proffered to decide if they have been responsive to the statutory paperwork asked for in the bid specifications. Purchasing will then present the paperwork of all legally responsive bidders to the using Division.
The Division will determine which bidder has the lowest price with the necessary experience and any other pertinent factors, including verification of bidder debarment/suspension status on SAM.gov (if Federal grant is used) and on the State of New Jersey Debarment list.
If the bidder satisfied all of these requirements the using Division can declare them the lowest responsible bidder. The Division will submit a formal letter of recommendation to Purchasing making note of same and requesting an award of contract to the lowest responsive and responsible vendor.
Purchasing alerts County Counsel of the decision, provides them with all necessary paperwork and the need for an offer of a written contract to the winning vendor. The using Division issues a request for resolution and inputs information into the MinuteTraq system for the award of the bid that is to be considered by the Board of Chosen Freeholders at the earliest Agenda Meeting.
If approved, the bid is awarded by resolution of the Board at the subsequent Regular Public Meeting and the Office of the County Counsel would then proceed to administer the written contracts.
An alternative to public bidding, competitive contracting has been approved by the State in N.J.S.A. 40A:11-4.5. Competitive contracting means the method of contracting for specialized goods and services in which formal proposals are solicited from vendors based on a weighted system in which factors other than price are considered. Formal proposals are evaluated by a blue ribbon committee and a recommendation to the governing body for the award of contract is made. Guidance for use and suggested methods are outlined in N.J.S.A. 5:34-4 et seq. and a Best Practices section available from the Office of the New Jersey Comptroller. Using divisions that wish to pursue this method should contact the Office of the County Counsel for guidance and approval.
Approval of the Office of the County Counsel must be the first step in utilizing these exceptions. Please note that emergencies are technically exceptions to bidding and are addressed on this section.
Defined as services rendered or performed by a person: Authorized by law to practice a recognized profession, whose practice is regulated by law, and the performance of which services requires knowledge of an advanced type in a field of learning acquired by a prolonged formal course of specialized instruction and study as distinguished from general academic instruction or apprenticeship and training.
Rendering services in the provision or performance of goods or services that are original and creative in character in a recognized field of artistic endeavor.
Any and all contracts over the threshold that are declared exceptions MUST have an awarding resolution. See this section for resolution guidelines.
The services must be of such a qualitative nature that the performance of the services cannot be reasonably described by written specifications. The application of this exception for extraordinary unspecifiable services shall be construed narrowly in favor of open competitive bidding wherever possible. The fact that the service is in the nature of a personal, human, social or training services contract, or includes within its description such terms as “technical,” “management,” “consultant,” or similar descriptions suggesting some special nature shall not in itself be sufficient to utilize this exception. The assertion that the service can only be provided by a single contractor (“sole source”) shall not be sufficient to justify avoidance of competitive bidding. Quotations as to the cost or price must be solicited . N.J.S.A. 40A:11-4.5 allows for an alternative method to be used, Competitive Contracting, when bidding or EUS are not usable or optimal.
The following represent a minimum of the elements needed on a resolution in order for purchasing to approve a subsequential purchase order for goods or services that exceed any threshold that calls for a resolution of the governing body:
- Bid Agreement Number
- Description of the goods and services being purchased and the purpose for which it is to be used.
- The estimated starting and ending dates of the contract which are to be finalized upon signing of the contract by all parties.
- The source of the funds (budget account) and the amount of the contract* used for the purchase. Finance requires a requisition be placed on the Minitraq system to encumber the funds.
- Name and address of the vendor (s) being awarded the contract(s).
- Any additional explanatory information necessary for public understanding of the matter.
- A requisition number encumbering the full amount of the contract. Refer to the Financial regulations for guidance.
The request for resolution must be inputted into the Minitraq computer program of the Office of the Clerk of the Board no later than Friday of the week prior to the Freeholder Agenda * meeting . Should it arrive later, it will be held for the next agenda meeting (Usually 2 weeks later).After being presented at the agenda meeting, the request will be voted on at the following week’s regular Freeholder Board meeting.
In the case of an exception to bidding, the Division of Local Government Services also requires identification of the statute (by citation or description) that exempts the particular good or service from public bidding and any other stipulation specific to the exception in N.J.S.A. 40A11-1 et seq. * If the amount of the contract needs to be increased at a later date, a change order must be approved by resolution. If the change is larger than 20% of the original award, additional steps must be taken and County Counsel should be engaged.
The following is provided for informational purposes as it pertains to contract management rather than purchasing law.
The New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act (N.J.S.A. 34:11-56.25 et seq.) establishes a prevailing wage level for workers engaged in public works in order to safeguard the workers efficiency and general well-being, and to protect them as well as their employers from the effects of serious and unfair competition resulting from wage levels that are detrimental to the efficiency and well-being of all concerned. The Act requires the payment of minimum rates of pay for laborers, craftsmen and apprentices employed on public works projects. Covered workers must receive the appropriate craft prevailing wage rate as determined by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development. Public works projects subject to the Act are those funded in whole or in part with the funds of a public body. ANY contract, whether by public bid or purchase order, awarded directly by a county government valued at $2000 or more is covered by the Act. Anyone interested in bidding on or engaging in any contract (or part thereof) for public work which is subject to the provisions of the Prevailing Wage Act MUST register with the Division of Wage and Hour Compliance as required by the Public Works Contractor Registration Act (PWCRA) P.L. 1999, c.238-N.J.S.A. 34:11-56.48 et seq. which establishes a unified procedure for the registration of contractors and subcontractors engaged in public works building projects. Upon registration, the contractor and/or subcontractor will be issued a certificate indicating compliance with the requirements of the Act. Counties are expected to require proof of registration of all contracts over $2,000.
Public work means any construction, reconstruction, demolition, alteration or repair work, or maintenance work including painting and decorating, done under contract and paid for in whole or in part out of the funds of the public body, except work performed under a rehabilitation program. Further information on Wage Determination.
The County has contracts that must be rebid or renewed every 24 months, such as most repair service and uniform supply. Departments/ Divisions are responsible for ensuring that their respective contracts are rebid or renewed (if multi-year), and in place before the expiration of the old contracts. This can best be accomplished by maintaining a Database containing the contracts, the expiration date of the bid, professional service or the contract year of a multi-year contract, as well as the date that the process should begin to ensure the timely beginning of a contract. To facilitate this, the Department/Division must be aware of the time frame that the particular process used will require once it leaves their office. When a bid contains the option to renew the contract for additional years, the memo should go to the Division of Purchasing 45 days prior to the expected renewal. New contracts are needed as well as a new Freeholder resolution.
The request for resolution must be inputted into the Minitraq computer program of the Office of the Clerk of the Board no later than Friday of the week prior to the Freeholder Agenda * meeting .
Should it arrive later, it will be held for the next agenda meeting (Usually 2 weeks later).
After being presented at the agenda meeting, the request will be voted on at the following week’s regular Freeholder Board meeting.
The request for bid with all correct specifications must be received by the Purchasing Division a MINIMUM of three months prior to anticipated contract award. This allows for adequate time to set the bid opening date, receive the Dept./Div. recommendation, the signing of contracts by all parties and the official award of the contracts by Freeholder resolution.
This time frame is minimal/normal. Bids can be tracked at BA Log*. Should there be a problem with the bid, eg. no bidders, no responsive bidders (lack of correct paperwork), re-bidding will, of course, delay the process.
When a bid contains the option to renew the contract for additional years, the memo should go to the Division of Purchasing 45 days prior to the expected renewal. New contracts are needed as well as a new Freeholder resolution.
Emergency contracts are governed by Local Public Contract Law N.J.S.A. 40A:11-6 and are defined as “Any contract negotiated or awarded for a contracting unit without public advertisement for bids and bidding, therefore, notwithstanding that the contract price will exceed the bid threshold, when an emergency affecting the public health, safety or welfare requires the immediate delivery of goods or the performance of services…”
Emergency contracts and purchases should be entered into with the highest degree of discretion and should not be a routine part of Union County business. The County Manager, as the Chief Executive Officer, will make the determination of what constitutes an emergency situation under N.J.S.A. 40A11-6 prior to proceeding with any step in the process. It shall be taken as a granted that the work could not be done by a vendor currently under contract with the County for repair work.
Resolution No. 795-85 is available on the following page of this manual. To further clarify, here are the steps a Department head should follow:
- Reach out to the County Manager or his designee as soon as possible after being advised of the emergent situation.
- Assuming you get the verbal order to proceed, the Department staff should begin a vendor search for an expert in the field of the emergent project. Time permitting, the rules for the solicitation of competitive quotations apply.
- Once the lowest responsible vendor has been identified, the unsigned Emergency Authorization Form (contact the Division of Purchasing) and back-up should be sent to the Director of Purchasing who will, after examination, present it to the County Manager*. If approved, the County Manager will sign form and circulate to County Counsel and Finance for their signoffs and send to Purchasing. The resulting signed form by those three entities shall be considered full clearance to put in a requisition to the vendor and have Purchasing expedite and approve a Purchase Order. If a signed formal contract is required, the using Department should pursue that with the Office of the County Counsel.
WHEREAS, on November 14, 1985 the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted Resolution No. 795-85 which adopted a report from Suplee, Clooney and Company, Certified Public Accountants with respect to the County’s policy and procedures regarding the awarding of emergency purchases and contracts pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:11-6; and
WHEREAS, on September 16, 1999 the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted Resolution No. 1322-99 which further amended the procedures for the awarding of emergency purchases and contracts pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:11-6; and
WHEREAS, the Board believes that it would be appropriate to make certain changes and amendments to the policy based on review and past practice:
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders that the emergency policy shall be as follows:
- Approval of the County Manager must be obtained before proceeding.
- The County Manager, may at his discretion, consult with the County Counsel if there is a question that the emergency is in accordance with N.J.S.A. 40A:11-6.
- Written emergency contracts or agreements, including the amount of the award and a written requisition from the Department Head, should be prepared as soon as possible.
- Emergency contracts should be confined to rectifying the emergency itself and any consequential problems associated with the emergency.
- All emergency purchases and contracts must be reported in writing as soon as possible to the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
- A follow-up written report must be submitted to the Board detailing:
- The cause of the emergency
- The action taken
- What is being done to prevent future emergencies of a similar nature.
- Emergency purchases or contracts require delivery or performance within a reasonable time frame.
- The Department Head shall, whenever practical, prior to the award of any purchase, contract or agreement solicit competitive quotations for the services to be rendered or items to be purchased.
- All data pertaining to emergency purchases and contracts shall be attached to the non-bid agreements.
- All County departments should be instructed in the need for adequate planning to minimize the need for emergency contracts.
By Law, Purchasing must keep records on file for each Purchase Order. In order for Purchasing to print and retain these paper records, no purchase order may be issued without a requisition. This rule must be strictly followed in order to allow for the checks and balances mandated by the Local Public Contracts Law.
The County uses an Edmunds computerized financial system, that requires the training of the staff of any Using Division.
Purchasing will supervise the training of any new personnel that the Divisions may need in regards to the Financial System. Please call 908-527-4130 to set up a appointment for training.
Please note that NO employee of the County has the authority to commit public funds for a purchase of goods and services without following requisition protocol.
The information put on the requisition is crucial to the record keeping responsibilities of the County.
Blankets must be clearly marked as such in the description in addition to being categorized as such electronically in Edmunds.
Key aspects include:
- BRC- Vendors registered will be marked automatically with an asterisk on the state contract line of the requisition.
- Description – Please make as comprehensive as possible. Brand name, Model # (if possible) and a complete definition of the goods or service. This information will print on the Purchase Order and is often the only information the vendor has to rely on in order to fill your order
- Vendor ID# – Any initial input of, or alterations done to, a Vendor ID# should be submitted in writing to Purchasing. This method has proven to be an important safeguard against issuing checks to incorrect parties
- Reso#– All Purchase Orders over $44,000 for any single commodity /type of service or any over $17,500 to a single vendor must make reference to the Resolution authorizing the purchase and its date. Resolutions of award MUST be marked with the public bid number or the exception to bidding from NJSA 40A:11-5. Please note that if a requisition with a resolution indicated and second approved will be assumed to carry the correct account number and be within the funds certified by the resolution.
- Commodity Code – In order for the County to make full use of the computerized financial system, the correct code needs to be inputted. There is a searchable database Tracking Code* on the “X” drive of your PC. State Contract # or National Resolution #- see page 15 Quotes- view section
- State Contract # or National Resolution #– view section
- Quotes– view section
The best way to approach the subject of procuring quotes is simple: Solicit the best price for the goods and services you need. The more quotes you solicit from reliable vendors the better the chance of securing the best price. The best price for the right goods is always in the best interest of the County and its taxpayers.
The State of New Jersey does not recognize “sole source” as an exception to the quote or bid process. No requisition will be approved using this excuse. If you cannot acquire more than one quote, you should document the other companies that you attempted to solicit quotes from, send the written back-up to Purchasing and enter “No Quote” on the appropriate lines of the requisition.
Routine purchases should be made by the using Divisions with all the necessary quote information on the requisitions before it is second approved by the Department head. If you need help soliciting quotes for non-routine items, Purchasing will be happy to assist.
Use of these contracts is an essential tool for County government. Not only does it provide bulk pricing, it also allows us the freedom from publicly bidding for hundreds of products and services. The contract information is available online.
The terms of these contracts must be strictly adhered to as mandated by the State of New Jersey. The Vendor, Brand, Model and Pricing as listed on the Contract pages must all be identical to the intended purchase for any Requisition to be approved. In order to efficiently administer these contracts, Purchasing and the using divisions must develop a system of cooperation. If a Division routinely uses the same State Contracts, then the person in charge of inputting the requisitions should be responsible for the information being accurate.
In 2014, a new requirement was added mandating the use of a “not to exceed” figure on the state contract resolution passed every year in January. If said figure is reached and more goods or services are required, a new resolution will be necessary.
Trade-ins to state contract vendors is not permitted.
Please note that many state contracts now carry the provision that quotations between the awardees is necessary.
The use of national contracts has been suspended until a final judgement can be made about the use of cooperatives that exist solely for profit.
After a blanket purchase order has been vetted and approved, the PO will be mailed to the vendor for his signature of agreement. When returned to the using Division, the original PO should be kept on file for seven years.
Using Divisions will then enter drawdown vouchers pursuant to the Department of Finance regulations. Original vendor invoices are to be attached to the triple signed drawdown voucher and sent to finance for payment. Blanket requisitions using State Contracts should always contain the phrase, “State Contract Items Only” in the description, to assure that the vendor is aware of the purpose of the Purchase Order and signs it to attest that he understands his obligation to adhere to the terms of the State Contract.
Please note that is the duty and obligation of the using Division to inspect goods upon delivery and to examine any and all billings to determine their compliance with the pricing of the state contract or any other agreement prior to submitting blanket drawdowns for payment. Signatories of the purchase order or vouchers are making a legal testament that they have personal knowledge that the goods or services were provided. Any falsification on these documents is considered criminal.
Each piece of equipment with a value of $100 or more in your Department should have a County tag bearing an inventory number. If you have taken delivery of new equipment, the Office of Asset Management should be notified for the purpose of tagging same. It is important thata complete updated inventory be maintained and kept by the Office of Asset Management. Further, if a new piece of equipment is replacing one that bears a Specialty Underwriter tag, Purchasing needs to be notified.
Personal property having a fair market value of $6,000.00 or less may, depending upon the facts and in accordance with the best interests of the County, should be sold or discarded. The Director of the Division of Purchasing has been designated by the Board of Chosen Freeholders as the local agent to carry out the above. The Department seeking to dispose of the personal property shall have the obligation and responsibility to procure and obtain the supporting data as to the market value of said property. Bona fide estimates or certification of the Department head that the personal property has a fair market value of $6,000.00 or less is required.
The estimates or certification shall be delivered to the Director of Purchasing. The Department shall then arrange for the disposition of the property as shall be in the best interests of the County. All such inventories, records, estimates and appraisals as to value shall be kept and maintained as a record of such disposition.
For the purposes of the Division of Purchasing and of the Office of Asset Management, when a department has a piece of equipment which is no longer useful to that department or which is in such a condition that it is too costly to repair, a “change of asset” form, available from Asset Management, is be prepared and forwarded to the Office of Asset Management and to the Division of Purchasing.
The form should indicate the reason for disposal, all disposal quantities and items, and the manner in which it will be disposed agreed upon by The Division of Purchasing. Also, the asset inventory tag should be detached and re-attached onto the “change of asset” form in order to retire that identifying asset number in conjunction with the corresponding asset.
The department/division head will sign off on the change form and forward it to Purchasing. Conclusively, Purchasing and Asset Management reviews the information, verifies the asset tag number within the County Asset Inventory Log, and signs off on the form. Finally, a copy of the form reverts to the following: the originating department, Purchasing, and Asset Management.
W hen a department has vehicles or equipment which are no longer of use to that department or which are in such condition that is too costly to repair, a letter shall be forwarded to the Department of Administrative Services, Bureau of Motor Vehicles, with all available information. Motor Vehicles will determine disposition of the vehicle or equipment in conjunction with Purchasing. The vehicles and/or equipment will be disposed of according to law; by sale, (if it has value) or will be disposed of as “junk” at the discretion of the Director of Purchasing and the County Manager.
- Taking ownership and being responsible to all stakeholders for our actions. This value is essential to preserve the public trust and protect the public interest.
- Abide by all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.
- Apply sound business judgment.
- Be accountable for procurement spend.
- Be responsible stewards of public funds as they relate to public procurement.
- Maximize competition to the greatest extent practicable.
- Practice due diligence in all aspects of procurement.
- Promote effective, economic and efficient acquisition.
- Support economic, social, and sustainable communities.
- Use procurement strategies to maximize value.
- Easily accessible and understandable policies and processes.
- This value is essential to demonstrate responsible use of public funds.
- Exercise discretion in the release of confidential information.
- Maintain current and complete policies, procedures, and records.
- Provide open access to competitive processes.
- Provide timely access to procurement policies, procedures, and records.
I encourage any County personnel who have problems, need help or questions with procedure to email me at email@example.com. or call 527-4130.