By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
City councilors surrendered some of their oversight authority, granting department heads the right to make purchases totaling up to $25,000 without prior council approval.
City councilors approved amendments to purchasing policies that govern the expenditure of funds for supplies, equipment and services. The previous policy required City Council approval for most expenditures totaling $10,000 or more.
While city purchases of $25,000 or less no longer will require prior City Council approval, councilors will be able to scrutinize expenditures during their bimonthly review of claims. The amended purchasing policy will continue to mandate certain procedures be followed based upon graduated amounts of purchases made.
The changes were made at the request of department heads, who expressed concerns earlier this year about the present policy during the annual budget retreat. Staffers have been drafting the policy amendments since that time.
“One of the things we did prior to the retreat was meet to discuss what we thought would improve the way we did our jobs,” said Interim City Manager Roy Tucker, citing department heads’ preference for a streamlined purchasing policy. “We brought that up to councilors at the retreat, and there didn’t seem to be too much of an objection to that.”
The policy approved Monday requires “routine purchasing procedures” for purchases totaling $1,000 or less. Those procedures must be “fair and reasonable,” and it is incumbent upon department heads to ensure “unencumbered funds are available and the most competitive prices are being obtained.”
For purchases totaling between $1,001 and $25,000, department heads or their agents will be required to obtain at least three “verbal or written quotes” from vendors or justify any “sole-source purchase.” Such purchases must be based upon the lowest and best or best value criteria approved by the city manager.
Ward II Councilor James Gulley said the amended purchasing policy will save time when department heads purchase vehicles or other equipment that fall below the $25,000 threshold. In addition to the time it took to complete the competitive bidding process, such purchases used to take an additional two weeks for City Council approval.
Gulley, who serves on the purchasing committee, said expenditures totaling less than $25,000 will continue to be overseen by the city manager, city treasurer and purchasing director. The purchasing committee will review those purchases as they are presented on the claims list.
Purchases of supplies, equipment or services totaling more than $25,000 will require in most cases a formal, competitive bidding process. Bid specifications will require committee approval, and final awards will require city council approval.
Exceptions to the competitive bidding process exist for professional services, insurance, state and federal contracts, and professional consulting services. Emergency purchases may be made outside regular purchases when circumstances arise that “could impose significant provable loss to the city or where human life or property is endangered.”
“Splitting or stringing purchases” made “with the willful intent to circumvent” the policy is prohibited by law. Anyone who is found to have violated the prohibition may be subject to termination.
The policy approved Monday became effective immediately.
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or firstname.lastname@example.org.