Last Tuesday at the Inter Club Association meeting, Internal Auditor Tera Kovanes announced that all university clubs are required to conform to existing state laws about purchasing from local minority and female owned small businesses because they are spending state funds.
According to Kovanes, clubs were never exempt from the rule, but were simply not aware that they needed to abide by the same purchasing practices that the university does.
“Prior to making any purchase with State funds, a club must obtain a quote from a small business,” Kovanes said. “If a small business cannot meet their needs, then documentation should be maintained to support that.”
According to Joe Mollo, director of the office of Student Activities and Community Services, the purchasing power of the university’s clubs is just under $500,000, with $380,000 already under contract and thus exempt.
Clubs will not be required to reevaluate any older contracts, but for small purchases they will need to try to go through small minority and female owned businesses first.
Entertainment and sports contracts are also not affected.
However, during September, October and November of 2010, clubs made approximately 17,000 small purchases, which would be influenced by these laws in the future.
The set of laws encourages state institutions to patronize Small, Women- and Minority-owned businesses. The SWAM law was created in 2006 by then-governor Tim Kaine to promote the growth of small businesses in the commonwealth.
State institutions are required to get a quote from these businesses after they have gone through the state’s mandatory sources, according to Rebecca Bezdan, office manager and financial services coordinator for OSACS.
The state’s Department of General Services and prison system are among the mandatory sources.
According to Bezdan, they are able to provide an array of products to the school at a dramatically lower cost.
“We get nameplates and do a lot of t-shirt printing through the prison,” Bezdan said.
According to Mollo, OSACS is preparing to handle the change in financial practices for campus clubs.
“We have sent Becky Bezdan to a procurement class in Richmond,” Mollo said. “And Kate Jordan, [currently a part-time OSACS employee,] will become a full-time employee in the fall.”
OSACS will also be asking student organizations to come in sooner for their infrequent small purchases to make sure that they have time to get SWAM quotes.
According to Bezdan, the class was very informative about the state’s procurement procedures. She plans on using this during financial training for clubs in the fall.
“This is not a big problem,” Bezdan said, “We have even learned of a few sources that will save us a lot of money.”
“We’re always using SWAM vendors anyway,” he said. “Much of the smaller purchasing comes from them, such as flowers.”
According to Mollo none of the clubs have been resistant to this change in their procurement practices, although some are unsure of how to comply.
OSACS is trying to ease the confusion for clubs by purchasing from SWAM vendors in bulk, according to Mollo.
“There are items that clubs collectively use a lot of, and by purchasing in bulk we just get one SWAM quote,” he said.
The in-demand items include popcorn, snow cone supplies, paper products and paint, according to Mollo.
Inter Club Association President Sarah Lowdon said, “for me, its just another state policy that OSACS is helping students and club leaders work with. I don’t think it will make our lives harder as students, or add too many more hoops to planning events.”
Lowdon encourage students with questions about the procedures to talk to Bezdan.
“She is completely up to date on how to help our students,” Lowdon said.
There will be periodic reviews of purchasing activities and training as needed, according to Kovanes. If a club fails to get a quote from a SWAM business, they will be subject to such training.
According to Kovanes, “repeat offenders may have credit card privileges revoked.”