Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

Business Office

Purchasing Policies

Authority and Responsibility

Purchasing Amounts of $1,000 or More

All purchases for $1,000 or more for goods or services must be executed using an approved university Purchase Order.

  • The Purchase Order must be approved and signed prior to purchasing the goods or services.
  • The department originating the purchasing transaction must submit a Purchase Requisition form to the Business Office requesting the issuance of a Purchase Order. See instructions for submitting a Purchase Requisition form in SU’s Purchasing Procedures.
  • The Budget Officer responsible for the account to which the purchase will be charged must approve the Purchase Requisition form.
  • The Business Office will produce a Purchase Order within 24 hours of receiving an approved Purchase Requisition form.
  • The Controller may sign Purchase Orders for amounts less than $10,000. The Vice President for Finance and Administration may sign Purchase Orders for amounts less than $50,000. The President must sign Purchase Orders for amounts equal to or exceeding $50,000.
  • A budget encumbrance shall be established for the amount of the Purchase Order. The budget encumbrance shall be partially or fully liquidated upon receipt of the purchased goods or services and payment of the related invoices.
  • Except for travel-related expenses, purchases of $1,000 or more shall not be paid by personal credit card, SU corporate card, or petty cash.  Rather, these purchases shall be paid with a university check or wire transfer, as determined appropriate by the Business Office. 

Purchasing Amounts Less Than $1,000

  • Purchases of goods or services for amounts less than $1,000 may be processed without a university Purchase Order; however, a Purchase Order may be used at the department’s or the vendor’s request.
  • The department budget officer or his/her delegate may directly transact with the vendor for purchases of goods or services less than $1,000. No advance approval of the Business Office is needed; however, purchases of $500 or more must be approved by the appropriate member of President’s Staff prior to the purchases being made.
  • The department may pay for goods or services at the time of purchase using a university Corporate Card (see procedures here). The department may also wait until receiving an invoice for the purchase and pay the invoice with a university accounts payable check (see Purchasing Procedures here).

Purchasing Authority Limited to Budget Availability

  • A department’s spending authority is limited to the available program expense budget for the department. Budget availability is determined by reducing the department’s program expense budget by actual year-to-date expenditures and outstanding encumbrances.
  • Purchase Requisition forms and Check Requisition forms received by the Business Office which create or increase a negative budget availability balance will be returned to the issuing department for corrective action. The issuing department may cancel the purchase transaction, transfer budget funds into the department, or change the account number to eliminate the negative budget availability.

Purchasing Authority Restricted on Certain Purchases

  • Since Southwestern operates a decentralized purchasing operation, departments are allowed to purchase most goods and services without additional approvals.
  • The purchase of computers and computer-related hardware and software require the advance approval of Information Technology Services.
  • The purchase of office furniture and equipment, and all contracts for renovation and maintenance of physical plant assets, require advance approval of the Associate Vice President for Facilities.
  • Capital equipment in excess of $1,000 requires approval of the Budget Committee in advance of purchase. 


Corporate Card

  • See procedures for use of the Corporate Card here.

Required Vendor Information

  • As required by the Internal Revenue Service, IRS Form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number(s) and Certification, must be collected from all vendors prior to issuance of a university accounts payable check. (Get a copy of IRS Form W-9 here).
  • A vendor subject to backup withholding will have the appropriate tax withheld from payment in accordance with IRS regulations.

Contract for Services

  • All payments to vendors for performance of services must be documented by a written contract in advance of the purchase of services.
  • All contracts for performance of services for the University must be approved and signed by the Vice President for Finance and Administration.
  • Contracts with international persons or entities should be reviewed by the Assistant Controller for tax compliance prior to execution.
    • Additional documents may be required from the contractor.
  • The Human Resource department is responsible for determining whether payment for services represents an employee (and thus should be paid through Payroll) or independent contractor (and thus should be paid through Accounts Payable) in accordance with IRS guidelines.
  • All accounts payable payments issued to independent contractors will be reported on IRS form 1099Misc at the end of the calendar year in accordance with IRS regulations.
  • Unless specifically approved by Human Resources, all payments for services to university employees will be processed through Payroll and subjected to normal payroll taxation.
  • Payments to contractors are subject to the same purchasing rules as non-contract purchases.
    • A purchase order should be submitted along with the contract documents to the office of Vice President for Finance and Administration for payments > $1,000.
    • Contracts with multiple payments built in should also be submitted with a purchase order.
    • A check requisition should accompany all other contracts not described above.


  • The travel policy has been revised and is now a stand-alone policy.  You can find it here.

Accounts Payable Check Runs

  • The Assistant Controller will determine the frequency of check runs during the week, and establish cut-off dates for submitting requests for payments to be included in the check runs. Requests for payments received after the published date will be held and paid on the next check cycle. 

Check Disbursement AuthorizationS

  • Accounts payable checks are automatically signed at the time of printing using a digital electronic signature. The Controller and Assistant Controller are responsible for maintaining appropriate security over the digital electronic signature and blank check stock.
  • Check disbursements for amounts greater than or equal to $1,000, but less than $10,000, require the authorization of one of the following, or their designee: Assistant Controller, Controller, Vice President for Finance and Administration, or President.
  • Check disbursements for amounts greater than or equal to $10,000 require two authorizations from the following: Assistant Controller, Controller, Vice President for Finance and Administration, or President.
  • All checks submitted for authorization shall be accompanied by the system-generated check disbursement log, grouped by amount stratification as noted above. The authorizing personnel shall ensure that all checks are accounted for.

Accounts Payable Record Retention

  • Purchasing/Accounts Payable will retain the following documents (if applicable) for all check disbursements, in accordance with the University’s Record Retention Policy: Check copy, original invoice, check requisition form, purchase, purchase requisition form, Report of Business Expenses form, and any other substantiating documentation related to the transaction.
  • Copies of all contracts and warranty agreements shall be forwarded to the office of the Vice President for Finance and Administration.