Frequently asked questions

  • Please note: If you have a specific question about NewCore systems and their functionalities, please visit the NewCore FAQs page.
 

Warning

Please be aware that recently bogus University of Birmingham orders have been placed with suppliers for products to be delivered to addresses that are not situated on the University’s own campus. If you receive a request of this nature for products, please check it is a legitimate order. Enquiries can be made via the following email address procurement@bham.ac.uk.

How to avoid the most common issues with requisitions

1. Can I raise one requisition to multiple suppliers?

Unfortunately this will cause a problem in the system so it must be one requisition per supplier.

2. Should I split the requisition as per the quote?

Yes, for accuracy the requisition should be broken down to match the quote.

3. Where should I state the Quote reference number?

You should always state the quote reference number, either in the description line or in ‘Note to Supplier’.

4. Should I attach the Quotation and/or Single Source Approval?

Yes, these documents should always be attached but you must select ‘Internal to Requisition’ in the drop down menu. You can find more information on this on Canvas.

Link to the canvas page https://canvas.bham.ac.uk/courses/30112/pages/requisitioning

5. How much information should I include on the requisition?

You must include a full meaningful description on each line. E.g. EMEA 2019 London Conference Fee for John Smith.

6. Can I change my delivery address?

Yes, we encourage you to change your default delivery address. Unfortunately any requisitions raised to the generic UoB address will be rejected. You can find more information on this on Canvas.

Link to the canvas page https://canvas.bham.ac.uk/courses/30112/pages/requisitioning

7. What information do you require for new supplier requests?

Supplier Name, Contact Name, Telephone Number, Email Address and a justification for wanting to use the new supplier.

8. Should I attach a Vat Certificate to my requisition?

Yes, you must attach the Vat Certificate but select ‘To Supplier’ in the drop down menu before attaching the document.

9. Do I have to select the supplier site for Internal Suppliers?

Yes, you must select the correct Supplier Site for internal requisitions. A list is available on Canvas.

Link to the canvas page https://canvas.bham.ac.uk/courses/30112/pages/requisitioning

10. How do I ensure that the correct delivery address is stated on my requisition?

Always check that the address is correct against all the lines of your requisition and not just on the first line.

New Supplier in NewCore: How long does it take for a supplier to be set up?

The Operations Team has a service level agreement of 5 working days from receiving a request to completion of the process.  This, however, can be extended in times of exceptional circumstances, say in the event of operational changes such as Oracle Fusion implementation, where increased volumes of requests can cause a delay.  The SLA is also subject to receiving ALL relevant information relating to the supplier – missing documentation, such as bank details, or incomplete supplier information will add delays to the process.

New Supplier in NewCore: How will I know when a supplier is ready to use?

The requisitioner will be able to see the supplier in Oracle when creating a requisition.  In the event of a requisition has been submitted to the University Buying Team (UBT) without a suggested supplier, the UBT will approach the supplier for their relevant information via the New Supplier Form (the requisition will no longer need to do this).  When the supplier returns their information, the requisition is diverted to the Operations team for various verification checks; upon completion, the supplier will be added to the database and returned to the UBT to complete the order.

New Supplier in NewCore: Where can I find a list of “approved suppliers”?

Well, there isn’t a list of approved suppliers.  Technically speaking, if the supplier is on the database to use, it’s already “approved”.  What you are probably referring to is a list of “contracted” suppliers – there are a number of approved frameworks of suppliers at http://www.hecontracts.co.uk that the University of Birmingham regularly use.  If you are after goods or services that we have a contract with, we must use those suppliers, unless prior permission is granted from the Category Managers.

New Supplier in NewCore: What is IR35 legislation, and how does it apply?

An IR35 assessment will need to be carried out on a UK based individual, or a limited company where there is a sole director, and that the director themselves will be carrying out the work on behalf of the University of Birmingham (otherwise commonly referred to as a one-man-band).

Who completes this assessment?

When submitting a new supplier request, this assessment will need to be completed by someone with knowledge of the engagement; this may be requisitioner or the budget holder, but definitely not the supplier.  The results of the assessment need to be attached to the requisition.

When does the assessment need to be carried out?

At the very beginning of the process, the end user should know how often that this supplier will need to be used; it is generally accepted that if the supplier will be engaged with over three times over the course of a 12-month period, then an assessment will need to be carried out, except when the supplier falls into one of the following situations:

  • We are purchasing goods, as opposed to procuring a service.
  • The supplier is based outside of the UK, and the work is to be undertaken outside of the UK.
  • As a company, they have five or more employees where any of them, other than a director can carry out the work.

…or the type of service being procured relates to:

  • Artists or Performers (individuals, not companies).
  • Authors.
  • Distanced Tutors.
  • Chartered Psychologists.
  • Conservators
  • Dissertation Supervisors.
  • Dramatic Directors.
  • Speakers for the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP).
  • One-off fees for a university event that doesn’t relate to the core curriculum.
  • Performance Fees.
  • Proofreading Services.
  • Psychotherapy and Counselling.
  • Public Engagement with Research Speakers.
  • Social Policy Reference Group Members.
  • Solo Tutors.
  • Specialist Mental Health Mentors.
  • Specialist Support for Disabled Students.
  • Talent Agents for Actors.
  • Teaching Placement Supervisors.
  • Translation or Transcription Services.

This can either be done at the beginning of the requisition process, or when the suppliers information has been returned to the UBT from the supplier, and it is determined from that an assessment needs to be carried out.  In either case, it needs to be performed prior to the new supplier request is sent by the University Buying Team to the Operations Team.

It is STRONGLY ADVISABLE that when creating the requisition that you mention the type of service required, and how often you intend to engage with the supplier over the course of a year to help the University Buying team determine if an assessment needs to be carried out.

Where can I find the assessment?

The assessment is located here: https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/check-employment-status-for-tax/cluster/

Upon completion, you will need to save the form as a pdf.  To do this, tick the box next to where it says, “Before you rely on this result, please confirm that you’ve:” and then click “Confirm and Continue”.  Enter the details on the next page as instructed and submit – it will then ask you to save the attachment. This is the file we require.

How do Single Source Approval Requests work?

What is the threshold for applying for Single Source Approval (SSA)?

Where the value of the proposed purchase exceeds £5,000 excluding VAT and it has not been possible to obtain competitive quotations or proposals.

Where can I find further information regarding the information you need for an SSA request?

For further advice please refer to the following link on the University’s Intranet: https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/finance/procurement/Single-Source-Approval.aspx 

What documents do I need to submit in support of my SSA request?

Please submit a fully completed SSA request form (Adobe .pdf format) which can be found at: https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/finance/procurement/Single-Source-Approval.aspx.

Please also submit any supporting documentation as scanned pdf documents, a valid quotation obtained from the supplier you have chosen will need to be included as part of your SSA request submission.

Where do I email my SSA request and supporting documentation to for approval?

SSA were originally sent to the SSA inbox, however moving forward, this will no longer be the case, and the SSA and accompanying documentation will need to be attached to the requisition at the point of submission.  The SSA will then go directly to the University Buying Team where Procurement will assess the request.

What is the lead time for Procurement to approve my SSA request?

This is 5 working days.

Why do I need to obtain a Bank Guarantee from the supplier and if this cannot be provided what is acceptable in its place?

This is to mitigate any risk to the University where we are making any advance payment to a supplier in excess of £5,000.  If a Bank Guarantee cannot be provided then please request approval from your Head of College that the College will underwrite any potential risk.

Why must I raise a Purchase Order when I don't know what the cost will be (e.g. for a repair)?

The University’s Financial Rules require that a Purchase Order should be created before any commitment is made and the main reasons for this requirement are first to ensure that funds are available to meet the commitment, and second to endeavour to establish at least some form of contractual terms and conditions, particularly where no Commitment Contract or Framework Agreement is in place. If you proceed to instruct a supplier to supply products or provide services verbally or in writing but not using a Purchase Order, it is clear that no formal check has been made as to the availability of funds, but from a commercial perspective you have created a legally binding contract where the terms and conditions, but perhaps fundamentally the price, has not been clearly identified. As a result you are relying almost totally on the supplier acting in good faith in setting the price and technically, in law, if they supply products or provide services they are entitled to charge whatever price they claim as being payable.

In summary issuing a Purchase Order without a price or prices stated on it to a supplier is similar to issuing a “blank cheque” and technically you have no idea how much to budget – and equally technically the University would be obliged to pay the invoice no matter what the amount (and would not really have any sort of negotiating position to dispute the amount).

It is, therefore, recommended that you insert the details of the requirement onto the Purchase Order together with the words “Purchase Order Value not to exceed without the express written authority of the University” – and the amount that has been estimated and notified to you or that you estimate and are willing to pay should be inserted (but see note about repairs in particular below).

For repairs, if you are sending equipment or goods away for an assessment for repair and the provision of a cost estimate it is not recommended that a Purchase Order be created at this point. However, it is recommended that you get some form of receipt for the equipment or products that are handed over to the supplier – even if the supplier provides a document (and definitely if the supplier does not provide any documentation), it is worth considering ld use at the very least a letter heading with a description of the equipment or products with a statement such as “received for the purpose of providing a repair or refurbishment cost estimate in good condition other than the fault requiring repair”. You should also get a signature; the recipient’s name printed and the name of the Company and contact details stated on the receipt.

If you are authorising a supplier to proceed with repairs or refurbishment, then you should create a Purchase Order to send either with the equipment or products or sent out subsequently with a Purchase Order value not to exceed amount stated as described above. Where the purchase involves repairs or refurbishment in particular (but in actual fact in relation to any Purchase Order with an estimated or Purchase Order value not to exceed statement) there is always the risk that the estimated amount will be reached and to proceed further will exceed the authorised amount. At that point you either have to decide not to proceed further and pay the amount due (if necessary) or proceed to complete the repair – and if you elect to proceed you should establish a firm and fixed price and issue a Purchase Order Amendment.

Why can't I purchase products and services using my own credit card?

The University policy, as set out in the Financial Rules is that personal methods of payment should not be used for products or services intended for personal use. There is a concession to the effect that low value purchases of less than £30 can be made in this way and reimbursed through the expenses process – but this is a concession and does not affect the general principle.

Can I buy Equipment or Products on ebay?

University policy on the use of ebay is that this should not be used to source equipment or products.  If you wish to use ebay then you should email the Procurement Division (procurement@bham.ac.uk) providing details as to why you wish to use ebay and providing evidence confirming that you have undertaken sufficient enquiries to ensure that supplier that you will be contracting with is a legitimate source; that the equipment or products that you are intending to purchase actually exist and that you are satisfied that the quality and quantity of the equipment or products is as presented and described by the supplier. The Procurement Division will consider your request and advise whether it is acceptable to proceed, but it is unlikely that higher value purchases will be authorised.

Unless otherwise agreed by the Procurement Division, payment for ebay purchases must be made using the University Purchasing Card.

I can get the product/service cheaper from a local shop/contractor. Why must I use an Approved Supplier that costs more?

It is acknowledged that there may be opportunities where products and services can be purchased at, on the face of it, more competitive prices than those available from Approved Suppliers. It is often said that you should have ten good reasons for doing something. In the case of using Approved Suppliers you should please consider the following:

  • the complete “cost of acquisition” – there is a cost to any sourcing activity and the time spent sourcing products and services could be used more productively in undertaking other activities. If there is an Approved Supplier available the purchasing process is much more streamlined (see section 6 – How to use Commitment Contracts or section 7 – How to use  Framework Agreements) as the sourcing and competitive activities have already been completed;
  • in most cases where you are using an Approved Supplier, even where you have to seek competition, you only have to obtain a price, and in some cases (e.g stationery) the whole transaction is undertaken electronically which is much more efficient and reduces the cost of acquisition still further;  
  • an Approved Supplier has earned the right to this status by going through a rigorous competitive tendering and evaluation process and the University has committed to use the supplier because of the overall value of the supplies and service that it offers and provides. The evaluation process takes into account the total cost to the University of doing business with the supplier and this informs the decision on the appointment of Approved Suppliers;
  • where there is a Commitment Contract in place the University has a contractual obligation to use that supplier (see section 6 – How to use Commitment Contracts?) and would technically and actually be in breach of that contract if it were to use an alternative source without the prior agreement of the Approved Supplier;
  • the overall pricing tendered by the Approved Supplier for a Commitment Contract or a Framework Agreement will have been on the basis that a certain amount of business will be placed by the University with that Approved Supplier. If there is a significant amount of “off contract spend” the Approved Supplier will not be able to sustain the pricing structures and levels that it has established and the end result may be that the University’s costs overall for the products or services concerned may increase (it is appreciated that the University can go back to the market in such cases, but that exercise in itself carries a cost);
  • the University establishes Service Level Agreements with its Approved Suppliers and these are regularly reviewed. If there is an issue with an Approved Supplier’s service, or a dispute arises the University has much greater influence and ability to resolve that dispute quickly and to its satisfaction or even advantage;
  • in many cases the University is using Framework Agreements that have been established by University Purchasing Consortia – hence, there is further incentive for an Approved Supplier to avoid or resolve disputes given that support can be obtained from the Higher Education Sector;
  • you have assurance that an Approved Supplier will deliver products and services that are compliant with specification (whether that be a published specification or the University’s written requirements) and that the University has contractual rights if it fails to do so;
  • where appropriate you have assurance that an Approved Supplier is properly qualified and certified to supply (and where necessary install and service) the equipment and products and provide the services. You also have the assurance that any appropriate and necessary guarantees and warranty provisions are in place for the products and services and that the Approved Supplier will honour those guarantees and warranties;
  • the University has a policy of maintaining its supplier base at a level commensurate with its expenditure on products and services, which recognises the fact that there are significant costs associated with setting up, maintaining and managing suppliers generally, but in particular supplier payments and records. The greater the quantity of suppliers the greater the cost to the University;
  • finally, the University is defined as a Public Sector organisation and therefore a Contracting Authority under the Public Contracts Regulations (Supplies, Services and Works) Regulations 2006. This means that it is legally obliged to undertake an open and transparent competitive tendering process which complies with the Regulations for all products and services where the expenditure on an individual purchase, or on “repeat demand” products and services is reasonably foreseen to exceed a certain financial threshold when aggregated over four years. Failure to comply with these Regulations by either not complying at all, or breaching the terms of Contracts or Framework Agreements established in compliance with the Regulations places the University a position where it may be in breach of contract and may also be exposed to a challenge through the High Courts for breach of the Regulations (and the financial consequences of both, but the latter in particular, could be significant).

More information on the Public Contracts Regulations can be obtained by contacting theProcurement Division.

Ultimately, as illustrated above, there are many reasons for using Approved Suppliers that are associated with best practice and efficiencies, but we do have to stress that the University needs your support in ensuring that it does not breach the Contracts (in particular the Commitment Contracts) or Agreements that it has in place and that it complies with its procurement related regulatory and statutory obligations.

Can / should I sign any contractual documents provided by Suppliers?

Apart from documents received after the Purchase Order has been placed (such as Delivery Notes, Timesheets and such like – but even then you should take note of the content of section 16 – Receiving Equipment, Products and Services) you should avoid signing any contractual documentation presented by Suppliers. The University’s Financial Rules state that the Director of Finance or delegated authorised signatory should sign any contracts for the provision of equipment, products and services and you should consult with the Procurement Division before signing any supplier documentation.

This is particularly important if you are presented with a document that is a Lease, Rental or Hire Agreement of any kind – Lease and Rental Agreements may fall into the category of “operating leases” and the University is required to hold records and report separately on these arrangements in preparing its Annual Accounts.

You should also avoid signing “Requests to open a Credit Account” or similar documents provided by suppliers as this tactic is frequently used by suppliers to establish their standard Terms and Conditions of Sale on all transactions undertaken with them.

Why doesn't the University buy more locally?

More than 50% of the University’s suppliers are actually within the greater West Midlands postcode area, and the University’s expenditure with those suppliers is of the order of 25% of the University’s overall annual commercial expenditure. However, the regulatory environment within which the University is required to operate prevents the University from discriminating in the selection of its suppliers on the grounds of geographical location. Consequently, as the University is required to comply with the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 it is not actually permitted to take location into account when making its contract award and other purchasing decisions.

The University endeavours to positively encourage local suppliers to compete for its business and will continue to identify and create opportunities for local businesses to compete for and secure opportunities to supply the University.

Why do we have to go through Procurement? I've got the suppliers terms and conditions so why can't we just use them and save time?

If the value of the purchase that you are seeking to make is below the financial threshold (£25,000 excluding VAT) as a single transaction or in aggregate taken over the term of the project or purpose of the purchase, then consulting with the Procurement Division is optional (though recommended in some cases where the purchase is particularly complex or carries a high commercial risk).

For purchases in excess of £25,000 ex-VAT the University’s Financial Rules require that the purchase be referred to the Procurement Division and that an express contract, signed by both parties be put in place. So it is a requirement of the Financial Rules that you consult with Procurement at this level of expenditure. Reference to the Procurement Division is also required (and is essential) to ensure that the University complies with its statutory and regulatory obligations.

Using the supplier’s terms and conditions of contract without review can lead to difficulties as they will be completely biased in favour of the seller/supplier – hence the requirement for each purchase to at least be supported by a Purchase Order as this gives the University some limited protection in the event of a dispute.

FRAUD

Please be aware that recently bogus University of Birmingham orders have been placed with suppliers for products to be delivered to addresses that are not situated on the University’s own campus. If you receive a request of this nature for products, please check it is a legitimate order. Enquiries can be made via the following email address procurement@bham.ac.uk.