School ICT Policies Thread, How do *you* choose who to buy from? in School Administration; Following on from the discussion about prizes http://www.edugeek.net/forums/our-ad...rize-draw.html I thought I would take the conversation over here rather than detract ...
My original response (and subsequent discussion) was not aimed specifically at CP Ltd and staff, but a general point about how a number of suppliers have a number of schemes which could cause problems for some people.
I know that talking about how people buy things gets a response from some of "Flippin' red tape!" and mumbling about beancounters ... but there is usually a good reason why it is there ...
So ... the question is how do you make your choice about who to buy from? Is this advice from your LA? Have any of you ever been challenged by auditors about what you do?
I was challenged a few years ago about purchasing Lapsafe units. We wanted the Ambassador line and could not find any other similar product. It still needed some improvements and no supplier / reseller could arrange for the changes we wanted so we worked directly with Lapsafe. Considering the cost over the years and that we did not go out to tender then auditors were not happy, but could not in the end come up with an alternative way we could have done it until 12 months later. Now, we would have to do a documented analysis of the functionality of the different possible options so that should there be a challenge we had a paper trail. I didn't do that originally (mainly down to time) and so I had to change how I did things.
Have any of you previously worked one way and then had to change? Was it an improvement or just a paper exercise?
Have a selection of suppliers that we use regularly and get three quotes from for most items. Suppliers tend to make it onto this list if they are cheap (Insight with OGC pricing for instance), friendly and helpful. If I find a supplier pushy or doesn't live up to expectations I just stop using them. Haven't had the pleasure of an audit yet, but our finance team are fairly happy with how we handle things.
Just about to be involved in our first set of purchases that will need to go to tender - not looking forward to that!
AFAIK I have no requirement to put anything out to tender below a certain value - around £20k, I think. I tend to use the same 2 or 3 suppliers regardless and put their service and support above price. Our guy at Misco for instant is an absolute diamond, in the five years I've been dealing with ihim he's never let us down. We hold our local toner supplier (a lasertech franchisee) in the same high regard.
Beyond that it's what ever the project requires. Typically I'm looking out for the best price for a given, pre selected, specification and associated support levels.
We had the auditors in recently and they didn't question any of our purchases.
I use only one or two suppliers, and generally just one for box-shifting items. I use them because I get on well with them, and I find having the whole budget in one place means I don't have to keep fighting for best prices. Obviously, from time to time, I do price checks, but if most of the items are in the region, I'll stay with the supplier. If that supplier does the right thing when there are problems, and does his best for me, we're all good. Any shirking of responsibility or trying to take me for a ride, and I'll find someone else. Easier for all involved - at least from my point of view anyway!
Every purchase goes to 3 companies for quotes. We then choose who we buy from based on things such as previous experiences, cost of the items, after sales support, etc...
Sometimes, we come across items which we can only buy from a single supplier due to them being the only stockist of the item we need, so there is no way around that, but most of the time we choose each time.
As part of our LA / Auditor guidelines any purchases over £3.5k have to go through a tender process - 3 quotes.
The majority of items I purchase - I generally go with 2 companies and go with the cheapest for the total of all products and not mix and match - its doesn't make sense purchasing something from somewhere if theres only pence in it.
Anything £5K or over MUST got to tender process with our LA, anything under that should be 3 quotes but if you can justify to the governing body why you didn't and they are satisfied then you can just get one.
So most things I order are usually under 5K so in most cases I will email 3 suppliers for pricing if its not urgent, if its an urgent part it goes to the main supplier on my list who is OGC approved (which the Auditors like and means I can technically ignore the £5K LA limit as its pre-tendered the OGC stuff - I don't though I am very good at sticking to it!).
BUT our bursar went on a course of late which was on about the new tendering and procurement system and if over a financial year you were going to spend over £5K with a supplier in total then you need to evaluate them and pre-tender for common items and all sorts of things, I need to sit down with her and go through the slides she brought back, this course did say it was very much moving away from the cheape
st gets it and focusing more on ensuring support was there, spec was met etc and made it easier to choose a firm that wasn't the cheapest but ticked more boxes. The examples they did were on Photocopiers but she said it was a real pain as you had to be a Copier guru to be able to compare them in enough depth to satisfy the new requirements for it. I said I think that more than her needed to do the course as it sounds very complex which we agreed was a good idea but at the cost it is prohibitive, she did say that we can buy into an LA service that does all this for us for a yearly fee and we just say we need a box of CDs and they sort it for us which doesn't inspire me with any confidence at all as we can do that currently with stuff but we always find it cheaper elsewhere (well apart from Sophos but that's another argument).
I also forgot to originally put but free gifts / competitions entered from our suppliers, as I am sure is the case with most other LAs, have to be lodged in a special gifts and hospitality's book, so not picking on CP here but as GD started it based on that thread, if I was to enter and win said laptop it would
A: be school property,
B: need to be entered into the gifts and hospitality register and
C: reported to the governing body that we had done that as its from a supplier and could be seen by them and the LA auditors that we used them for that opportunity.
This is not in any way poking CP its the same if WStore, TCSLtd or any other Edugeek Advertiser or Sponsor did the same thing, its all ticking boxes to ensure you are whiter than white, especially with items of value such as Laptops, PDAs, Printers etc.... If it was a 100% free competition then obviously A & B would apply but as I didn't spend money or purchase anything to win it then its not really a concern for the Auditors, it would be reported to the Governors and the head informed etc but it is all about ensuring transparency, especially where its a spend X amount to win this etc is a risky area.
(For the record, boxes of chocolates are noted in the register, but usually left in the finance office / shared with the finance office and the SLT offices as well as our own offices as I got one last year when I ordered a franking machine ink and it came with 12 chocolates (ambassador you are spoiling us variety) so they were logged in the book and shared among admin, finance, slt and the IT department. The auditors then commented they had never seen anyone actually use the book but it was good to see we did and then had to prove that i didn't just buy the ink from this firm as it was for the chocolates! (It wasn't before anyone asks they were £30 less than Pitney Bowes!)
Last edited by john; 21st April 2010 at 11:59 PM.
Reason: added more info
When I first came to this job, I was told that each of my schools had differenet limits (generally 2-3K) before tendering process needed.
So basically if I want to purchase 15 laptops i go to tender but don't pick lowest quote if a regular supplier is within a reasonable range as experience has shown that buying from someone who quotes a cheap price but then fouls up on delivering isn't worth dealing with.
For instance - recently bought some netbooks - came with wrong battery (as much my fault as suppliers) - supplier had them collected and replacements at school within 2 days and I bought a new battery for the box I'd already opened. - service like that is worth money
For smartboard/projectors/bulbs I don't deviate from one supplier anymore as all others I've ever tried fouled up!
(But I check their prices every 6 months to make sure they are not trying it on )
As part of our LA guidelines any purchases over £5k have to go through a tender process - 3 quotes, anything over £10k - 5 quotes.
The majority of items I purchase - I generally go with 2 companies and go with the cheapest for the total of all products, and I have occasionally done a mix and match - but that's only if one company is cheaper per unit by a considerable margin (for example £1 per unit over 100 units or something).
I have on the odd occasion gone to a company that is slightly more expensive, but the service and warranties received from them is superior to other companies.
When people talk about tender do they mean getting 3 quotes (or more) from suppliers or a proper tender process having to advertise in local/trade press, sealed bids that can only be opened after the closing date and scoring each bid based on a pre-agreed scoring matrix etc etc?
For us for instance anything over 5k has to have at least 3 quotes (below 5k 1 quote is OK), but if an order/project is going to cost more than 50k across it's entire lifespan then we have to go through a formal tender process.
So ... the question is how do you make your choice about who to buy from?
We're a private school, so there's less red tape type stuff involved. Basically, if the head and/or bursar says it's okay then we can buy it. For smaller purchases I generally order stuff off eBay on my PayPal account and the school writes me a cheque. Auditors have checked in the past that we actually have the items in stock around the school that we've said we've got, which hasn't proved a problem.
Here, I need to get 3 quotes if it's over £5k, but the tender process doesn't start until I get into the realms of funds I don't regularly have access to (way past more than I've ever spent on one purchase).
For large purchases I'll normally get 6 quotes (3 new suppliers who've been asking for business and look useful and 3 existing suppliers), usually with specific makes/models in mind.
I base my decisions around best value for the school. This includes price/suitability for purpose/independent reviews/lifespan/reliability/robustness as far as the kit is involved. But it also depends on the vendor - they should be prompt, helpful, honest, admit when they screw up or don't know (before I have to chase them), use decent couriers, have access to good pricing, not hassle me unduly and know sufficient about what they're selling or be able to get someone else on the phone who can answer questions.
We get multiple quotes and shop around anyway for anything over a couple of quid unless we know the price we have from $preferred_supplier is unbeatable (our current toner supplier, for example - other salesmen run away and cry when they realise I'm buying for less than they can get them at).
I discuss the options with SMT once I've done the research / quote retrieval, we go through them and choose the best option.
I keep a record of all the quotes received, what we decided and why we went with "X".
Interesting posts, how much emphasise do you place on finding better suppliers that provide more value? The problem is finding the time and dealing with all of the sales patter involved but maybe there is a better way....
How much would you pay to save thousands of pounds per year and to make your life easier?
Not the most intelligent of questions - do you work in sales?
Very constructive comment!, you could say I work in sales as I have to go out and get business and work with lots of schools and professional organisations and proving my value is important - hence the question. I continually see people wasting tax payers money by trying to reinvent the wheel that doesn't need reinventing and one of those is dealing with and finding suppliers and the bureaucracy involved with the procurement system in place for the public sector.
If you are willing to pay a million pounds then I rest my case :O)