Centralized and internal purchasing becomes a way to reduce costs

Dr. Mark Dienhart

Dr. Mark Dienhart

Dr. Susan Huber

Dr. Susan Huber

Effective with the fiscal year starting July 1, 2010, a number of new mandated purchasing processes will be implemented at St. Thomas. These processes will impact anyone who travels, buys goods or services from external vendors or organizes local conferences and retreats.

The need to find practical ways to reduce expenses other than reducing compensation or employment levels is at the heart of what our Board of Trustees would like us to do. The trustees formed a task force to evaluate methods of reducing costs within the institution and this was one of the recommendations that we were asked to carry out.

Obviously, ways to reduce our cost structure and preserve money for programming and compensation increases are something we should clearly move forward with. Effective purchasing of products and services provides a real opportunity to make sure we are using our money wisely.

We realize the new purchasing process will be a difficult adjustment, but we agree it is required and we expect everyone to follow the new guidelines. The changes include:

General purchasing

  • Mandatory use of vendors on an approved vendor list.
  • Setting a threshold of $3,000 that, when exceeded, requires a bidding process.


  • Mandatory use of a specific travel vendor – one for individual travel and potentially a different one for group travel. The vendor(s) has not been selected at this point.

 Gainey Conference Center, the Service Center and Catering

  • Mandatory use of these internal services when the capability and capacity are available.
  • These internal services will perform an annual review of pricing in their markets and charge internal customers 10 percent less than the comparable market pricing.

Each of these areas is developing a user group to assist in further defining the new operating guidelines and communicating those guidelines to the campus community. We also will establish control mechanisms to make sure people are following the new processes and to perform an annual audit of realized savings.

“The university spends around $53 million per year in purchasing goods and services, and these concepts have been used effectively by many other organizations,” says Mark Vangsgard, vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer. “When we use outside services today, most of the vendors have worked with us for long periods of time and we do not bid out the work to ensure we are getting the lowest cost. In addition, when we use outside vendors, they charge us their cost plus a profit margin, so if we can provide the product or service internally, then we will save the profit margin.”

More information about all of the new processes will be distributed when the user groups for the different areas finish their work and develop detailed guidelines.