Cards Will Ease Purchasing Process

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

The University will adopt a new system for making small-dollar purchases, which involves the use of special credit cards to make such transactions easier for University offices and departments.

The system, created through Project Delta, will use "procurement cards." They will be distributed over the next several months to authorized staff and faculty members, who will use them to purchase items costing $500 or less, such as stationery, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, advertising, bottled water services and various other expendable supplies. Users will be able to buy directly from suppliers and charge the costs to Boston College.

The University is completing arrangements with a financial institution to provide the procurement cards, administrators said, and expects to announce the agreement soon. An implementation team is selecting the departments and offices which will participate in a pilot program for the new system during the spring and summer. The new system is expected to be fully in place by October, Delta representatives said.

Administrators say the procurement card system will bring a host of financial and organizational benefits to the University, and realize Project Delta's goals of efficiency and improved service through technology.

"The procurement card approach gives individual offices more authority and responsibility," said University Controller Michael Driscoll, who leads Delta's Short Term Initiatives Team, which designed the system. "Instead of requiring individuals to go through an often lengthy and costly process for relatively small acquisitions, we're streamlining the process and giving employees greater purchasing freedom."

"The procurement card is not a new idea: Many business and educational institutions use something like it," said Financial Vice President and Treasurer Peter C. McKenzie, a Delta Executive Team member who advised the design team. "But in most cases, the system simply mirrors the process already in place. Through Project Delta, we are using the procurement card as a tool for reshaping a very important function of the University."

Using the procurement card to order goods and services will be like using one's personal credit card, Driscoll explained. Cardholders can place an order over the phone, through the World Wide Web or mail, and give the card type, number and expiration date. When buying an item at a store, the user's card is scanned at the check-out counter. There will be no need for employees to complete requisitions on the U-BUY system, send an invoice to Accounts Payable, or pick up and mail a check to the vendor.

At the end of the monthly billing cycle, the cardholder receives a statement detailing recent transactions to use in reconciling receipts, packing slips, invoices and other records. Individual suppliers will be paid directly by the bank within two or three business days of the transaction.

Within the first full year of its implementation, Delta representatives said, the procurement card system should eliminate approximately 7,000 purchase orders, 8,000 departmental check requisitions, 16,000 invoices and 10,000 checks.

Driscoll said offices and departments will find the system offers flexibility and potential for creativity. For example, the new process features a cardless aspect known as "ghost accounts." Offices can arrange ghost accounts with individual vendors in place of blanket purchase orders, allowing vendors to charge for multiple purchases over time without running the card through the system at every transaction.

But the introduction of procurement cards does not mean the U-BUY system will become obsolete, Driscoll pointed out.

"U-BUY has proven itself to be a highly innovative system," he said. "It will still be needed for travel transactions and for orders with vendors who do not accept the procurement card, although every effort will be made to bring such vendors on board."

Further details about the procurement card system are available through the Project Delta World Wide Web site [http://www.bc.edu/delta].

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