Purchasing Cards Streamlining Buying Process

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

The University has fully implemented its new purchasing card system, which streamlines the purchase and payment processes for goods and services of less than $1,000, and users are reporting positive results.

Introduced last year through a Project Delta initiative, the cards enable authorized users to make certain purchases directly from suppliers and charge the costs to Boston College. Employees can use the card to place an order over the phone, through the World Wide Web or the mail, or buy an item at a store. At the end of the monthly billing cycle, the cardholder receives a bank statement detailing recent transactions to use in reconciling receipts, packing slips, invoices and other records retained by the cardholder.

The purchasing card system means employees do not have to complete a requisition or purchase order on the U-BUY system, send an invoice to Accounts Payable, or obtain and mail checks to the vendor.

Beginning late last year, representatives were trained to administer use of the cards in their respective offices, and designated certain staff members as card-holders, who also received training. Assistant Director for Purchasing and Systems Jerri Cole said some 380 purchasing cards have been distributed campus-wide and are in use by almost every office and department.

"We're quite pleased with what we've seen and heard," said Cole. "By all indications, the system is doing exactly what it was supposed to do: Cut down on paperwork and make the process of purchasing relatively small items less time-consuming for employees."

Administrators have estimated that the system will eventually eliminate approximately 7,000 purchase orders, 8,000 departmental check requisitions, 16,000 invoices and 10,000 checks, and the time spent processing and tracking them.

While the cards are commonly used to buy items such as stationery, office supplies and newspaper subscriptions, offices and departments also are using them to fill more individual needs.

The Chemistry Department, for example, is using them to buy such staples as chemicals, glassware and gloves. "The whole process is a lot smoother now," said Stephen Quin, the department's purchasing and inventory assistant. "It's a lot easier than having to go through U-BUY and takes far less time to complete."

The Theater Department has likewise found the card system an improvement, according to Robsham Theater Arts Center Office Coordinator Marion Doyle.

"For the costumes we use, we often have to buy fabric and junk jewelry from local department stores," she explained, "or we might need some lumber or other materials for our sets. In the past, sometimes we'd need to put these purchases on our own credit cards. The purchasing card is much better."

The University is encouraging greater use of the purchasing card system wherever possible, Cole said, and the Purchasing Department will continue to train employees who are designated as card-holders by the office or departmental fiscal manager.

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