Updating a 24-Year-Old Purchasing Policy

In today’s Morning Buzz, I’ll be sharing about a project that I’m working on with my peers at the City of San Rafael: updating our Purchasing Policy.


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What I’m Watching – This past weekend, I watched Truth or Dare. I’m a sucker for scary movies.

What I’m Doing – I’m working on my time management skills–big time. I have A TON of assignments due at work today, and I’m already behind. 


Updating a 24-Year-Old Purchasing Policy


For my Morning Buzz, I was hoping to write all about procurement and purchasing in local government, but then I realized that Mariel Reed recently did the same with her ELGL post: Governments Are Finding New Ways to Work with Entrepreneurs  —  Is Yours? Check it out!

What I can share, instead, is a project that I have been working on with my peers (mostly with our Deputy City Attorney; she’s awesome) at the City of San Rafael: updating our Purchasing Policy. The City’s Purchasing Policy was adopted in 1994 as an ordinance (ordinance is my favorite word, by the way), outlining core procedures for purchasing supplies, materials, equipment, and services. Some of the provisions of our Purchasing Policy include Encumbrance of Funds, Competitive Bidding, and more. It’s a fun policy; I promise. In 1997, the City adopted an ordinance to define the procurement and purchasing procedures relating to professional services. Professional services refers to “the services of consultants or individuals or organizations possessing a high degree of technical skill, such as, but not limited to, the services of attorneys, physicians, architects, engineers, and surveyors. These two ordinances have not been updated since they were adopted—but we’re going through the process of revising them now. We’re recommending updating policies and procedures, increasing award thresholds, changing competitive bidding thresholds, and more. I’m excited to see this item move forward, which is scheduled for consideration at our City Council meeting tonight. Side note: tonight will be the first time that I present to the entire City Council.

According to California Government Code §54202, cities must, by ordinance, adopt policies and procedures, including bidding regulations, that govern the purchases of supplies and equipment by the city. Such purchases must be in accordance with all relevant provisions of law. Additionally, no policy, procedure, or regulation may be adopted that is inconsistent or in conflict with federal, state, or applicable law or statute. Cities have considerable freedom to tailor purchasing ordinances or regulations to meet local needs.

In a nutshell, the purpose of the proposed changes to our Purchasing Policy are to reflect best practices and to ensure compliance with federal, state, and applicable laws and regulations. The proposed changes include the following: increasing the City Manager’s award authority to $75,000; authorizing the City Manager to delegate his or her authority under the Purchasing Policy; adding a provision requiring the execution of an administrative policy to provide procedural guidance relating to federal awards and to the execution of the Purchasing Policy; and updating our competitive bidding procedures. For more information, you can view the staff report on our website.

Updating the Purchasing Policy ordinance itself is only the beginning, really. Assuming that the ordinance is adopted, staff will begin the implementation phase of this project. We’ll convene a working group to create a tool to assist City staff with procurement and purchasing. This tool (for now, we’re calling it a Purchasing Policy Manual or Guide to Purchasing) won’t conflict with the Purchasing Policy and will include step-by-step guidance for the procurement of goods and services, professional services, and public works.

I’m quickly learning that procurement is a powerful tool to empower local governments to become more accountable, innovative, and transparent.