Spending My Money - An Overview
Purchasing goods and services at the University is driven by state law and, if federally funded, by federal requirements. Depending upon the funding source the process for procurement may be subject to certain restrictions, conditions or procedures. Please contact ORSP before making any major purchases or retaining vendor services. We can also advise on sole source/sole brand requests.
Purchase Orders are required for the following purchases:
- All services (insurance required/terms and conditions)
- Purchases of items with an acquisition cost of ≥ $5,000 (purchases cannot be “split” in order to circumvent the purchasing policy)
Ordering without a Purchase Order:
Some purchases may be made without the establishment of a purchase order. Typically these expenses:
- Are of low dollar values;
- Reimburse an employee for out of pocket expenses not related to travel or hospitality;
Purchasing authority without the requirement of a formal purchase order can be delegated to authorized personnel via the following:
- Procurement Card (P-Card)
The P-Card is an authorized credit card issued by the campus (University or Research Foundation) to designated employees for the purchase of low-dollar value goods in person, by telephone, facsimile, Internet or mail order in accordance with the Procurement Card Manual guidelines.
- Direct Pay
Direct expense payments are made to a vendor for goods (services always require a PO for liability insurance reasons) purchased by the campus without prior purchase order. Reimbursements may be processed through direct expense payment, subject to the direct payment policy, when there is no added value to obtaining a purchase order.
- Verbal PO’s
Periodically, an emergency/critical purchase is necessary for a project at an inopportune time. In order to facilitate the purchase and to avoid having to make a personal expense for which reimbursement will be sought, a PI may phone in an order directly to the vendor. The PI will assign his/her own “PO number” (Use the fund number and last name of the person placing the order e.g. G1234-001 Jameson) to facilitate payment when the invoice arrives for payment.
It is important to note that appropriate use tax will be charged by the accounts payable department on any payment or reimbursement where the vendor did not collect such tax. This will be particularly apparent on Internet purchases. It is state law that the proper sales/use taxes are collected and remitted to the state.
Signature Authority on Grants and Contracts (G-) and Research Stimulation (RS-) and Center (C-) Funds
In an effort to improve the efficiency of executing low dollar purchases and other routine activities and transactions on grants and contracts, operational principles have been developed based upon existing policies under the PeopleSoft grants management system related to signature routing and authorization of expenditures, reimbursements, issuance and use of P-cards, travel claims, hospitality expenses and payroll.
The changes confer privileges to fund holders that enable them to authorize certain activities on their grants and contracts. These changes are intended to improve the efficiency of operations without risking the integrity of the internal control necessary for accountability. Please note that the procedures outlined in this document pertain only to G-, RS-, C- funds.
Signature Authority and Delegation of Authority: General University Guidelines
Faculty PI account holders of G-, RS-, and C- funds have been assigned level 5 signature authority on their funds.
PI’s already assigned to the following levels will maintain that level:
- Level 3: Typically Deans, Associate Vice Presidents, Assistant Vice Presidents
- Level 4: Management Personnel or Academic Equivalent, typically, but not limited to, Associate Deans, Department Chairs, Directors, ASMs, Division Fiscal Officers, Managers.
Changes in organizational standing may result in a change in increased or diminished signature authority. To assign, change or cancel signature authority, a Signature Authority form must be completed and submitted to the Controller’s Office, including the signature of the applicant. Level definitions and other pertinent information related to the guidelines on signature authority and delegation of signature authority can be found on the CSULB website at:
Scope of Permitted Transactions
Every transaction requires a requestor and an approver. Level 5 signature authority will allow PI’s to authorize the following transactions provided that they are allowable, reasonable, justified and appropriate for the identified funding source to be charged.
- Petty cash reimbursement
- Student payment adjustments
- Student payment transaction form
- Student timesheet approval
- Student performance report
- Position Description for graduate or undergraduate student employed on a grant or contract to undertake a specified scope of work
- Copy and Print Shop requests
- Service Request form (parking and events)
- Travel Claim within authorized amount
- P-card purchases per delegation of purchasing authority
PI’s and fund holders with signature authority are responsible for assuring the following:
- An understanding of what is being approved
- The information and supporting documentation is accurate and complete
- To the best of their knowledge the transaction is allowable, reasonable and justified
- There are adequate funds to cover the cost of the expense
- The funding source is appropriate for the expenditure
- An understanding of the safety, training, hazard, compliance, permitting and mandated regulatory requirements associated with any purchase and assuring that the appropriate College, University or Federal procedures are followed and that the necessary institutional officials are notified prior to making a purchase that may constitute a safety hazard.
ORSP Responsibilities: Transaction Compliance Review (Allowability)
ORSP staff members are charged with conducting the compliance review of all transactions on sponsored program funds (G-funds). It is the responsibility of the Grants and Contracts Administrator (GCA) to verify and confirm the allowability, allocability and reasonableness of all financial transactions in accordance with sponsored program guidelines and prudent stewardship practices. The GCA will:
- Verify the correctness of the chart field string.
- Assure the transaction(s) is within the appropriate date range.
- Assure there are sufficient funds available for the transaction.
- If there are limited funds available, the GCA will note the MAXIMUM charge allowed for the transaction.
- Assure the transaction is in compliance with the terms and conditions of the award.
- If the GCA cannot ascertain from the documents presented that the transaction is allowable, the GCA will contact the PI for additional backup to sufficiently determine the transaction’s allowability.
If the sponsored program has restrictions which are stricter than Research Foundation/University accounting policies, the GCA will note the transaction documents of such restrictions (e.g., State of CA allowable mileage reimbursement rate is normally LESS than the IRS allowed rate. The GCA will note the transaction document that allowable mileage reimbursement is less than the Foundation’s current rate).
If the transaction is unallowable, the GCA will contact the PI/authorized administrator for an alternate chart field string.
The GCA will not:
- Check signature authority or signatures.
- Assure that transaction backup is complete.
- Assure that request is compliant with known university and foundation policies and procedures.
Monitoring and review
ORSP and University Research Foundation accounting personnel will provide oversight of all transactions and will conduct transaction review to ensure compliance with granting agency, CSU and CSULB policies to provide a basis for completion of the transaction or for adjusting or discontinuing delegation of authority to individuals. It is the responsibility of the PI to cover the cost of all transactions and provide an alternate funding source for transactions that are denied by the funding agency.
G- Funds. Allowability on grants and contracts (G- funds) will be determined by the policies of the specific funding agency or the grant in question. If federal funds are to be charged, directly or indirectly, then the requirements of Uniform Guidance for Cost Principles for Educational Institutions must be met.
C- Funds. Accrued through fee for service, occasionally from gifts and donations. Can be used for the operations of sanctioned Centers and Institutes. Typically not as restrictive as either G- or RS- funds.
RS-Funds. As per policy, research stimulation funds (RS- funds) can only be used to support the University’s research mission.
Sanctions: Employees who make unauthorized or prohibited purchases or procure goods or services outside of their delegated authority assume the risk of personal liability for the payment of goods or services including transaction fees. Failure to adhere and comply with the conditions of the delegated authority may result in revocation of delegation and cancellation of their P-card. Items that require additional processing for purchase or are prohibited from being purchased are listed in Appendices A and B respectively under the Delegation of Purchasing Authority Guideline.
Please note that additional restrictions and sanctions on purchases may be imposed by the granting agency. It is the responsibility of the PI to understand these restrictions, stay within budget allocations and comply with funding agencies' policies. PI’s should contact their grants and contracts administrator in ORSP to clarify allowability before making any purchases to be paid from an award.
Due to liability concerns, the purchase of alcohol will no longer be permitted on G- C- or RS- funds without the expressed authorization of the Provost, Vice President or higher on the Hospitality Expenses Form. Exceptions will only be permitted for official, University sanctioned, research-related, events.
Activities Requiring College or ORSP Signature Approval
PI’s are classified as requestors for the following activities and transactions that are commonly associated with the conduct of research on and off campus. As such, these transactions require approval and cannot be authorized by a Level 5 PI or grant holder. These activities require approval by authorized individuals within ORSP, the College or appropriate Academic Unit.
College/Academic Unit Approval
The following requests must be authorized by appropriate individuals in the respective College or Academic Unit: ORSP approval is not necessary.
State Employee (Faculty/Staff) Payroll:
- Additional employment/pay
- Overtime authorization
- Salaried/Hourly adjustment
- All travel authorizations
Facilities and Property:
- Facilities work order requests
- Property Survey/Transfer Request
The following requests must be authorized by the appropriate level individuals with the ORSP. College approval is not necessary.
- Budget category reallocation requests within a grant/fund
- Budgeting of residuals from a fixed price contract in an RS fund
Prior Authorization to Spend
Circumstances may arise on both federal and non-federal awards in which the PI wants to begin incurring costs to initiate project activities prior to the sponsor issuing the award. In such cases, the PI may request the creation of a G-fund via a Prior Authorization to Spend form (DOC).
The risks, liabilities, and restrictions associated with the creation of a pre-award spending account must be carefully considered prior to requesting authorization to spend funds in advance of receiving the award. Approval of the Prior Authorization to Spend to create a pre-award spending account is contingent upon the following requirements:
- Pre-award spending must be allowed by the funding agency.
- There must be a strong indication in writing from the sponsor's grant administrator that an award is forthcoming.
- The appropriate Dean or Chair must agree in writing to assume the financial risk if the sponsor fails to issue the award.
- The PI or Department must provide ORSP with a back-up non-sponsored fund number (containing adequate resources) where expenses will be transferred if the sponsor fails to issue the award.
If a PI would like to request the creation of a pre-award spending account, the PI should submit to ORSP a completed and signed Prior Authorization to Spend request form that includes the requested pre-award start date (no more than 90 days prior to the anticipated award start date), a justification for the request, and documentation of the satisfaction of the four requirements listed above.
Procurement (Purchase Orders)
- PI’s have the authority to make certain purchases on their G-, RS-, and C-funds using P-cards, verbal PO’s, direct payments or reimbursements and on-line requisitions. However, appropriate financial approvals must be provided before any request can be processed by Purchasing.
- A purchase order starts with the purchase requisition.
- Three (3) quotes are required for purchases of $5,000 or more. The $5,000 threshold includes taxes and shipping. If 3 quotes are not obtained, purchasing will obtain the competitive quotes but the generation of the PO may be delayed.
- Federal grantees are to make positive efforts to utilize small businesses, minority-owned firms, women’s business enterprises and Disabled Veteran’s Business Enterprises (DVBE). Whenever practicable, efforts should be made to use these types of firms. The Purchasing Office can assist with identifying these vendors.
- Vendors who are not currently within PeopleSoft/CFS require a vendor 204 form (PDF) which should be attached by the requestor to the requisition.
- Sole source/brand documentation is required to be submitted by the end user and signed by the fiscal approving authority for purchases over $10,000 for commodity and $50,000 for services that cannot be competitively quoted.
- Regardless of the dollar amount, any request for services must be by purchase order. Insurance is required for any on-site services. Purchasing will request insurance coverage from the vendor prior to issuing the Purchase Order. In an emergency situation where immediate serview are required, please contact your GCA.
- Account codes may be changed by ORSP and/or Purchasing if the requisition is not appropriately coded upon submission.
- Accessible Technology Initiative (ATI) compliance requires that all computer and technology purchases be reviewed for the impact it has on the campus prior to purchase. Those with greater impact will have more requirements. If a technology purchase is being considered, partner with Purchasing early in the process to consult on options to streamline/reduce the amount of paperwork and time to acquire the goods.
It is important to note that applicable sales or use tax; shipping; and other ancillary charges may not appear on the purchase order, but applicable and appropriate charges will be paid by the accounts payable department. It is state law that the proper sales/use taxes are collected and remitted to the state.
A Direct Payment Request form is used to pay a bill or an invoice (if a telephone order was placed without a written Purchase Order being established), or to get reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses.
This form is used for common expenses including consumable supplies, overnight courier, registration, etc.
The following are prohibited transactions:
- Equipment over $5,000
- Services performed at a campus location
- The payee / requestor must fully complete the Direct Payment Request form, include all required signatures, and populate the Chart-field information in section 3 (Account, Fund, Project, Dept. ID to which the charges should post).
- Attach the original receipt(s) or invoice(s) to the form.
- The associated payment will be processed, according to the disbursement method selected on the Direct Payment Request form.
- Direct Payment requests must be made within 90 days of the transaction.
- If the payee is a new vendor in our system, a Vendor Data Record form (PDF) must be completed to accompany the Direct Payment Request.
- Original receipts are always required. If a receipt is lost or only a copy is available then fill out a Lost Receipt Form (PDF) and attach the documentation of proof of payment as requested.
“Verbal PO’s” (Emergency Purchases)
Periodically, an emergency/critical purchase is necessary for a project at an inopportune time. In order to facilitate the purchase and avoid having to make a personal expense for which reimbursement will be sought, a PI may phone in an order directly to the vendor.
When placing the “verbal order,” the PI is assuring that the purchase is:
- Under the PO threshold
- Allowable by the source of funds to be utilized, and
- Adequate funds are available.
In order to facilitate payment of the invoice when it arrives at the Foundation, the PI should give the vendor a “verbal PO number” as follows:
- Use the fund number and last name of the person placing the order e.g. G1234-001 Jameson; RS942-015 Halleck; C0123-256 Grof
- PI (fund holder) can authorize expense according to the DOA
Guidelines for Claims for Hospitality Expenses
The University has existing policies and procedures regarding the extent to which the University may extend hospitality for business purposes. These policies apply to all hospitality expenses irrespective of the source of funding. However, in the context of expenses to be charged to G- , C- and RS- funds, claims have the added proviso that they must provide justification on how the expenditures advanced the funded research project, promoted the research agenda of the Center or supported the research mission of the University, respectively.
Guidelines for Travel
Travel authorization associated with research activities to be charged to G-, C- or RS- funds must conform to general CSULB policies and procedures for requesting authorization to travel to conduct official University business.
Travel authorizations must be processed in the normal manner through the appropriate administrators within the employee's department as determined by the University’s identified delegation of signature authority. Individuals traveling on official University business are responsible for ensuring they have documented authorization in advance. Employees should review specific procedures with their management.
Reimbursement for approved overnight travel within the continental United States (48 contiguous states) will be made based on actual documented expenses for transportation, lodging and business related expenses (e.g., supplies, copies, etc.).
Related expenses must be ordinary, reasonable, not extravagant, and necessary. Travel expenses not directly related to official University business are not reimbursable. Actual expenses for meals and incidentals will be reimbursed up to a maximum daily limit. The daily limit is published in the CSULB procedures and will be reviewed and adjusted periodically.
The University assumes no financial responsibility for expenditures incurred by individuals who fail to adhere to policy.
Guidelines for P-Cards Expenses and Claims
Procurement Cards (referred to as P-Card) are available to all G- and RS- account holders if approved by ORSP. Upon obtaining a P-Card, it is the responsibility of the P-Card holder to ensure all guidelines and procedures are followed.
Purchases may be made using the P-Card providing the item is not prohibited or restricted. Information on P-card requests, payment, restrictions and resources can be obtained from Purchasing.
PI-Card Holder Responsibility
Each month, holders of the P-Card will receive an email requiring them to complete a Monthly Procurement Card Purchase Report using Access Online and submit the report to ORSP for processing for payment.
If necessary, transactions may be disputed. The P-card holder will be held personally liable for all purchases for prohibited or unallowable items, or expenses that cannot be covered by existing funds. Failure to comply with P-card policies will result in a loss of P-card privileges.
Training on Access Online is required through the Purchasing department.
Note: The Foundation P-card limit is $5000 (including tax and shipping). ORSP has the right to assign a lower limit as deemed necessary. Under exceptional circumstances, but only with compelling justification, a P-card limit can be raised to $10,000. Cardholders with a limit greater than or equal to $10,000 have an annual responsibility to complete a conflict of interest filing. Also, single item purchases above $5000 may require three quotes prior to purchasing and must be approved by ORSP.
Prohibited Purchases on P-Cards
- Narcotics and other controlled substances
- Personal Purchases
- Cash Advances
- Splitting of purchases to circumvent $$ limitation
- Personal Services Consultant
- Services requiring a written contract and/or insurance
- Travel expenses, meals, lodging, transportation
- Capitalized equipment (≥ $5,000)
- Capital Outlay Projects (Construction)
Award Changes - Prior Approval Requirements
Although many sponsored awards allow flexibility in areas such as re-budgeting, carry-forward of unobligated balances from year to year, and pre-award costs, sponsors expect expenditures to be reasonably consistent with the proposed scope of work and budget. Many federal agencies have chosen to delegate authority to CSULB for certain prior approvals. The PI should refer to the sponsored award terms to determine the authorizations that apply to each award.
Sponsors often require PIs to request prior approval for significant changes that affect the scope of work and budget. For most federal grant awards, advanced sponsor approval from the grants officer is required in certain circumstances. It is the responsibility of the PI to initiate any prior approval request by forwarding the request to ORSP or starting the process in a sponsor’s web portal (e.g., FastLane). The request must include a project-specific justification and plan. ORSP will forward this notification to the sponsor’s grants officer.
No-cost extensions are usually requested by the PI due to project delays, where additional time is needed to carry out the approved scope of work but no additional funding is required. The fact that funds remain at the end of a project is not sufficient justification for an extension. The PI should describe the reason for the extension along with the spending plan for the unexpended balance. Expanded Authorities on most federal grants and cooperative agreements allow ORSP to approve a single no-cost extension.
Note: The project is required to update all required certifications, including conflict of interest, financial disclosures, human subjects and animal welfare to cover the additional time period. The request should be made no later than 30 days before the current end date of a project.
PI Transfer/Absence/Reduction of Effort
Advanced written sponsor approval is required when a PI intends to transfer to another institution, plans to be absent from the project for three months or more, or reduce his or her level of effort by 25% or more from the awarded level. The PI, working with the GCA, is responsible for Key Personnel reductions in effort requiring the need for prior sponsor approval.
Scope of Work Change
Any change in the proposed scope of work requires sponsor approval. The PI should describe the scope change needed and the impact the change may have on the budget.
Certain sponsor awards may not allow automatic carry-forward of unexpended funds for each budget period. The PI must review the sponsored award terms closely to ensure whether the award requires advance sponsor approval for carry-forward of unexpended funds to the next budget period.
Re-budgeting of awarded costs may be considered significant when the change results in re-budgeting a single direct cost budget category by more than 25% of the total award. Depending on the terms of the award, the PI may be required to submit a revised budget to the sponsor explaining the need for significantly re-budgeting project costs. Significant re-budgeting may indicate a change in the scope of work.