Inside Rensselaer
New Purchasing/Travel Program Developed

An interdepartmental team charged with developing and implementing a new small-dollar purchasing (under $2,500) and travel program for the Institute has completed much of its research and will begin recommending to senior leadership deployment of some new procedures this fall. Called the Small Procurement Assessment and Recommendation Team (SmART), the group has also launched a website to help keep faculty, staff, and students up to date on the latest news about the process as well as temporary solutions. The site is located at

The new site serves as a comprehensive, centralized information resource for the Rensselaer community to regularly visit. The site gathers up-to-date information on interim small-dollar purchasing and travel solutions, and on the team’s progress in developing long-term recommendations on what will eventually become a permanent process to replace the old program.

The team was convened in early July, following suspension of the Purchase Card Program a month earlier. The committee meets on a weekly basis and is chaired by Assistant Vice President for Administration Paul Martin and Director of Financial Planning and Budget Eileen McLoughlin.

“The team expects its efforts to result in the lessening of risk for the Institute, enhanced, more efficient purchasing power for members of the Rensselaer community, and greater consistency among Institute small procurement and travel procedures,” said Martin.

In August, the committee asked business and financial managers throughout the Institute to gather information on needs for the ordering and delivery of small purchases and travel. The assessment focused on: purchasing efficiency; the need for increased clarity on purchasing policies and procedures; a unified, timely reconciliation system; and the need for improved monitoring, oversight, and auditing.

The group’s sub-teams have been working to address those areas and many of the peripheral issues associated with the needs assessment. During and throughout this process the team identifies purchasing challenges resulting from the suspension of the Purchase Card Program and implements timely alternatives and solutions. Recently, the team also gathered and analyzed three years of Rensselaer’s transactional data with regard to purchases and travel expenses in order to more fully understand the Institute’s purchasing and travel profile. The team has also been reviewing the best purchasing and procurement practices by surveying several other institutions and corporations for their procurement methods for small-dollar purchases and travel.

The overall committee has established direct-bill relationships with a select set of high-volume vendors, allowing departments to make fast and efficient purchases under $2,500. Currently, 25 vendors are participating in the program; eight more are in process and seven more vendors are under evaluation by the committee. In addition, the Empress Travel Agency has stepped up to handle more travel needs, and enhancements have been made to the Online Shopping Cart at Rensselaer ordering system (OSCAR) in response to needs expressed by the academic community at Rensselaer.

“Members of the Rensselaer community are encouraged to use the SmARt website as an up-to-date informational resource on the committee’s progress, and for details on the enhancements to Rensselaer’s existing E-Procurement systems, OSCAR, and Banner,” McLoughlin said.

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Inside Rensselaer, Strategic Communications and External Relations
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 16, October 22, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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