III. The Purchasing of Goods and Services

Through the Procurement & Travel Services Department

The GW Procurement and Travel Services Department is the primary vehicle for the purchase of goods and services for university purposes.  The Procurement department is established to secure goods and services in a manner that is cost effective and efficient, compliant with applicable law, and utilizes formal solicitation where required or appropriate.

Procurement assists the university community in obtaining goods and services that meet requested specifications.  They also:

  •  Negotiate contracts with preferred contractors for items and services at cost-effective prices
  •  Manage the university’s systems and tools for purchasing goods and services, including iBuy+ services, Purchase Orders, and use of P-Cards
  •  Assist in a Competitive Solicitation Process when required for a purchase
  •  Review all necessary paperwork so that contractors are registered properly with the university and paid in timely fashion
  •  Issue Purchase Orders

Table 1 Procurement Options at GW presents the four (4) methods of Procurement available to the university community.  Checking to see whether a good or a service can be obtained through a preferred supplier should always be considered first.  If the good or service is not available through a preferred supplier, a P-Card may be used for standard purchases that are less than $3,000.  If the desired purchase is not available through a preferred supplier and not possible with a P-Card, the competitive solicitation process must be used.  These methods, as well as sole selection, are further discussed on the following pages.


Contacting Procurement once a need is identified will help to ensure that a purchase is made in accordance with the university's policies and guidelines and will be defensible upon audit.  Procurement can be reached at 202-994-2500 or by e-mail, procure@gwu.edu.

Check out the Glossary of Procurement Terms later in this section to learn more about the Procurement terminology.

Table 1: Procurement Options at GW
GW iBuy+ Preferred Suppliers: Is the product or service available through iBuy Goods and Services or iBuy Travel? Is it on Procurement's list of Preferred Suppliers?
P-Card P-Card: The Procurement Card (P-Card) can be used for approved purchases of goods and services under $3,000. Any written contract related to a P-Card purchase must be properly reviewed and signed by an authorized signatory.
Get a Quote! Competitive Solicitation: Competitive solicitation is required before a contractor can be selected for the majority of purchases over $3,000. Solicitations may be in the forms of a quote (formal or informal), bid, or request for proposal. If the purchase is from a federal contract and over $3,000, Procurement must handle the solicitation.  If over $150,000 using university funds, federal grants, or non-federal sponsored projects, Procurement must be notified and involved at the outset.
Appendix B: Competitive Exemption List Sole Source Selection: If a good or service is on the Competitive Exemption List (and is not federally funded), a responsible university office may select a contractor with no competition, and the purchase may be paid by P-Card or via Payment Request form.  Sole source selection is also used in rate situations when restriction or competition can be justified successfully.

Contracts with Preferred Suppliers

Procurement oversees contracts with the university’s preferred suppliers and monitors the utilization of those suppliers.  Many items needed by university offices can be acquired through these existing contracts.  By using the university’s preferred suppliers, better prices can be obtained and less paperwork is required.  The following is a list of systems and tools available to the university community for obtaining goods and services through Procurement’s preferred suppliers.

iBuy+ for Goods and Services is the preferred purchasing method. iBuy+ for Goods and Services is an online electronic requisition tool for university employees.  It is equipped with both external and hosted catalogs designed to create a requisition.  The use of iBuy Goods and Services minimizes paperwork, as Purchase Orders are issued automatically. The following are some of the items available through iBuy+ Goods and Services:

  • Office supplies, including stationery and business cards
  • Computer hardware and supplies
  • Lab and scientific supplies
  • Maintenance, repair, and operations supplies
  • Office furniture

A complete list of preferred suppliers can be found by logging into iBuy+ Goods and Services system and browsing by suppliers

iBuy+ Travel. Procurement also provides travel services and the GW iBuy+ Travel Booking tool. They are available to help book travel and take advantage of negotiated deals.

More information on booking travel at GW can be found at the Travel Services website.

Other Preferred Suppliers. For some goods and services not available through iBuy+, Procurement has negotiated contracts and established easy ordering processes.  Purchasing these products through the preferred supplier minimizes paperwork, improves service, and maximizes the university’s buying power.

Information and ordering instructions for the following  products can be found with the university’s “Best Value” suppliers on the Procurement website.

  • Bottled and Filtered Water Services
  • Recycled Ink and Toner
  • Shipping services such as UPS and FedEx
  • Temporary Staffing Firms
  • Catering
  • Document Shredding Services

Centralized Cell Phone Program.  Procurement also has negotiated contracts with mobile phone providers to obtain cell phone devices and service at a reduced cost. More information on purchasing mobile phones can be found at the GW Cell Phone Program on the Procurement website.


The university’s procurement credit card (P-Card) may be used for standard purchases that are under $3,000.  P-Cards are assigned by the university to specific individuals.  They can be used for the payment of goods and services not available for purchase through iBuy+ Goods and Services.  Please refer to the Procurement Card (P-Card) policy for basic guidance and information for the P-Card program. The policy identifies what can be purchased with a P-Card and who can use the P-Card.

More information on P-Card usage can be found at the Procurement website.

Competitive Solicitation Process

If a desired purchase is not available through a contract with a preferred supplier, not possible by use of a P-Card, and/or not on the competitive exemption list, the competitive solicitation process must be utilized. Oftentimes, the Procurement Department can be utilized to help with this process.  The following questions should be asked to help to determine the necessary process to follow.

Question 1: Is this purchase funded by federal contracts or grants?

  • Yes – For all purchases over $3,000 using federal funds, written quotes are required and must be obtained through Procurement.   For purchases under $3,000, a P-Card or Payment Request through Accounts Payable with a single quote can be utilized.
  • No – Proceed to Question 2.

Question 2: Is this purchase exempt from competitive solicitation?

  • Yes – Goods and services on the Competitive Exemptions List (Appendix A) are exempt from the Competitive Solicitation Process.  Proceed to Sole Source Selection section below.
  • No – Proceed to Question 3.

Question 3: What is the estimated dollar amount of the purchase?

Based on the estimated dollar amount of the purchase, the following procedures should be followed:

Table 2

Purchases over $3,000 with University Funds, Federal Grants or Non-Federal Sponsored Projects

$3,001 - $25,000

An informal quote process with a minimum of three (3) quotes is required.  You may initiate this process or contact Procurement to assist you.  Once quotes are received and a contractor is selected, send the following to Procurement via a Requisition: 

  • all quotes obtained
  • all documents received from the selected contractor (including any contract documents)
  • a Justification & Approval form, if selected contractor is not the lowest bidder
  • if university funds, competition is encouraged but not required
$25,001 -$150,000

A formal quote process with a minimum of three (3) written quotes is required and may be initiated by you or Procurement.  Once quotes are received and once a contractor is selected, send the following to Procurement via a Requisition: 

  • all quotes obtained
  • all documents received from the selected contractor (including any contract documents)
  • a Justification & Approval form, if selected contractor is not the lowest bidder
$150,001 and above

A formal solicitation process is required, in the form of an invitation to bid or a request for proposal.  Procurement must either assist with or administer the process.  Once all bids/proposals are received and the contractor selected, send the following to Procurement via Requisition: 

  • all bids/proposals obtained
  • all documents received from the selected contractor (including any contract documents)
  • a Justification & Approval form, if selected contractor is not the lowest bidder or if Procurement did not conduct the solicitation


Review of Contract Documents: All third-party contracts handled by Procurement must be reviewed by OGC and Risk Management and Insurance, as appropriate. If the responsible university office has initiated these reviews prior to submitting the online requisition to Procurement, include evidence of review and approval from the respective offices.  If the contract documents have not yet been reviewed, be sure to indicate that and Procurement will ensure the contract is appropriately reviewed and signed.

Sole Source Selection

For certain purchases over $3,000, a contractor can be selected without utilizing competition.

Goods and services on the Competitive Exemption List (see Appendix A) are exempt from the Competitive Solicitation Process.  This means a responsible university office may choose a contractor and the purchase may be paid by P-Card or via Payment Request Form through Accounts Payable.  Neither a Requisition nor a Purchase Order is required for these purchases.  Furthermore, unless requested by the responsible university office, Procurement will not be involved in these acquisitions (except to register contractors, via new supplier registration as needed).  If the purchase involves a written contract, the Contract Review and Approval Process with the Office of General Counsel must be followed (see Section V of this Guide).

In other rare situations when a contractor is identified without use of the competitive solicitation process, the responsible university office must complete a Justification and Approval (J&A) form, for approval by Procurement.

Supplier Registration

Once a contractor is identified – through competitive solicitation or sole source selection, the contractor must register with the university in order to receive payment for goods or services.

Instructions related to registering a contractor can be found at the new supplier registration site on the Procurement website.

Glossary of Procurement Terms

  • Competitive Solicitation Process: A formal process providing an equal and open opportunity to qualified parties and culminating in a selection based on submitted documentation and established criteria.  At GW, the Competitive Solicitation Process may be achieved through the issuance of an invitation to bid or a request for proposals.
  • Formal Solicitation: A formal invitation to receive quotes, in the form of a request for proposal or an invitation to bid.
  • Invitation to Bid: A formal bid solicitation document that is used when (1) the estimated value of the requirement exceeds the threshold for formal bidding (See Table 2 above); (2) two or more sources are considered able of supplying the requirement; (3) the requirement is adequately defined in all respects to permit the evaluation of bid against clearly stated criteria; and (4) bids can be submitted on a common pricing basis. An Invitation to Bid is intended to accept the lowest-priced responsive bid without negotiations.
  • Justification and Approval (J&A): A form required to justify the selection of a contractor where the responsible university office does not utilize an informal or formal solicitation process (i.e., obtaining quotes or sending out an invitation for bid or request for proposals) or when the selected contractor is not the lowest bidder.  In such cases, it is required when purchases are: (1) part of federal contracts and in an amount greater than $3,000; or (2) made with university funds, federal grants, or non-federal sponsored funds in an amount of $3,000 or more. The form requires a rationale for omitting the solicitation process.  It is submitted to the Procurement Department through the online requisition for approval.
  • Purchase Order (PO): A document issued by GW (the buyer) to a contractor, authorizing a purchase.  It includes the terms and conditions that will govern the purchase and describes the purchase quantity and price. After a Requisition is approved by Procurement, Procurement issues a PO to the contractor. 
  • Quote: An offer by a contractor for the sale of a good or service. An informal quote can be verbal (received by phone and documented in the requisition) or written.  A formal quote must be received in writing from the contractor.  Quotes are requested so that the university can get the best price and quality.
  • Request for Proposal: A request for proposal (sometimes known as a “RFP”) is used to solicit proposals from potential contractors for goods and services. Unlike the invitation to bid, price is usually not a primary evaluation factor when a RFP is used.  A RFP provides for the negotiation of all terms, including price, prior to contract award.  It may include a provision for the negotiation of best and final offers.  Use of RFPs can be a single-step or multi-step process.
  • Requisition: A written request for an authorized purchase. GW requires submission of a Requisition for the purchase of most goods and services.  If not generated automatically (i.e., through iBuy Goods and Services), Requisitions are created using Enterprise Accounting Services (EAS).   Procurement reviews the choice of contractor to ensure it is not in conflict with an existing contract with a preferred contractor.  Instructions on how to
  • create a Requisition using EAS can be found on the Systems, Analytics & Insights Group (SAIG) website.
  • Requirements Document:  Documentation relating to a procurement – such as a specification or scope of work – that describes the good or service to be procured.  The requirements document is used to solicit responses (bids or proposals) from contractors.
  • Scope of Work (SOW): This is a written description of the contractual requirements for the materials and services contained within a Request for Proposal.  The SOW can be compared to the specifications required for an invitation to bid.  A scope of work should not be confused with a “statement of work” (defined in this Guide under Section IX “Common Types of Contract Documents”), which is a formal document that details the work, deliverables, locations, timelines, pricing, and other requirements of a contractor in performing specific work. 
  • Specifications: A precise description of the physical or functional characteristics of a product, good or construction item.  A description of goods as opposed to a description of services.  A description of what the purchaser seeks to buy and what a bidder must be responsive to in order to be considered for an award of a contract. 
  • Task Order: An order for services (also called a “statement of work” as defined in this Guide under Section IX “Common Types of Contract Documents”) placed against an established contract (sometimes known as a Master Services Agreement).  An example of a task order is the hiring of temporary staff against a contract that is already in place at GW.   The task order would be for a set number of hours at the contracted rate for a specified type of position.