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IV. Purchasing through COMMBUYS

Learn how to use COMMBUYS for all your purchasing needs.

Table of Contents

A. Solicit Quotes, as Required

When a purchase requires solicitation of multiple quotes from vendors, Departments must use COMMBUYS to request quotes and receive vendor responses as follows:

  • For Statewide Contract MBPOs, Departments must follow the instructions in the Contract User Guides;
  • For Departmental Contract MPBOs with multiple vendors, Departments are required to solicit electronic quotes through COMMBUYS. Orders resulting from the quotes must be placed through COMMBUYS.
  • For new Departmental Contracts, Departments must set up MBPOs in COMMBUYS to enable submission of electronic quotes or fixed price catalog ordering, as applicable.

Some contracts may require Departments to utilize standardized RFQ and/or Statement of Work templates. Use of contracts must comply with specific contract requirements.

  • Placing Orders through COMMBUYS

Unless subject to an exception, Executive Departments must use COMMBUYS to record all purchasing activity under 801 CMR 21.00. Departments may not implement new ordering systems for goods and services covered by 801 CMR 21.00 outside of COMMBUYS without prior written approval by OSD.

i. Requisition and Purchase Order Requirements

All purchases in COMMBUYS from existing Contracts (MBPOs) must be initiated with a requisition. Upon approval, requisitions are converted into Purchase Orders (POs).

Note: Department Organization Administrators (OAs) may set internal policies exempting specified users or roles from this requirement. These policies must ensure that all transactions obtain appropriate approval consistent with Department Internal Controls and segregation of duties, as well as applicable policies.

POs represent an agreement with a vendor to provide goods or services, including term contracts, orders against contracts, or one-time purchases. POs are completed by indicating the type of PO, adding items, and including ship-to and bill-to addresses and accounting information. POs may be amended, if necessary, via Change Orders.

As described below, different types of POs are used to reflect different purchasing transactions.

a. Purchase Order Types

Purchase Orders serve multiple purposes within COMMBUYS, from transmitting orders to vendors (Open Market and Release POs) to documenting transactions after the fact. Appropriate uses of each type of PO in the system are described below.

PO Type Used for
Open Market One-time purchase of non-contract commodities/services (e.g., incidental purchase).
Release Purchase of commodities or services from existing Contracts.
Request for
Authorization (RPA)
Document a purchase after the fact based on authorization outside of COMMBUYS (e.g., emergency purchase, subscription or RPA-enabled Statewide Contract [SWC]).
  • Open Market POs

Open Market POs are appropriate only in limited circumstances. As noted above, the primary use for this category is incidental purchases.

  • Release POs

    A Release PO is a request to a vendor to purchase goods or services from a specific MBPO. To place orders from existing statewide or Departmental contract MBPOs, Departments must use Release POs. Before a receipt may be processed, there must be a PO in sent status. The receiving of goods and services may be either complete receipt or partial receipt. Items that are being returned must be received and then returned. The receipt of items also may be canceled without first receiving them.

  • RPAs

    Requests for Payment Authorization (RPAs) are used to reflect purchasing transactions that have occurred outside COMMBUYS. There are two types of RPAs that may be used (1) RPA Release Requisition or (2) RPA Requisition.

    Use RPA Release Requisitions if the MBPO is RPA Release-enabled. MBPOs may be RPA release-enabled to accommodate purchases of items that typically are not  ordered in advance, such as a windshield replacement. Certain statewide contracts have been RPA Release-enabled, as identified in the applicable Contract User Guide.

    Use RPA Requisitions if the MBPO is not RPA Release-enabled. In cases where a PO cannot be or is not submitted to the vendor prior to product or service delivery under existing contracts, Departments must use RPA Release Requisitions to document those purchases after the fact. RPA Requisitions also may be used to reflect transactions associated with procurement exceptions. This should not be used where POs are required through COMMBUYS for a specific MBPO.

    Note: The RPA is a mechanism to record purchases and orders that are authorized outside of COMMBUYS. Approval of an RPA and/or the subsequent invoice transaction in COMMBUYS is not a substitute for processing encumbrance and payment transactions in MMARS. Departments are still required to enter encumbrance and subsequent payment transactions directly into MMARS.

ii. PO Exceptions

Transactions not requiring a PO or RPA through COMMBUYS are limited to the following:

  • Executive Departments, with written approval from OSD, may exclude certain defined types of transactions from ordering through COMMBUYS. Exceptions may be issued based on the review of Executive Department business processes. Instructions for submitting requests are included in Appendix A.

iii. Procurement Exception Documentation Requirement

When an acquisition falls under an authorized procurement exception, Departments must use COMMBUYS to document the transaction after the fact (excluding hiring contract employees).

Procurement Exception Method of Documentation
Legislative exemption MBPO, PO, or RPA
Emergency contracts RPA
Collective purchases MBPO (prior OSD approval is required for purchase)
Interim contracts Extension of the existing MBPO
Incidental purchases (up to $10,000) PO or RPA


iv. PO Approval and Submission to Vendors

After creation of the PO and receipt of required internal approvals, but prior to sending to vendor (by converting a PO into “Sent” status), Departments must ensure that:

  • For all POs: all required contract forms have been completed and executed; and
  • For Open Market and Release POs: sufficient funds have been encumbered in MMARS for the transaction.

Use of COMMBUYS by Other Eligible Entities

Defined eligible entities are authorized to purchase from OSD’s statewide contracts and to maintain COMMBUYS buyer accounts to make purchases as well as to issue their own bids and notices. These entities include:

  1. Cities, towns, districts, counties, and other political subdivisions;
  2. Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches, including all Departments and elected offices therein;
  3. Independent public authorities, commissions, and quasi-public agencies;
  4. Local public libraries, public school districts, and charter schools;
  5. Public hospitals owned by the Commonwealth;
  6. Public institutions of higher education; and
  7. Public purchasing cooperatives.

Additionally, non-profit, UFR-certified organizations that do business with the Commonwealth are authorized to purchase from statewide contracts upon verification by OSD. These entities are permitted to maintain limited COMMBUYS accounts, which may be used to purchase from statewide contracts only.

The use of COMMBUYS is not required for, and this policy does not apply to, Non-Executive Departments, Legislative and Judicial Branches, and other Exempt Departments (identified in the joint CTR/OSD State Finance Law and General Requirements policy as Level I and II Departments), and all other eligible purchasing organizations within Massachusetts borders.

However, when using COMMBUYS, Non-Executive Departments and other eligible organizations are expected to adhere to all system requirements, all required terms for specific statewide contracts, and to the terms of their respective user agreements for COMMBUYS.

Eligible non-Executive Departments are encouraged to take advantage of the COMMBUYS functionality to the fullest extent possible. OSD’s Training, Outreach, Enablement, and Help Desk teams offer a variety of resources to assist with system set-up and use. In addition, OSD maintains a number of online resources that buyers may utilize, including statewide contract lists, Job Aids, and more. For additional information, please visit the OSD homepage.



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