Clerical function

  • Clerical procurement functions are generally subsumed within another department.  Typically, it will be a subsection of the finance or accounts payable departments.  The function is expected to contribute to the business only in so far as it detects waste and prevents major abuses of institutional procedures.
  • There is no recognised Head of Procurement or overall procurement manager.  Purchasing activity is largely carried out at user/requisitioner level.  Where a dedicated buyer exists, requisitions are passed to the buyer to order, frequently detailing the supplier, price and agreed terms.
  • Procurement is focused on processing the large volumes of paper produced and minimising transaction speed. Performance is monitored, if at all, on the number of requisitions processed and the delay from requisition to order.  Given that the clerical buyer is most often found within the finance function, invoice queries form a large part of the workload.
  • Procurement procedures and guidelines are limited to finance procedures regarding competitive tendering and the appropriate number of quotations to be obtained.  Resources are focussed on an arbitrary basis derived from finance policy and procedures related to monetary authorisation levels.
  • Procurement is not recognised as a functional or technical specialism. 'Buyers' receive little or no training in subjects such as negotiation, contract law or quality.
  • Purchase orders are placed mainly by telephone, e-mail and occasionally by letter. Whatever the form, the absence of any standard terms and conditions of purchase will imply acceptance of the supplier's terms.  Thus clerical buying functions unknowingly accept an unspecified level of contractual risk.
  • There is no procurement or commodity strategy.  Many hundreds of suppliers are used in total and multiple suppliers are used for the same commodity and often the same item.  Even the purchase of regular or repeat items is viewed as a discrete requirement, as though the institution had never purchased the item before.  No records are kept of the price history of items.
  • User preference is paramount.  Many variations on a theme of the same item are purchased in response to unchallenged user requirements.  There is little aggregation of expenditure and very few bulk purchase arrangements.  No attempt is made at standardisation of purchases.
  • Supplier performance monitoring is entirely reactive.  No objective or comparative measures of performance are established.  Word of mouth and the number of complaints received establish supplier performance.  A supplier with a poor reputation in one department can be considered an excellent supplier by another department.