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Departmental Buyers Guide

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Business Ethics & Conflict of Interest

Employee Responsibilities

All James Madison University Employees with procurement or procurement transaction approval responsibility shall:

  • Exhibit the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships in order to merit the respect and inspire the confidence of the Commonwealth's agencies and suppliers and the citizens being served.
  • Provide and foster a procurement environment where all business concerns, large or small, majority or minority-owned are afforded an equal opportunity to compete for the Commonwealth's business.
  • Avoid the intent and appearance of unethical or compromising practices in actions, relationships and communications, while also avoiding the appearance of impropriety or any action which might reasonably result in the perception of impropriety.
  • Conduct all procurement activities on behalf of the Commonwealth, obeying all relevant laws and remaining alert of any and all legal ramifications of procurement decisions.
  • Refrain from any private or professional activity that would create a conflict between personal interests and the interests of the Commonwealth as defined in 2.2-3106 and 2.2-4367 et seq. of the Code of Virginia, avoiding any appearance of a conflict and continually evaluating their outside interests which have the potential of being at variance with the best interests of the Commonwealth.
  • Promote positive supplier relationships through professionalism, responsiveness, impartiality and objectivity in all phases of the procurement cycle.
  • Enhance the proficiency and stature of the Commonwealth's purchasing community by adhering to the highest standards of ethical and professional behavior.
  • Give first consideration to the objectives and policies of my institution.
  • Receive consent of originator of proprietary ideas and designs before using them for competitive purchasing purposes.

In addition, James Madison University employees with procurement or procurement transaction approval responsibility shall not:

  • Engage in outside business employment by any outside company that might encroach upon their primary responsibilities as a purchaser of the Commonwealth.
  • Engage in any private or business relationship or activity that could result in a conflict of interest or could reasonably by perceived as a conflict of interest.
  • Lend money or borrow money from any University supplier or potential supplier.
  • Maintain a significant interest in a firm that does business with the University.
  • Provide inside information to prospective bidders/offerors.
  • Accept trips, lodging, meals, or gifts from any supplier.
  • Accept meals, beverages, tickets to entertainment and/or sporting events or any other item which could be construed as having more than a nominal value.
  • Accept employment from any bidder, offeror or vendor with whom the employee dealt in an official capacity concerning procurement transactions for a period of one year from the cessation of employment by the Commonwealth unless the employee or former employee provides written notification to the president of the institution prior to commencement of employment by that bidder, offeror or vendor (Code of Virginia, Section 2.2-4370).

Collusion Awareness

Procurement professionals, and those with buying authority, have a duty to prevent and report collusion between suppliers competing for the Commonwealth’s business. The purpose of the antitrust laws is to promote the free market system in the economy of this Commonwealth by prohibiting restraints of trade and monopolistic practices that decrease competition. The following could be construed as collusive activity or suspected antitrust violations:

  • Any agreement or mutual understanding among competing firms that restrains the natural operation among market forces is suspect
  • Existence of industry price list or price agreement to which suppliers refer in formulating their offers
  • Sudden change from competitive bidding to identical bidding
  • Simultaneous price increases or follow-the-leader pricing
  • Rotation of bids or proposals so that each offeror takes a turn as the low bidder
  • Division of the market so that certain competitors bid low only for contracts led by certain agencies or for contracts in certain areas or on certain products
  • Incidents suggesting direct collusion (Assertion by employees of a supplier, etc. that an agreement to restrain trade exists)

Practices that eliminate or restrict competition usually lead to excessive prices and may warrant criminal, civil, or administrative action by the Commonwealth against the supplier. Procurement personnel are an important source of investigating leads and recognizing possible antitrust or collusion violations. Procurement personnel should be sensitive to indications of unlawful behavior by suppliers. Suspected antitrust or collusive activities shall be reported to the Director of Procurement Services or the Special Assistant Attorney General/University Counsel.

Conflict of Interest

A prohibited conflict of interest arises when a company, in which a University employee or their immediate family has a personal interest in, enters into an agreement with the University. A personal interest is defined as: owning more than 3 percent of the equity in the company or having personal interest worth more than $10,000 annually. In addition, if a family member is employed by a vendor or potential vendor, it is considered a conflict of interest. If an individual involved in the procurement of a good or service can benefit, or have an immediate family member benefit, from doing business with the University it can be seen as a conflict of interest.

If any JMU employee has reason to believe that a personal conflict of interest may exist, it is his/her responsibility to exclude themselves from all business matters relating to the process of evaluating solicitations, negotiating purchase agreements or administering a contract. It is your responsibility to report any potential or actual conflict of interest to Audit Management Services.

Virginia Public Procurement Act, Title 2.2, Subtitle II, Part B, Chapter 43, Article 1, Section 2.2-4300
Code of Virginia, State and Local Government Conflict of Interest Act, 2.1-3100
JMU Policy 1106 - Conflict of Interest

Gifts & Gratuities

Public employees shall not solicit or accept gifts from bidders, offerors, contractors, or sub-contractors. Giveaways at trade fairs which are available to all participants are generally acceptable, if of a nominal value.

JMU Procurement Services recommends to decline any gift offer regardless of dollar value. Meals and food (including "working lunches") are not considered acceptable. The best guidance is to avoid any situation that creates a "perception" to anyone inside or outside the University that the contractor or vendor has an "edge" or "preference" or "extraordinary relationship" with the University. It is always appropriate and typically the best choice to decline an offer or gift when dealing with procurement transactions.

Virginia Public Procurement Act, Title 2.2, Subtitle II, Part B, Chapter 43, Article 1, Section 2.2-4300
JMU Policy 1106 - Conflict of Interest

Personal Purchases

Due to the tax-exempt status of James Madison University, University employees shall not issue purchase orders for personal purchases.

Suppliers are under no obligation to offer discounts to University employees. If they choose to do so, their offer does not obligate the University to do business with them in the future.

University employees should refrain from having personal packages shipped to their business address as it places unnecessary burdens on receiving personnel and JMU Mail Services.

University employees may not use University contracts for personal purchases these contracts are to be used for official business. Purchases for the University can’t be shipped to a home address.

The Commonwealth of Virginia does occasionally manage/offer a separate program offering discounts to employees of the Commonwealth. JMU Procurement Services has no involvement in the formulation of those discounts nor is the University to be considered a party to any transactions resulting from such discounts. JMU does work with Abenity for additional employee discounts. Those transactions of a personal nature are taxable.