Procurement Receiving Policy

The following policy provides guidance and instructions to faculty, staff and others with respect to goods and services that require receiving, either prior to or in conjunction with a Purchase Order based payment, in accordance with University policy.


Reason(s) for the Policy

The policy ensures that those goods and services requiring the specified mechanism for receiving and acceptance are identified and that the respective receiving procedure(s) are clearly articulated. The policy is designed to set out the receiving process within the University’s financial system (ARC), the receiving process for select leased equipment, and the receiving process for all other goods and services.  

Primary Guidance to Which this Policy Responds

This policy responds to the University Purchasing policy and requirements associated with restricted commodities, the leasing policy, as well as best practices associated with the acquisition of goods and services.

Responsible University Office

Procurement Services – Purchasing and Accounts Payable

Who Is Governed By This Policy

This policy applies to everyone working at the University, or working on behalf of the University, who plays a role in committing resources, procuring products and services and paying for goods and services at the University.

Who Should Know This Policy

All University employees or others responsible for any aspect of purchasing goods and services on behalf of the University should be familiar with and guided by this policy.


Exclusions & Special Situations

Purchases of animals and animal-related products, without purchase orders,  by the Institute of Comparative Medicine is not governed by this policy, and is covered by ICM policy. Any purchases of animals and animal-related products through a purchase order, by ICM or other University departments, is governed by this policy. 




Receiving/Receipt is a system record of goods and/or services received by Columbia.

Receiving requirements in ARC and in the CU Marketplace:

Receiving in ARC (Non-Catalog purchases)

For all non-catalog orders in ARC, the submission and approval of the corresponding invoice for processing is the confirmation that goods and/or services have been received in good order, no other physical receiving is required.

Receiving in the CU Marketplace (Catalog purchases)

In the CU Marketplace, receiving is required when the line item for an order is equal to or greater than $5000 for all category codes. An email notification will be sent from the CU Marketplace to alert requesters when the item ordered will require receiving. Upon receipt of electronic invoice requesters will be notified that invoice has been received and receiving is required prior to processing.


Guidance as it relates to physical receipts of Goods and Services

Signing For Deliveries

Whenever possible, the person receiving the product should sign the receiving documents

provided by the supplier or shipping company. The person receiving the delivery should

inspect the delivery according to the below section entitled “Inspecting a Shipment” before signing the delivery receipt and should also initial the packing list.


Inspecting a Shipment

Persons receiving shipments should, upon acknowledging receipt of an order, conduct an

inspection to verify the following minimum conditions:

  1. The products conform to the purchase order requirements and other relevant documents (for example: correct model number, description, size, type, color, ratings, etc.)
  2. The quantity ordered against the quantity shipped or delivered.
  3. There is no visible damage or breakage to packing or products.
  4. The unit of measurement count is correct (e.g., if the unit of measurement on the purchase order is one dozen, there should be 12 in the package).
  5. Delivery documentation (packing list, certifications, etc.) is acceptable.
  6. Perishable items are in good condition and expiration dates have not been exceeded
  7. Products are operable or functional.


Matching the Packing List to the Purchase Order

During the inspection process, the department should compare the supplier’s packing list to the purchase order and/or the vendors quote to determine if there are any discrepancies between the documents. At a minimum, the following information should be the same on both the packing list and purchase order or vendor quote:

  1. Purchase Order number
  2. Item or Manufacturer’s part number
  3. Quantity and unit of measure
  4. Description of the products


Product Substitutions and Over-Shipments

Suppliers are not allowed to substitute products ordered without prior written approval from either the department or the Purchasing officer. The Purchasing Office should be notified by the department whenever this occurs.  Suppliers are not allowed to deliver more than the amount ordered without a written amendment to the purchase order.

Failed Inspections

Departments are advised to notify the supplier in writing any failed inspection results discovered during inspection and provide the results to the supplier and the Purchasing Office for appropriate action. When receiving items from freight companies, the number of packages received should match exactly the number on the freight bill. If not, the department should require the driver to write the number of packages received on the bill before signing. Inspect all packages for damage to the outside container. Any visual damage should also be noted on the freight bill before signing. Department should take digital images to document said damage.

In cases of concealed damage, a report should be made by the department immediately to the delivering carrier. The report should include the following information: Freight Bill Number, Purchase Order number, the date of delivery, supplier, and the extent of damage or shortage. In the event of damage, it is essential that the department retain all the original shipping cartons for inspection by a claims adjuster. Interstate Commerce Commission regulations require the university to file damage claims within a specific number of days. Failure to comply could result in the claim being disallowed. Notification upon first discovery is strongly recommended, even if the extent of damage has not yet been determined.


Partial Deliveries

Departments should contact the supplier whenever a purchase is received as a partial delivery without acknowledgement or notification from the supplier. This information is typically noted on the packing list.

1. Return or Rejection of Goods

Product Returns for Credit/Refund

When a supplier has shipped items as specified on a purchase order, they have legally complied with their part of the contract and are under no obligation to accept returned items for credit or refund. Acceptance of a return by a supplier is not automatic; and if accepted, a restocking fee is sometimes charged by the supplier. Restocking fees are paid by the requisitioning department.

When a product is damaged, or is rejected for failing acceptance testing or is not as specified on the Purchase Order, the department should request a Return Authorization (RA) number from the supplier. The shipping label on the returned package must be marked with the Return Authorization Number. Other identifying information should be placed on the outside of the returned package for easy identification when received by the supplier. No item should be returned without prior authorization from the supplier. The Purchasing Office can assist in securing return authorizations, mitigating restocking fees, or obtaining credits/refunds from the supplier.


Testing may be performed by the department to ensure that the products substantially conform to the specifications documented in the purchase order, contract, or supplier’s proposal. Acceptance testing is required for capital equipment leases and is highly recommended for all complex, expensive capital equipment prior to approving payments to the supplier.

An acceptance testing period may occur as a single instance or over a period of time, but should be performed as quickly as possible following the receipt of the product.

For major capital equipment purchases, specific acceptance testing criteria should be developed and incorporated into the contract or lease purchase order. Departments must perform the testing according to the criteria established in the agreement for the results to be considered valid and legally enforceable in the event the product is rejected and payments are to be refunded.


Acknowledging Successful Acceptance Testing

Departments must acknowledge acceptance of products by issuing a written notice of successful acceptance to the supplier and providing copies of the acceptance letter to the Purchasing Office via Email referencing the purchase order number.

2. Receipt of Services


The process for receiving services is in principle the same as the process for tangible goods. It is important to note that the entry of any invoice by the authorized departmental representative represents acknowledgement that the agreed upon services covered by that invoice have been accomplished to the satisfaction of the department.

Departments are responsible for:

  1. Notifying the consultant, contractor, or service technician to begin work once the purchase order has been issued and the service agreement has been signed by both parties.
  2. Monitoring agreement activities for work progress to ensure services are performed according to the quality, quantity, objectives, timeframes and manner as specified within the purchase order and/or agreement
  3. Reviewing progress reports, status reports, and timesheets, as required
  4. Monitoring expenditures, ensuring funding availability when agreement extends over multiple years through change orders
  5. Notifying the Purchasing Contract Officer to request amendments, agreement renewals, or increases in the PO amount as needed
  6. Providing an authorized signature verifying all work is complete and accepted by the department prior to the agreement expiration date and before final payment is made.
  7. Immediately reporting any performance discrepancies or disputes with the supplier to the appropriate Purchasing Contract Officer.
  8. Keeping an accurate, auditable paper trail of financial records and work performed by the consultant, contractor, or service technician.


Departments are not authorized to:

  1. Instruct the consultant, contractor, or service technician to start work before the agreement is fully executed and the purchase order issued.
  2. Change the scope of the agreement without following the formal purchase document amendment process.
  3. Direct the consultant, contractor, or service technician to perform work that is not specifically described in and funded by the agreement.
  4. Extend the time period of the agreement without execution of an approved amendment or purchase order revision.
  5. Allow the consultant, contractor, or service technician to incur any additional costs over the limit set by the agreement.
  6. Sign an agreement unless explicitly authorized by the Columbia Signature Authority Policy.