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Please Read Carefully
Purchasing Department Mission
State and Federal Purchasing Law Requirements
Gifts and Gratuities
Sales Tax Status
Commitment to Diversity
Small Business Development
Pre-Planning Material Requirements
Selection of Suppliers
The Purchasing Process
Banner Purchase Requisition
Limited Purchase Orders
Blanket Purchase Orders
Direct Pay Request Forms
Alabama Vendor Disclosure Statement
Cancellation of Orders
Conflict of Interest
Allowable and Unallowable Purchasing Expenditures
The primary purpose of the University of South Alabama (USA) Purchasing Department is to work with faculty, staff and students in identifying, selecting, and acquiring needed materials and services. This is to be done as economically as possible and within accepted standards of quality and service using professional ethics and best business practices, and while obtaining the best value for the total cost while minimizing risk to USA.
Policies and procedures have been developed to allow for purchases to be made in a timely and organized manner that provides for essential accountability of institutional expenditures. The Purchasing Department is charged with the responsibility and authority to commit the University to purchases as delegated by the Vice President for Financial Affairs, the President of the University and the University Board of Trustees.
The Purchasing staff is prepared to assist members of the USA community in the following ways:
- Provide cooperative interaction between the Purchasing staff and suppliers, members of the faculty, staff and students.
- Assist in the acquisition of goods and services via creation of purchase orders and preparation of competitive bid specifications.
- Encourage fair and open competition among suppliers through competitive bidding in accordance with the Alabama Competitive Bid Law http://www.examiners.state.al.us/.
- Ensure that purchase orders and contracts contain all necessary terms and conditions to insulate USA against legal liability.
- Develop and maintain adequate procedures, controls, records and files.
- Ensure that the highest purchasing standards and ethics are maintained and up-to-date industry practices are applied.
Please be sure to acquaint yourself with the policies and procedures outlined in this manual. It is our goal to provide assistance and service. When the requirement for goods and services arises, you are encouraged to contact the Purchasing Department at (251) 460-6151. The Purchasing Department is committed to providing resources required to support the needs of the entire USA faculty and staff. These resources can be maximized through the application of sound purchasing practices.
Robert M. Brown
USA is a diverse and vibrant public university, is making a difference in the lives of the people of Alabama and the nation through teaching, research, service and health care. USA offers a wide range of high-quality undergraduate and graduate academic programs, and the USA Health System, which includes the College of Medicine, USA Physicians and USA Hospitals, provides state-of-the-art health care and medical education.
The USA Purchasing Department is responsible for the procurement of a wide range of products and services in support of the various activities on the campus. This brochure serves to provide guidelines regarding the procedures for conducting business with USA.
The Purchasing Department is located in the Administration Building, 307 University Blvd., Room AD-245, Mobile, Alabama 36688-0002. Business hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Company representatives will be seen by appointment only.
Any qualified business may register to become a potential vendor for USA. The Purchasing Department has numerous contracting and individual order opportunities available across a wide variety of product and service commodity codes. Companies that desire to register with the Purchasing Department should complete the Vendor Registration Form available at:
PURCHASING DEPARTMENT MISSION
As a part of the USA Division of Financial Affairs, the Purchasing Department serves as a support function to the University's overall mission. The primary goal of the department is to provide for timely and accurate service to University employees and departments while ensuring that all University purchasing functions are performed in accordance with applicable state and federal laws. The Purchasing Department is charged with the responsibility of ordering all supplies, equipment and services necessary for the operation of USA. It is also a channel through which the University deals with prospective sellers. The process starts with the user department and ends with the Accounts Payable Department.
STATE AND FEDERAL PURCHASING LAW REQUIREMENTS
As a state institution, USA is subject to the requirements of the State of Alabama Competitive Bid Law. Section 41-16-20 of the Alabama Competitive Bid Law requires that, with the exception of contracts for public works whose competitive bidding requirements are governed exclusively by Title 39, all contracts of whatever nature for labor, services, work, or for the purchase or lease of materials, equipment, supplies, or other personal property, involving fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000.00) or more, made by or on behalf of any state entity, board, bureau, commission, committee, institution, corporation, authority, or office shall, except as otherwise provided within this article, be let by free and open competitive bidding, on sealed bids, to the lowest responsible bidder. USA’s policy requires bidding for all purchases of $5,000 or more.
The requesting of bids is a recognized and accepted means of ensuring effective competition among suppliers, and the University will generally receive greater discounts and better service through competitive bidding. Analysis of bids is a means by which the total cost of ownership of the item is determined. It is the responsibility of the Purchasing Department to issue, control, and analyze supplier bids/quotations/proposals. The requisitioning department is responsible for defining quantity, specifications, delivery date, and all other pertinent information essential to proper purchase and can assist in determining the lowest responsible bidder when required. The requisitioning department should also suggest sources, when known, especially for unusual or unique items. Awards resulting from a competitive bid must be approved by the Purchasing Agent.
Departments should allow from two (2) to three (3) weeks for the competitive bid process to occur, depending upon the type of requirement(s). Construction/Public Works bidding valued in excess of $50,000.00 will require additional bidding time for required advertising.
The competitive bidding process is required prior to the processing of requisitions and issuance of purchase orders.
Most competitive bids are posted in the Purchasing Department lobby and on the USA Purchasing website located at:
USA is also authorized to utilize all State of Alabama and consortium contracts when it is advantageous. Whenever possible, USA faculty and staff are to utilize the state contracts for their purchases. Access to information regarding active state contracts can be obtained at:
GIFTS AND GRATUITIES
Employees who are responsible for the procurement of goods and services for the University are prohibited from accepting personal gifts, services, gratuities, or other benefits of any value.
To ensure prompt payment of invoices, it is necessary that vendors follow the instructions on every order. All invoices must reference the purchase order number. The item description, quantity and unit prices must appear as shown on the purchase order or its latest amendment. Vendors are required to submit their invoices with a valid purchase order number to The University of South Alabama, Accounts Payable Department, Room 80, Administration Building, Mobile, Alabama 36688-0002.
SALES TAX STATUS
USA is exempt from Alabama state sales tax pursuant to AL Code 40-23-4 (a) (11). This exemption also generally applies to Alabama city and county sales taxes. Other taxes, such as taxes on lodging and rentals or personal property, may apply.
COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY
USA is committed to the goal of non-discrimination and to giving fair consideration for all vendors in its procurement programs while providing efficient and cost-effective acquisition of quality goods and services. USA's Minority/Women Owned Procurement Program exists to ensure that small, women-owned, and minority-owned firms have full opportunity to compete for the USA's business. The Minority/Women Owned Procurement Program serves as a liaison between the vendor community and all University staff with procurement responsibilities.
To learn more about the University’s Minority/Women Owned Procurement Program visit:
SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
The USA Purchasing Department actively works to support the University's commitment to provide equal opportunities through contracting and individual order opportunities for small businesses. Purchasing makes every effort to ensure that the University includes the maximum practical number of small businesses in the competitive bidding process. The Purchasing Department seeks to maximize the opportunity for small business participation through the development of mutually-beneficial business relationships, while also educating the University community about USA’s goals in this area.
The Purchasing Department is maintained within the University to fulfill the purchasing function. Authority and responsibility for the organization of this area is assigned to the University Controller. To ensure that University objectives are met and that specific needs of end users are recognized and served, responsibility and authority for purchases of all commodities are delegated to the USA Purchasing Agent, although various other individuals in the Purchasing Department may often have communication with suppliers, contractors, and vendors.
Requests to commit USA funds for materials or services valued at less than $1,000.00 should be processed via Limited Purchase Orders. Requests to commit University funds for materials or services valued in excess of $1,000 should be processed via Banner requisitions, form FPAREQN. Construction-related contracts may only be approved by the University Treasurer or the Vice President for Financial Affairs.
Firms doing business with the University are aware of this policy and have been advised that all purchases chargeable to the University of South Alabama must be authorized by a designated University official.
Main Office: 307 University Blvd., Mobile, AL 36688-0002
Main Phone: (251) 460-6151
Fax: (251) 414-8291
Hours of Service: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Internet: Purchasing Homepage -
Purchasing Department Forms
Limited Purchase Order
Issued by Purchasing to vendor, department, and
Request for Limited
Partial Receiving Report
Direct Pay Request
Copier Placement Request
PRE-PLANNING MATERIAL REQUIREMENTS
The need for departments to evaluate well in advance their supply and equipment needs cannot be over-emphasized. The time required for Purchasing to issue an order and secure delivery after receiving a properly prepared requisition varies greatly. Workload at any given time within the Purchasing Department is also a factor. Delivery always depends upon the supplier’s stock and/or availability in securing delivery from suppliers.
Submission of requisitions well in advance of the required delivery date is encouraged. USA purchasing policy requires that all equipment and supply requirements in excess of five-thousand dollars ($5,000.00) be competitively bid prior to placing an order (Refer to Competitive Bidding Guidelines). In most cases, this process is accomplished within two (2) to three (3) weeks, depending upon the requirement. When requisitioning items that are used repetitively, specify the largest possible quantity (within bid law requirements) and as many items as possible from common sources of supply. There should be no need to designate repetitively used items as “emergencies” if departmental requirements are properly planned.
SELECTION OF SUPPLIERS
It is the responsibility of the campus department to select sources of supply, although the final approval is designated to the Purchasing department. Orders resulting from competitive bids must be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder unless approval to do otherwise is granted by the Purchasing Agent. Suppliers should be selected for their ability to serve the needs of USA in an economical and efficient manner on a continuing basis. Past performance of suppliers and cooperation with USA are important factors in supplier selection.
The Purchasing Department is committed to assisting departments in the evaluation of new suppliers, including small, women-owned, disadvantaged and minority suppliers. The Purchasing Department will follow a department’s recommendation as much as possible. If a department requests a specific supplier with no substitutions, adequate justification should accompany the requisition for consideration.
Purchasing Department retains all original bid-related documents for an appropriate time period as required by Alabama State Law. In most cases, original bid files shall not be allowed to leave the department area.
THE PURCHASING PROCESS
The purpose of this section of the manual is to explain the major steps in the procurement process. It is suggested this section be reviewed before completing a Banner purchase requisition. If any step in the process is not clear or if circumstances are unusual, please contact the Purchasing Department (6-6151) for assistance. The following represent the basic steps in the general procurement process:
Banner Purchase Requisition
A Banner purchase requisition is used to initiate the procurement of all supplies, equipment and services valued in excess of $1,000.00 that are required to support the University community. The requisition is prepared by the requisitioner and is forwarded to the Purchasing Department via a series of electronic approval queues that are administered by the Purchasing Department. The complete Banner Requisition process is accomplished as follows:
- Requisitioner completes an electronic purchase requisition via the Banner System. The electronic data file is sent to a series of Banner electronic approval queues for approval/disapproval by designated University officials.
- Approvers review the electronic requisition data files verifying account numbers, sufficient fund balance, purchasing policy compliance, and state bid law compliance (Purchasing only) in Banner form FOAUAPP. If all documentation is acceptable, a purchase order is issued.
- Purchasing Department issues a purchase order. Encumbrance takes place immediately upon entry of the order into the Banner System.
- Copies of the resulting purchase order are forwarded to the vendor, department, and USA Accounts Payable. Requisitioners are responsible for reviewing their copy of the purchase order for accuracy as soon as it is received. If there are any errors, please contact the Purchasing Department as soon as possible so the appropriate corrective action(s) can be taken. Purchasing will not be responsible for any incorrect information on the purchase order, or any costs associated with an incorrect order.
- The supplier ships the material to the using department and sends an invoice to the Accounts Payable Department.
- When the material arrives, it is checked by the using department against the receiving copy of the purchase order. The receiving copy is then signed and forwarded to Accounts Payable (AD-260). If only a portion of the ordered goods or services are received, the receiver will process a Partial Receiving Report, which must accompany the purchase order receiving copy when forwarded to Accounts Payable.
- Accounts Payable compares receiving information to the invoice information and, if they agree in quantity and price, payment is issued to the supplier.
The purchase order is the usual instrument by which goods are procured to fill a requirement. It is the seller’s authority to ship and invoice for the goods specified on the order. It is a legal instrument which expresses the buyer’s part of a contract of sale. Once accepted, it has the legal force of a binding contract.
Purchase orders are issued by the Purchasing Department as soon as possible after receipt of properly completed requisitions. Orders can also be faxed to suppliers upon request.
It is the requisitioner’s responsibility to check the copy of the purchase order for accuracy as soon as it is received. If there are any errors, please contact the Purchasing Department as soon as possible so the appropriate corrective action(s) can be taken. Purchasing will not be responsible for any incorrect information on the purchase order.
Note: Blanket purchase orders are processed in the same manner as regular Banner purchase orders and are issued to suppliers for expendable supplies and services where the unit price of the item(s) or service(s) has been established by agreement or bid. Blanket orders are typically issued for a period of one year. In most cases, a contract or service agreement will need to be issued in conjunction with the blanket purchase order.
Direct Pay Request Form
Purchase orders are to be used in all purchasing situations. However, if the option to use a purchase order is not provided by the supplier, then a Direct Pay Request form may be used.
Direct Pay Request forms are available from the USA Purchasing Department web site link.
The only types of purchases to be made on Direct Pay Request forms, provided the option to use a purchase order is not available, are those listed below. All other purchases of goods and services must be made by procurement card or purchase orders.
Items authorized for direct pay acquisition:
- Magazines or journal subscriptions
- Registration fees for approved courses, conferences, symposiums, etc.
- Advance payments
- Payment of scholarships, refunds, loans and allowances
- Other items as approved by the University Controller
The supplier invoice or receipt is required prior to preparation and processing of the Direct Pay Request.
**Transactions cannot be split to avoid the need for competitive bidding or to exceed stated LPO limits.
Alabama Vendor Disclosure Statement
Act 2001-955 requires a disclosure statement to be completed and filed with all proposals, bids, contracts, or grant proposals to the State of Alabama in excess of $5,000.00. The disclosure statement is not required for contracts for gas, water, and electric services where no competition exits, or where rates are fixed by law or ordinance. In circumstances where a contract is awarded by competitive bid, the disclosure statement shall be required only from the person receiving the contract and shall be submitted within ten (10) days of the award.
Alabama Vendor Disclosure Statements are available at:
Special procedures must be followed for the procurement of copying equipment. All copying equipment is to be procured (rented, leased, or purchased) with authorization from the USA Purchasing Department via Copier Placement Form available at:
Special steps must be taken when processing Banner requisitions for the purchase of computers. The manufacturer’s model or part number must be indicated in the description field in form FPAREQN, accompanied by either a quotation number or a complete list of applicable specifications.
State Contract Purchases
The State of Alabama Division of Purchasing routinely establishes contracts for a wide variety of goods and services that can be utilized by all USA departments. All contracts are the result of a competitive bid issued by the State of Alabama Division of Purchasing. University departments are to utilize these contracts whenever possible. When processing a purchase requisition for goods or services in accordance with one of the established contracts, the contract number must be indicated in the body of the requisition to ensure proper and accurate processing.
All active contracts can be reviewed by visiting the State of Alabama Division of Purchasing website located at:
The declaration of a "sole source" purchase must be exercised judiciously and always with good faith. The following guidelines must be applied and all criteria met when a declaration is made.
"Sole source" - A good's or service's "uniqueness" alone cannot qualify the producer or supplier of the good or service as a "sole service" of a good or service under Alabama's competitive bidding laws. To so qualify, the good or service offered must be unique; that uniqueness must be substantially related to the intended purpose, use and performance of the good or service sought; the department seeking to declare a "sole source" must show that other similar goods or services cannot perform the desired objectives of the goods or services being indicated as sole source.
A purchase order is a binding contract between the University and the supplier. Caution must be taken when canceling an order. Any request to modify or cancel an order or contract should be directed to the Purchasing Department in writing. The Purchasing Department will then act in cooperation with the department in the best interest of the University and advise all parties accordingly.
Generally, a supplier will agree to a request for cancellation if the items have not been shipped. The department may be held responsible for any material shipped by a supplier or costs of fabricated items incurred prior to cancellation.
If it becomes necessary to make any change to the original purchase order, a change order can be initiated by the Purchasing Department upon request. The requesting department will issue notification to the supplier if required.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Only the highest ethical principles are to be employed by all persons involved in the procurement process. It is the responsibility of each member of the USA faculty and staff and of the Purchasing Department to take all appropriate steps to assure that the University does not knowingly enter into a purchase commitment which could result in a conflict of interest situation. A conflict of interest exists when some factor (financial or personal interest in a supplier) interferes or appears to interfere with or influence a departmental requestor’s ability and duty to be completely impartial and loyal to USA’s interests.
ALLOWABLE AND UNALLOWABLE PURCHASING EXPENDITURES
Authoritative guidance governing University expenditures
- Alabama Code – Section 93 of the Constitution of Alabama
- Attorney General’s opinions
- General rule of thumb – expenditures that serve and further the University’s purpose and mission
Definition of state money
- Any funds controlled by the University (state budgeted, self-generated, private gifts, athletics). Agency funds are NOT considered to be ‘controlled by the University.’
- For purchased good – requisitions, invoices, evidence of receipt of item
- For expenditures related to gatherings, meetings, etc – In addition to documentation listed above, lists of attendees (internal and external), agendas, where meeting was held, whether food or refreshments were served, and business purpose of gathering.
Purchase of multiple like items – bid law perspective
- All like items purchased in any one fiscal year are aggregated for determination of the applicability of the state bid law
Rules for students are generally more liberal than for employees:
Memberships and dues
- Generally allowable if they are necessary to the business of the University and advance the purpose or mission of the University
- Multiple years’ dues to organizations can be paid, if they are in the name of the University OR are transferable to other individuals
- Expenses for membership in peripheral organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and similar organizations where such membership is related to the purchaser’s role in the University and a clear benefit to the University can be established are allowed.
Flowers, greeting cards, gifts, etc.
- Generally not allowed
- Flowers for funerals not allowed
- Flowers for University functions (decorative, table, etc) are allowed
- Flowers purchased for public areas are allowed
- Flowers purchased to be given to senior students at a public recognition venue are allowable.
- Christmas decorations are allowed if they remain the property of the University and are usable from year-to-year (artificial trees are OK, live trees are not OK)
- Christmas/Holiday cards – not allowed
- Recognition/appreciation plaques – not allowed
- Service pins/Retiree gifts – not allowed
- Items (low individual cost such as cups, t-shirts, etc.) purchased to be given away (to groups including donors, companies, general public, students and employees) for public relations or promotional purposes are allowable.
- Non-medical items to be given away to patients are allowable if such items are deemed to be helpful in the care or treatment of the patient.
- Tokens of appreciation to employees for assisting the University with the evaluation of a program or other activity – not allowed
- Tokens of appreciation to non-employees for assisting the University with the evaluation of a program or other activity – allowed
- An employee or student group cannot make any donation to a charitable organization regardless of how the funds donated were procured.
Miscellaneous office equipment and furnishings
- Refrigerators – allowed
- Microwave ovens – allowed
- Ice makers for break room - allowed
- Stoves/Toaster ovens – allowed
- Coffee pots – not allowed
- Heaters/fans for individual offices – not allowed
- Televisions for break room – not allowed
- Televisions for individual office where the use of such television is relevant to the individual’s official function – allowed
- Virtually all purchases of office furniture must be either purchased off of the state contract,consortium contract, USA Bookstore, or competitively bid.
Coffee, water, soft drinks for offices
- Coffee for offices – not allowed
- Coffee purchased for area where there are a large number of guests (e.g., President’s Office, patient areas) is allowed, but only to the extent it is consumed by non-University employees
- Bottled (small) water – not allowed
- Soft drinks – not allowed
- Large bottled water - allowed
Home Internet Upgrades
- Home connections and upgrades are allowed if they are ONLY used for work purposes – in most cases, however, the burden of proof for such expenditures is very high and the expenditure should be considered risky.
Sponsorship of meetings
- Generally not allowed unless payment is for advertising or marketing and advertising benefit is commensurate with the sponsorship amount
- Advertisements in high school athletic event programs are allowable if the purpose of such advertisements is the recruiting of students to the University or a specific program of the University.
- Generally allowable if for publications which support the work of the employee
- Multi-year subscriptions are allowable if financially advantageous and if the subscription is in the name of the University (Multi-year subscriptions in the employee’s name are not allowable.)
Sales tax (reimbursement of sales tax to individuals)
- Generally not allowed
- Allowed for travel
- Allowed if ONLY means of purchase was use of personal credit card or cash/checks and such use is documented
- Tickets to post season athletic events may be purchased for certain individuals constituting the travel party for the institution. The travel party includes athletic department representatives engaged in the event and their spouses; direct policy makers of the University and their spouses; and the athletic squad and their spouses. Spousal tickets and travel are generally taxable to the employee
Tables at awards programs (alumni, etc)
- Generally allowable if held on campus (even if wine is served at the dinner and if a portion of the ticket represents a deductible contribution to the group sponsoring the event)
- Generally non allowable if held at an off campus site
- Generally not allowable
- Generally allowable for meeting IF meeting extends through a meal time
- Lunches for meetings are allowed if the meeting reasonably wraps around the lunch hour. (e.g., meeting time of 10 am until 2 pm is allowable – 11 am until 1 pm is not allowable.) The meal should not be the first thing or the last thing at the meeting.
- Consultants, advisers, faculty presenters can be taken to lunch by University personnel and those meals can be reimbursed. Documentation should include who attended and what business purpose was served by the lunch
- Refreshments for meetings involving outside individuals are allowable but only for the outside individuals
- Refreshments for meetings involving only University employees at their base are not allowed
- Expenses related to a reception for the University, or a component of the University, for fund raising purposes that included donors, alumni or other outside groups AND employees are allowable
- A luncheon held to celebrate the end of a fund raising event (e.g. annual fund) for University employees is allowable.
- Refreshments for student gatherings are generally allowable unless the students are under the employment of the University (e.g., purchase of refreshments for students who are performing [and getting paid for] work for the University is not allowed.)
- Alcoholic beverages, for any reason, are not allowable
- Food expenses for a quarterly medical staff meeting held from 5-7 pm due for the convenience of physician schedules are allowable.
- Meals for spouses of University employees attending recruiting dinners can be reimbursed if the spouse of the recruit is present
- Meals for spouses of University employees attending recruiting dinners cannot be reimbursed if the spouse of the recruit is not present
- Even if the recruit is female and the USA employee is male and the recruit is uncomfortable going to dinner with just the employee, expenditure for the employee’s wife is not allowable
- Reimbursement can be made when spouses of employees entertain spouses of recruits even when the recruit is not present.
Travel and Entertainment
- When a trip is booked through an online agency (e.g., Orbitz) and the receipt does not breakdown the detail components of travel (air, car rental, meals, etc), documentation should be provided to support that the total cost paid the agency is less than it would have been had the components been purchased separately.
- Hotel internet connections are allowed only if they are required for business purposes.
- In-room movies or other entertainment as a part of athletic or other student travel is allowable.
- Fuel used in a personal vehicle is allowable, but is limited to the reimbursement the employee would have received had the employee been reimbursed under the standard mileage rate. When fuel is purchased for a personal vehicle, the employee should not also request the standard mileage reimbursement.
- Retirement parties or retirement gifts are not allowable.
- Employee service recognition program expenses (medallions, pins, expenses related to the event) are not allowable.
- A reception for non-employees assisting the University with a specific project or program is allowable but only if the reception is held on the University campus.
- Local travel is reimbursable (except for home to base or base to home trips)
- Travel reimbursement from home to work on week-ends and holidays is not allowable
- The employee’s base is defined as his/her primary work site. Travel from home directly to a work destination other than the employee’s base is reimbursable at the lesser of the ‘base to work destination’ mileage or the ‘home to work destination’ mileage.
- An employee who becomes ill while traveling on official business of the University is unable to come home for a period of time may incur additional expenses associated with the extended lodging. Such expenditures are allowable and may be reimbursed.
- For travel booked through agencies other that the University contracted agency (for appropriate purposes), travel insurance is an allowable purchase.
- Attendee conferences held on cruise ships are an allowable expense [there is specific information required for these expenses to be non-taxable to the employee.]
- Conferences outside the North American area are an allowable expense [there are certain specific requirements that must be met for this reimbursement to be non-taxable to the employee.]
- The cost of cancelled travel tickets is an allowable expense if there is a valid, documented reason for not being able to travel
Applicable AG Opinions
- 2001-129 – Flower expenditures
- 21999-00112 – Awards and plaques
- 2003-137 – Meals and refreshments
- 2004-168 – Meals and refreshments
- 2002-221 – Meals and refreshments
- 2007-64 – Promotional items for give away
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