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Emergency Purchase Orders (POs)

San Bernardino County, CA
Program Year: 2021

The San Bernardino County Purchasing Department had a problem. Wildfires were raging in the 2018-2019 fire season. Goods and services were needed and needed now. Unfortunately, the existing procurement process took a while to wind its way through the SAP financial system’s approval process. This process forced buyers to call approvers to remind them to approve their purchase orders. What if there was a better way?The Purchasing Department met with the County’s SAP Center of Excellence (CoE), the technical staff in charge of the SAP system, to discuss alternatives. They decided together on April 29, 2019 to design a checkbox that would allow Emergency Purchase Orders (EPO) to bypass all the approval paths. Obviously, other staff would monitor the EPOs to ensure abuse did not occur. By May 30, 2019, the new EPO was live.The EPO was to be used for both small and large emergencies alike. However, the COVID-19 pandemic was the ultimate test for the new enhancement. From March 2020 through December 2020, 916 EPOs were created for a total of $130 million. Due to the seriousness and urgency of the goods and services contained within those EPOs, there is no doubt that lives were saved due to this enhancement being put in place before the pandemic began. Though the Emergency Purchase Order project was completed well before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was incredibly useful to purchase needed supplies quickly during the crisis. It likely saved lives by procuring supplies more quickly than would have been available using a traditional purchase order. However, even after this pandemic, more emergencies will occur and will need swift action making this project worthwhile well into the future.

Ms. paulette CA Gomez
Executive Administrative Assistant II