Can I buy items from any vendor that I wish?
IF the item is a commodity that is required to be bid per state law, you must puchase the item from the contracted vendor UNLESS it is an emergency need and the approved vendor is unable to provide the item in the timeframe required. Documentation that the contract vendor can not provide the item is required.
A list of those commodities that are under contract can be found here.
IF the item is a commodity that is not required to be bid per state law, you may use any vendor.
How is the determination made about whether a commodity must be bid?
The full policy can be found here, but briefly whenever the University (as a whole) purchases items or like-items of $15,000 or more in a fiscal year, we are required to competitively bid the items.
There is a contracted vendor for an item that I wish to purchase, but another vendor has it at a substantially discounted price. Can't I buy it from the cheaper vendor?
Unfortunately, no. Once a vendor has been awarded a contract, you must purchase the item from the contracted vendor. Price can't be used as an "exception" to policy.