April 25, 2012
Re: Guidance on the Qualified Purchasing Agent Exam and Continuing Education Requirements
The Division of Local Government Services has issued Local Finance Notice 2012-9, which details the regulations regarding the Qualified Purchasing Agent (QPA) exam and continuing education requirements.
P.L. 2009, c. 166 prohibits a municipality from increasing their bid threshold above $17,500 unless they appoint a QPA. However, as noted in our September 23, 2011 Dear Mayor Letter, the Division adopted a temporary rule that permits a municipality with an individual qualified to sit for the QPA examination to increase their bid threshold to $26,000. If your municipality has increased their bid threshold pursuant to this rule, the person who is qualified to sit for the exam must participate and pass the first or second exam administered by the Division. If they do not participate and pass the exam either the first or second time, the municipality’s bid threshold must revert to $17,500 unless a person holding a QPA certificate is appointed as purchasing agent.
The first QPA exam is scheduled for Monday, June 25, 2012 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Mercer County Fire Academy in Lawrenceville. The application must be postmark by May 29, 2012 and submitted with a $150 non-refundable application fee.
Please note that those who currently hold a QPA certification are not subject to the exam requirements but are subject to the continuing education requirements in order to maintain their certification. Anyone whose QPA certificate lapses by failing to renew, will be required to take the exam in order to obtain a new QPA certification. This will apply to all those who hold a QPA certification, regardless when it was originally obtained.
In order to participate in the exam the following requirements must be met:
- U.S. citizenship, high school graduate or equivalent, and a person of good moral character.
- Have at least two years of higher education (60 college credits), and two years of full-time governmental experience performing duties relative to those of public procurement. Additional years of the full-time experience may be substituted for the college requirement on a year for year basis.
- Successfully completed the following courses: Principles of Public Purchasing I, II, and III, and Municipal Finance Administration, or any variant thereof. The statute allows an exemption from the above course requirements to participate in the exam to those who hold a certificate as a Certified Municipal Finance Officer (CMFO), Certified County Finance Officer (CCFO), or Certified County Purchasing Officer (CCPO), issued by the Division
- The Director can require that additional documentation be submitted if deemed necessary.
- The statute provides that applicants who have been performing the duties of a purchasing agent for at least three continuous years prior to the first day of the sixth month following the filing of the rules can participate in the examination without having to meet the above course requirements. The cutoff then for this provision is October 11, 2012. Effectively, this means that such applicants applying for the exam after October 11, 2012, must meet the above course requirements.
- In addition to the above courses, after June 30, 2013, applicants for the exam must also have successfully completed the “green purchasing” course, Environmentally Preferable Procurement. Such course is currently in production with Rutgers.
- The statute provides that those applicants who possess a School Business Administrator (SBA) certificate issued by the Department of Education, and who have performed duties relative to public procurement for at least three years, may apply for a QPA certification, and are exempt from having to meet the exam requirements to obtain the certification.
All QPAs, regardless of how obtained, will be required to complete the Environmentally Preferable Procurement course within four years after it is established. Completion of this course will be required in addition to the meeting the requirements of continuing education. The Division will be providing additional information regarding registering for this course in the future.
All those who hold a QPA certificate will be required to complete 20 contact hours (50 minutes is equivalent to one contact hour) of continuing education every three years in the subject areas of procurement procedures, office administrative/general duties, ethics and information technology. At least 3 hours must be in the subject area of ethics. For certificates issued:
- prior to January 1, 2005 will expire and be due for renewal as of June 30, 2015 and every three years thereafter.
- on or after January 1, 2005 but prior to January 1, 2010 will expire and be due for renewal as of January 1, 2016 and every three years thereafter.
- on or after January 1, 2010 but prior to April 11, 2012 will expire and be due for renewal as of June 30, 2016 and every three years thereafter
- after April 11, 2012 will expire and be due for renewal either on June 30 or December 31, whichever is sooner, at least three years from when they are first issued.
There is a six month grace period beyond an individual’s certification expiration date that is allowed. At this time there is no renewal fee, however, the Division will provide notice once a fee is established.
Pursuant to statute, as previously noted in Local Finance Notices 2011-15 and 2011-16, if the office of the purchasing agent (who holds a QPA certification) becomes vacant, a local contracting unit may appoint a person who does not hold a QPA certification as Temporary Purchasing Agent for one year from the date of the vacancy, and, with permission of the Director, for a second one year appointment. During the term of the appointment of a Temporary Purchasing Agent, a contracting unit’s bid threshold may remain at the maximum amount allowed, provided that the governing body has passed a resolution authorizing such amount.
For additional information on this issue please contact the Division’s Certification Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (609) 292-9757.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.