An overview on what a consultant is (and is not), and instructions on processing consultant agreements.
We recommend that you review this page prior to setting up a Consultant Agreement and refer back to it as needed. We have also created a Consultant Agreement: Best Practice Checklist to ensure that a Consultant Agreement is processed as expeditiously as possible.
- A consultant is an individual with professional or technical expertise who is not employed by the university; the university does not control the manner of performance or the results of the service provided by the consultant.
- A consultant's role is to evaluate a client's needs and to provide expert advice and opinions to management to solve an administrative problem.
- The end result of a Consultant Agreement is typically a recommended course of action via written or oral communication directed at administration or management.
This role stands opposed to that of an Independent Contractor, who generally evaluates the client's needs and actually performs the work. A contractor might provide services such as interviewing staff, providing a work plan including a strategic plan, hosting and organizing meetings, and various other tasks. These are considered services, not consulting.
NOTE: Section 10515 of the California Public Contract Code strictly limits a Consultant’s ability to perform services, procure goods or supplies, or take any action related to Consultant’s findings and recommendations pursuant to this agreement. If you believe the Consultant should complete specific tasks that may result from the outcome of their review, please inform Business & Revenue Contracts when your original request for an agreement is submitted. Competitive bid requirements also apply; if not competitively bid, Business & Revenue Contracts has an obligation to document that the price to be paid is fair and reasonable.
Please see the Business & Revenue Contracts and Services Team Manual for additional information.
Service Agreement or Consultant Agreement?
- Service Agreement: almost always established in support of a pre-existing product that addresses a well-defined need.
Service Agreements encompass both independent contractors and goods. Services are generally available commercially and are skilled/technical in nature.
Example: You might set up a Service Agreement for a new software purchase or laboratory equipment. The Service Agreement might include regular maintenance, on-call help and support for the product.
- Consultant Agreement: usually results in the customer receiving advice and counsel without necessarily getting any tangible deliverables (other than a report or other documentation advising a particular course of action).
As mentioned above, consultants should not be current employees of the University of California. There are also restrictions on the amount of time that must pass before a former employee of the University of California can be considered for a consultant Agreement. A consultant should be selected based on their professional qualifications and experience for the requested work. Please note that the Business and Revenue Contracts unit will make the final determination as to the selection of the consultant.
Document and Attachments
Either a purchase agreement or requisition document is completed in the Kuali Financial System (KFS):
- Requisition should be completed if the final cost and timeline of the consultation work to be performed is known. Example: 14 total hours of consultation work at $50/hour.
- Purchase Agreement citing Agreement Type of Blanket Agreement should be completed if the final cost and timeline is not yet determined; for example, the work may continue for a variable amount of time and the final cost will be based on the amount of time that work takes to complete. Example: Rate of $50/hour to review and advise on best course of action for new plumbing system, total number of hours not known at time of agreement set-up. Note: A Not To Exceed Amount is required to be entered on the Purchase Agreement document. Even if the final cost may not be known, a reasonable amount to be spent should be entered in the Not To Exceed Amount field.
Whether a requisition or purchase agreement is used, it is important that the correct commodity code is cited. Using Commodity Code 80101500 is critical for proper reporting and documentation purposes.
Although a consultant is not the same thing as a contractor in terms of the services/work performed, the Independent Contractor Form is to be completed for all Consultant Agreement requests and should be electronically attached to the Notes and Attachments section of your KFS document.
If the cost of a consultant is $15,000 or higher, three (3) price quotes must be included with your KFS document and should be electronically attached to the Notes and Attachments section. The Request for Quotation form can be used if desired.
Defining Scope, Timelines, and Deliverables
The payment terms, billing rate, invoice frequency, description of service, and any reimbursable expenses should be clearly stated in the Description field of the Items section on the requisition or the Description field of the Agreement Details section of the Purchase Agreement.
Any future work should be described in the original agreement as there is a California Public Contract Code prohibition against “follow-on work”. Good contract management includes forecasting the entire length of a project and its associated costs so as to avoid going over required public bidding thresholds.
Evaluating Cost Proposals
When reviewing/evaluating cost proposals from consultants, the lowest overall cost should be a driving factor. One consultant may charge a lower price per hour, but may not have as much expertise/experience in the area for which they are consulting compared to another consultant. If the lower-priced consultant will need three times as much time to provide their recommendation, it might be better to go with a higher-priced consultant with more relevant experience that will generate a recommendation more quickly.
Payments can be monitored against consultant agreements in two different places:
- Kuali Financial System: on the home page, in the Purchasing/Accounts Payable section, in the Lookups section, click the Payment Request link. Use the criteria you have to locate the payment, such as the requisition number, purchase order number, or the vendor number.
- FIS Decision Support (DS): use the KFS Payment/Credit Lookup (401) to locate payments. Use the purchasing order number field to see all payments issued against that PO. You can also schedule the 401 query to email an updated report at regular intervals based on your preferences. This is a great way to ensure that you stay on top of the payment activity!