Over the past two hundred years, the purchasing function of the City of Baltimore has been performed in many diverse ways, each agency originally having the authority to place their requirement orders as they saw fit.
In a special session of the Board of Estimates on September 4, 1913, the then Comptroller, Mr. James F. Thrift, received permission to appoint Mr. Charles Wilson to the position of Purchasing Agent.
An article appearing in the publication "MUNICIPAL JOURNAL" stated that: "The new Storekeeper’s Department to be put into operation in 1914 has been established. This promises to be a money—saver to the City as the result of systematized and standardized buying of supplies in bulk instead of by individual departmental action. The establishment of such a bureau has been a hobby of the Mayor, he considers it - business-like."
A subsequent article describes an apparent "first inventory" in the City, conducted by Mr. Wilson, showing the various agencies having approximately $162,815.00 worth of common items scattered throughout their warehouses, as of March 1, 1914.
An especially appointed committee had reported on the standardization of certain materials and that on and after May 15, 1914, all departments of the city would be required to purchase the following materials from the Storekeepers’ supply:
Long-handled shovels; Short handled shovels; Picks; Pick handles; Lanterns and globes; Nails, all weights; Soap, all grades; Corn brooms; Mops and handles; Rattan Brooms, 16 inches; Toilet Paper
The first official request for sealed proposals for General Supplies by the Storekeeper was formally advertised to be opened on July 15, 1914, for paints, oils, soap, pipe and pipe fittings.
A subsequent article appeared in the Journal giving a summary of the last six month’s activity for the City’s Storekeeper’s Department, which under an expansion role had saved the City approximately $2,246.09 on purchases made in the last five months and with a new form introduced during this period, an additional $432.89 saved in discounting of bills.
At that time the Storekeeping Department consisted of: the Storekeeper, one driver, and one laborer: the total annual salary was $2,444.00.
In July 1913, the Mayor informed all department heads that he was having the Storekeeper report directly to him to assure their compliance with the new procedures.
In 1916, the Board of Estimates appointee Mr. Philip W. Tucker, City Purchasing Agent, reporting directly to the Board of Awards, and requiring that all contracts for $500.00 and over be subject to the Board of Awards’ approval and that they must be solicited competitively. The Board of Awards was to exercise supervisory control over smaller purchases which must be processed through the City Purchasing Agent.
In April, the City Purchasing Agent introduced the use of the Daily Bulletin System of posting prominently in the City Hall, the requirements of certain commodities, and the specific days of their purchase. In June of the same year, the Mayor appointed a select committee to standardize the City’s common item requirements.
1918 saw the preparation and acceptance of the revisions to the City Charter including the formulation of the bidding procedures which for the most part, prevailed to date.
The purchasing functions continued under the aegis of the Board of Awards until 1927 when it was recreated as a separate agency titled "The Central Purchasing Bureau".
As a result of the 1964 revision of the City Charter, which redefined the City’s General Powers (Art. I), it also created the Department of Finance.
The Bureau of Purchases was then made a responsibility of the Department of Finance, by empowering the Director — "to appoint such assistants and employees as may be provided for in the Ordinances of Estimates and shall perform the duties and exercise the powers which are herein or may hereafter be imposed or conferred upon the Department of Finance."
This has been the authority for the origin of the Bureau of Purchases as it now exists, through various Charter amendments.
The provisions of the City Charter Article VII, chapter 14, sub-paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) which relate to Purchasing, in essence, conveys the authority (Laws of Agencies) that are now being exercised by the Department of Finance and the delegation of those powers and duties as outlined by the Director, were passed on to the Bureau of Purchases. It is under these that the Bureau of purchases now functions."
Excerpt from "A Brief Resume of the History of the Bureau of Purchases," Bureau of Purchases Manual, Systems and Procedures" 1988.