Section 24A. With respect to purchases by a board of trustees authorized by section 24, including a purchase by the board of trustees of the University of Massachusetts as authorized by section 13 of chapter 75, a board of trustees and the board of higher education may join together for its purchases with one or more public or private educational institutions for the purpose of forming or joining a cooperative purchasing consortium to be known as the Massachusetts Higher Education Consortium; provided, however, that each such educational institution shall accept sole responsibility for all payments, debts and liabilities due the vendor for its share of such purchases. Said consortium shall be governed by a board of directors elected by its member institutions. Any paid staff of the consortium shall be located on the campus of a public member. Compensation of such staff shall be paid by dues or other consortium income and not by appropriation by the commonwealth; provided, however, that such staff may only enter into purchase agreements that have been procured through public bidding. Said consortium shall publish an annual report of its activities, which report shall include an audited financial statement which shall have been independently audited by a certified public accountant.