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research

published & FortHCOMING papers

“Supplier Selection and Contract Enforcement: Evidence from Performance Bonding

(previously circulated under the title “Can the Private Sector Ensure the Public Interest? Evidence from Federal Procurement”)

with G. Rovigatti
Journal of Economics & Management Strategy (2022)

We analyze an important but little-studied institution for balancing supply risk in the management of procurement operations: performance bonding. By adding the surety as a third party that guarantees contract fulfillment between supplier and buyer, performance bonding aims to streamline the purchasing process by influencing both contractor selection in the bidding phase and contract enforcement during project execution. Using the data on US government procurement from 2005 to 2015 and exploiting an exogenous variation in the threshold for its application to construction contracts, we find that performance bonding improves contract outcomes by 9 and 4.2 percent in terms of delays and extra costs, respectively. Net of bond premia, which by law are included in the award amounts, this effect translates into a savings of about 4 percent in the budget for federal construction projects and 16 percent for mid-size projects. We provide suggestive evidence on the effectiveness of selection and monitoring by sureties as driving channels.

SIEP Prize

Best unpublished paper written by author(s) under the age of thirty-five presented at the XXIX SIEP Conference

This study provides the first quantification of buyers’ role in the outcome of R&D procurement contracts. We combine together four data sources on US federal R&D contracts, follow-on patented inventions, federal public workforce characteristics, and perception of their work environment. By exploiting the observability of deaths of federal employees, we find that managers’ death events negatively affect innovation outcomes: a 1 percent increase in the share of relevant public officer deaths causes a decline of 32.3 percent of patents per contract, 20.5 percent patent citations per contract and 34.3 percent patent claims per contract. These effects are driven by the deaths occurring in the six months before the contract is awarded, thereby indicating the relevance of the design and award stage relative to ex-post contract monitoring. Lower levels of self-reported within-office cooperation also negatively impact R&D outcomes. 

“Bureaucratic Competence and Procurement Outcomes” 

with F. Decarolis, E. Iossa, V. Mollisi, G. Spagnolo

The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization (2020) 

To what extent does a more competent public bureaucracy contribute to better economic outcomes? We address this question in the context of the US federal procurement of services and works, by combining contract-level data on procurement performance and bureau-level data on competence and workforce characteristics. We use the death occurrences of specific types of employees as instruments and find that an increase in bureau competence causes a significant and economically important reduction in: i) time delays, ii) cost overruns, and iii) number of renegotiations. Cooperation within the office appears to be a key driver of the findings.

research

Working Papers

“Procuring Survival”

with M. Cappelletti and G. Rovigatti

R&R, Journal of Industrial Economics

We investigate the impact of public procurement on business survival. Using Italy as a laboratory, we construct a large-scale dataset of firms—covering balance-sheet, income-statement, and administrative records—and match it with public contract data. Employing a regression discontinuity design for close-call auctions, we find that winners are more likely to stay in the market than marginal losers after the award and that the boost in survival chances lasts longer than the contract duration. We document that this effect is associated with earnings substitution rather than increased business scale and that survivors experience no productivity premium. However, we find that auction winners enjoy sizeable expansions in credit granted and, through their improved creditworthiness, are less likely to be forced out of the market.

Keywords: Firm survival, firm dynamics, public demand, public procurement, demand shocks, productivity, credit, auctions, regression discontinuity design. JEL Classification: D44, H32, H57.

“What are the Priorities of Bureaucrats? Evidence from Conjoint Experiments with Procurement Officials” 

with J. Tukiainen, S. Blesse, A. Bohne, J. Jääskeläinen, A. Luukinen, A. Sieppi

R&R, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization

 

While effective bureaucracy is crucial for state capacity, its decision-making remains a black box. We elicit preferences of 900+ real-world public procurement officials in Finland and Germany. This is an important pursuit as they report having sizeable discretion and minimal extrinsic incentives. Through conjoint experiments, we identify the relative importance of multiple features of procurement outcomes. Officials prioritize avoiding unexpectedly high prices over seeking low prices. Avoiding winners with prior bad performance is the most important feature. Officials avoid very low competition, while litigation risks and regional favoritism matter less. Personal preferences and office interests appear well-aligned among bureaucrats.

Keywords: Bureaucrats; Public Sector Management; Public Procurement; Conjoint Experiments; Managerial Objectives; Preferences. JEL Classification: D73, D90; H11, H57, H83; K41; M54.

“Bureaucratic Frictions and Innovation Procurement”

(previously circulated under the title “Buyers’ Workload and R&D Procurement Outcomes: Evidence from the US Air Force Research Lab”)

with E. Raiteri

Submitted 

Is work overload a friction to public agencies? Using data on R&D procurement, patents, contracting units, and individual officers from a US federal agency, we investigate how contracting officer workload impacts innovation procurement outcomes. Unanticipated retirement shifts in a contracting unit, which result in unexpected changes in the number of colleagues, provide an exogenous source of variation that we exploit as an instrument for workload. When workload declines, we find a large increase in patent rates. Holding the procurement budget and number of purchases fixed, one additional officer leads to a 2.5 percentage point increase in the probability that a contract will generate a patent, representing 28% of sample variation. We provide suggestive evidence that overloaded officers may not allocate adequate time to crucial contract specifications, resulting in poorer guidance to R&D suppliers when it is most needed.

Keywords: Workload, procurement, bureaucracy, R&D, patents, instrumental variable. JEL Classification: D23, D73, H57, J24, O31

“Targeted Bidders in Government Tenders”

with M. Cappelletti 

Submitted 

A set-aside restricts participation in procurement contests to targeted firms. Despite being widely used, its effects on actual competition and contract outcomes are a priori ambiguous. We pool a decade of US federal procurement data to shed light on this empirical question using a two-stage approach. To circumvent the lack of exogenous variation in our data, as a first step we draw on random forest techniques to calculate the likelihood of a tender being set aside. We then estimate the effect of restricted tenders on pre- and post-award outcomes using an inverse probability weighting regression adjustment. We find that set-asides prompt more firms to bid—that is, the increase in targeted bidders more than offsets the loss of untargeted. During the execution phase, set-aside contracts incur higher cost overruns and delays. The more restrictive the set-aside, the stronger these effects. In a subset of our data, we leverage an unexpected spike in setaside spending to study implications for firm dynamics. We do not find evidence of increasing recipients’ performance over time.

Keywords: small businesses, set-aside, competition, procurement, public contracts, random forest, firm dynamics. JEL Classification: D22; H32, H57; L25.

“Public Procurement as an Innovation Policy: Where do we Stand?”

with O.Chiappinelli and G. Spagnolo 

Submitted 

Scholars and policymakers have long recognized the potential of public procurement to incentivize innovation. Yet it is unclear to what extent this potential has been realized and what measures should be implemented to maximize performance. This paper surveys the economic literature on public procurement of innovation (PPI) to take stock of this debate. We discuss the existing research on four broad questions: i) Does PPI spur innovation? ii) How should PPI be designed to best spur innovation? iii) What are the barriers to implementing PPI? iv) What is the role of PPI in the innovation policy mix? We conclude that none of these questions can yet be answered unambiguously. We highlight the areas where additional research is most needed and discuss policy implications for current global challenges.

Keywords: Innovation, R&D, public procurement, literature survey. JEL Classification: H23, H57, O30, O31, O32, O35, O36, O38.

“Strategic Management in Public Procurement: The Role of Dynamic Capabilities in Equity and Efficiency”

with M. Cappelletti, S. Heaton, and D. Siegel 

Submitted 

A key issue in strategic management in the public sector is how government creates economic and social value through procurement. Unfortunately, most procurement studies are based on contract theories, which fail to incorporate the growing role of strategic management in performance. We fill this gap by analyzing longitudinal data on contracting to assess the equity and efficiency effects of a form of affirmative action used by governments: set-aside programs. Employing a machine learning-augmented propensity score weighting approach, we find that set-aside contracts are negatively associated with contract performance. These effects are attenuated by an agency’s dynamic capabilities and the extent to which the agency uses more competitive procedures. Our findings illustrate how the dynamic capabilities of a federal agency can simultaneously enhance equity and efficiency.

Keywords: Dynamic capabilities, resource-based view, public procurement, machine learning, random forest.

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WORK IN PROGRESS

  • Are EU Cohesion Funds Procured Away? RQ: Do Objective-1 European regions channel the additional public funding from the EU to local public contracts? (with Bohne, A. and Casper, J.) 

  • Born or Made Bureaucrats? Personal Traits of Officials and Public Good Provision. RQ: Are bureaucratic traits (also) shaped by tenure or (only) due to self-selection? How does their variation affect the provision of public goods?  

  • When Transparency Backfires: Entry Coordination in Electronic Auctions. RQ: How to detect cartels of suppliers from bidders’ entry decisions in public auctions?  (with De Leverano, A. and Titl, V.)

  • Public Procurement in the Anthropocene: Green Contracts and Green Firms? RQ: Does the awarding of green public procurement contracts affect firms’ environmental outcomes?  (with Chiappinelli, O. and Dalò, A.)

  • Guess Who’s Evading on Dinner: Experimental Evidence on the Incidence of VAT Evasion. RQ: How are the financial gains of VAT evasion split between consumers and producers?  (with Bohne, A. and Brusco, G.) 

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CONTRIBUTION TO EDITED VOLUMES

“The Role of Buyer Competence” 

with F. Decarolis, E. Iossa, V. Mollisi

Chapter 7 of the CEPR e-book “Procurement in Focus: Rules, Discretion, and Emergencies”, edited by O. Bandiera, E. Bosio, G. Spagnolo