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research

published papers

“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.

“Buyer’s Role in Innovation Procurement:  Evidence from U.S. Military R&D Contracts

with F. Decarolis, G. de Rassenfosse, E. Iossa, V. Mollisi, E. Raiteri, G. Spagnolo
Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Forthcoming

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. 

research

Working Papers

“Supplier Selection and Contract Enforcement: Evidence from Performance Bonding” 

with G. Rovigatti

R&R,  Journal of Economics & Management Strategy

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.

Keywords: supplier selection; contract enforcement; public procurement; performance bond; constructions.  JEL Classification: D21, D44, D82; H57; L74

SIEP Prize

Best unpublished paper written by author(s) under the age of thirty-five presented at the XXIX SIEP Conference

“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

Submitted

A well-functioning bureaucracy is a precondition for efficient public goods provision. However, bureaucratic decision-making is still largely seen as a black box. We provide novel insights into the preferences of bureaucrats regarding their work outcomes. We focus on a major public sector activity and survey more than 900 real-life procurement officials in Finland and Germany. The questionnaire includes hypothetical choice experiments to study the relative importance of multiple features in tender outcomes. First, bureaucrats state to have substantial discretion at work but no important incentives. Second, our experimental results show that procurers are particularly worried about avoiding negative risks concerning prices and supplier reputation. Third, an avoidance of bidders with prior bad performance appears to be an extremely important factor. Fourth, procurers value a certain degree of competition, while litigation concerns and regional favoritism play only a small role. The striking lack of heterogeneous effects points towards the role of intrinsic motivation among public buyers in countries with high public sector capacity.

 Keywords: Bureaucrats, Public Procurement, Preferences, Intrinsic Motivation, Conjoint Experiment. JEL Classification: D73, D90; H11, H57, H83; K41; M54.

“Buyers’ Workload and R&D Procurement Outcomes: Evidence from the US Air Force Research Lab”

with E. Raiteri

 

Does workload constitute a bottleneck to a public agency’s mission, and if so, to what extent? We ask these questions in the context of the US government’s procurement of R&D. We link tender, contract, patent, and office records to the identity of the officer responsible for the procurement process to estimate how workload in the federal acquisition unit affects the execution of R&D contracts. The identification comes from unanticipated retirement shifts among contracting officers, which we use to instrument workload. We find a large increase in patenting at the extensive margin when the same officer is exposed to a declining workload. In our sample, an additional contracting officer in the procurement unit, holding fixed the procurement budget and number of purchases, leads to a two percentage point increase in the probability for an R&D contract to generate patents. We provide suggestive evidence that backlogged contracting officers are unable to devote enough time to tender and contract specifications.

 Keywords: Workload, Public Procurement, Contracting Officer, R&D, Patents. JEL Classification: D23; H57; O31, O32.

research

WORK IN PROGRESS

  • Procuring Survival. RQ: does public demand shocks impact a firm’s survival odds? (with Cappelletti M., Rovigatti, G.)

  • The Impact of Set-Asides on Government Procurement. RQ: does restricting ex-ante competition affect pre-award and post-award procurement outcomes? (with Cappelletti M.) 

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

research

WORK IN LIMBO

  • The Economic Implications for Biased Perceived Survival Curves

    (with Mellace, G., Menon, S., Peracchi, F.)