CEPR is delighted to invite you to the upcoming online book launch:

Procurement in Focus: Rules, Discretion, and Emergencies

Editors: Oriana Bandiera, Erica Bosio, Giancarlo Spagnolo

Wednesday 15 December

09h00 - 10h30 EDT (New York)
14h00 - 15h30 BST (London)
15h00 - 16h30 CEST (Paris)


Chair and Moderator:

  • Adnan Khan (London School of Economics)


Author presentations by:

  • Dina Pomeranz (University of Zurich and CEPR)

  • Tina Søreide (NHH Norwegian School of Economics)

  • Paola Valbonesi (University of Padova)


Covid-19 has served as a global case study for increased discretion in public procurement, with governments worldwide making rules more flexible to increase spending, reduce the damage, and save lives.

new CEPR eBook examines the tension between rules and discretion in public procurement, including through several country-level case studies, and examines the steps that can be taken to improve procurement outcomes and mitigate the risk of corruption, collusion, abuse, and incompetence during crises. 

Join us on Wednesday 15th December at the online launch of this eBook, where the editors, Oriana Bandiera, Erica Bosio, Giancarlo Spagnolo, and the authors Dina Pomeranz, Tina Soreide and Paola Valbonesi, will present an introduction to the book and focus on some of the chapters. Adnan Khan will chair and moderate the session.

Erica Bosio, Rita Ramalho, Carmen Reinhart, 22 March 2021

In sub-Saharan Africa, the government is one of the biggest purchasers of works and services in the economy. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa are also the least efficient when it comes to paying outstanding invoices. This column estimates that the size of government arrears in sub-Saharan Africa was 4.26% of GDP in 2019, and likely increased by an average of 1.92 percentage points of GDP across the region in 2020. Financing the COVID relief and recovery programmes by delaying payments is negatively affecting suppliers and contractors at a time when liquidity is crucial for firm survival, which in turn burdens the banking sector and increases the likelihood of a banking crisis.

Mark Schankerman, 19 February 2021

Diffusion of new drugs is painfully slow in low-income countries. Mark Schankerman tells Tim Phillips about how patent pools accelerate the process, and how we could still do a better job of licensing life-saving medicines.

Julia Cagé, 26 October 2020

How well does campaign finance work, and which political parties benefit most? Julia Cagé tells Tim Phillips how the price of a vote has varied in recent British and French elections.

Katie Parry, Oriana Bandiera, Michael Best, Adnan Khan, Andrea Prat, 13 May 2020

Weak procurement systems can lead to high wastefulness and reduce the amount of resources government have for vital expenditures. This column examines the behaviour of 600 procurement officers in Pakistan and finds that the savings realised through giving them greater autonomy were considerably greater than from pay-for-performance incentive schemes, though this result did depend on the relative efficiency of the procurement officers and their monitors. This finding indicates that, counter-intuitively, the appropriate response to inefficiency and corruption may sometimes be less monitoring, not more.

Jeffrey Clemens, Parker Rogers, 10 March 2020

Why has medical innovation brought cost-increasing enhancements to quality, rather than cost-reducing advances in productivity? The column uses a new dataset drawn from patents for prosthetic devices to show that the design of incentives for innovators can have substantial effects on these margins. Fixed-price procurement arrangements induce greater effort to reduce production costs than cost-plus procurement arrangements. Procurement models may therefore inadvertently lead to 'missing innovations'.

Emanuele Colonnelli, Mounu Prem, Edoardo Teso, 08 September 2019

To protect public sector jobs from becoming instruments of political patronage, employment decisions must be governed by impartial, meritocratic hiring practices. But in many civil service systems, politicians retain broad discretion in personnel decisions. This column looks at hiring practices in Brazil, and finds that not only are public sector careers handed out to the most devoted campaign supporters rather than the most competent applicants, but that political connections aid the least capable applicants most.

Audinga Baltrunaite, Cristina Giorgiantonio, Sauro Mocetti, Tommaso Orlando, 26 July 2018

Public procurement outcomes crucially depend on the ability of the procuring agency to select high-performing suppliers. This column uses Italian data to explore how public administrator discretion affects public resource allocation. Greater discretion results in reallocation towards politically connected, low-performing firms. These adverse effects are driven by lower-quality procuring agencies.

Francesco Decarolis, Leonardo M. Giuffrida, Elisabetta Iossa, Vincenzo Mollisi, Giancarlo Spagnolo, 31 May 2018

Governments across the world procure a huge range of goods and services, and ensuring that procurement contracts are negotiated and executed properly can save a great deal of time and money. This column uses evidence from the US to show the effect of staff competence on procurement wastage. Improving the competence of bureaus to the 90thpercentile of the distribution would save an average of $102,619 and 54.5 days per contract.

Decio Coviello, Andrea Guglielmo, Giancarlo Spagnolo, 07 August 2016

Open competition is regarded as a crucial ‘preventative tool’ that limits government discretion and abuse of power when awarding procurement contracts. However, various studies have identified numerous drawbacks to using open auctions when contracting is imperfect. This column discusses the effects of increased buyer discretion on public procurement in Italy. Increased discretion raises the number of repeated wins by contractors, suggesting long-term relationships between buyers and sellers. Furthermore, productive buyer-seller relationships appear to outnumber corrupt ones.

Emmanuelle Auriol, Pierre Picard, 24 November 2009

Many rich countries have chosen to outsource public services. This column discusses the costs and benefits of such outsourcing policies and identifies when they improve welfare.


CEPR Policy Research