IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Effect of Discretion on Procurement Performance


  • Coviello, Decio
  • Guglielmo, Andrea
  • Spagnolo, Giancarlo


We run a regression discontinuity design analysis to document the causal effect of increasing buyers' discretion on procurement outcomes in a large database for public works in Italy. Works with a value above a given threshold have to be awarded through an open auction. Works below this threshold can be more easily awarded through a restricted auction, where the buyer has some discretion in terms of who (not) to invite to bid. Our main result is that discretion increases the probability that the same firm wins repeatedly, and it does not deteriorate (and may improve) the procurement outcomes we observe. The effects of discretion persist when we repeat the analysis controlling for the geographical location, corruption, social capital and judicial efficiency in the region of the public buyers running the auctions.

Suggested Citation

  • Coviello, Decio & Guglielmo, Andrea & Spagnolo, Giancarlo, 2016. "The Effect of Discretion on Procurement Performance," CEPR Discussion Papers 11286, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:11286

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: CEPR Discussion Papers are free to download for our researchers, subscribers and members. If you fall into one of these categories but have trouble downloading our papers, please contact us at

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bajari, Patrick & Tadelis, Steven, 2001. "Incentives versus Transaction Costs: A Theory of Procurement Contracts," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(3), pages 387-407, Autumn.
    2. DiNardo, John & Fortin, Nicole M & Lemieux, Thomas, 1996. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(5), pages 1001-1044, September.
    3. Gregory Lewis & Patrick Bajari, 2011. "Procurement Contracting With Time Incentives: Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(3), pages 1173-1211.
    4. Jeremy Bulow & Paul Klemperer, 2009. "Why Do Sellers (Usually) Prefer Auctions?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1544-1575, September.
    5. Bulow, Jeremy & Klemperer, Paul, 1996. "Auctions versus Negotiations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 180-194, March.
    6. David S. Lee & Thomas Lemieux, 2010. "Regression Discontinuity Designs in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 281-355, June.
    7. Steve Kelman, 1990. "Procurement and Public Management," Books, American Enterprise Institute, number 53122, September.
    8. Nicola Doni, 2006. "The Importance Of Reputation In Awarding Public Contracts," Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 77(4), pages 401-429, December.
    9. Donna Feir & Thomas Lemieux & Vadim Marmer, 2016. "Weak Identification in Fuzzy Regression Discontinuity Designs," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(2), pages 185-196, April.
    10. Gregory Lewis & Patrick Bajari, 2014. "Moral Hazard, Incentive Contracts, and Risk: Evidence from Procurement," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(3), pages 1201-1228.
    11. Calzolari, Giacomo & Spagnolo, Giancarlo, 2009. "Relational Contracts and Competitive Screening," CEPR Discussion Papers 7434, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    12. Feir, Donna & Lemieux, Thomas & Marmer, Vadim, 2014. "Supplement To "Weak Identification in Fuzzy Regression Discontinuity Designs"," working papers vadim_marmer-2014-3, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 02 Mar 2015.
    13. Brunell, Thomas L. & DiNardo, John, 2004. "A Propensity Score Reweighting Approach to Estimating the Partisan Effects of Full Turnout in American Presidential Elections," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(01), pages 28-45, December.
    14. Francesco Decarolis, 2014. "Awarding Price, Contract Performance, and Bids Screening: Evidence from Procurement Auctions," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 108-132, January.
    15. Omar Al-Ubaydli & John List, 2012. "On the Generalizability of Experimental Results in Economics," Artefactual Field Experiments 00467, The Field Experiments Website.
    16. Gian Luigi Albano & Milo Bianchi & Giancarlo Spagnolo, 2006. "Bid Average Methods in Procurement," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, vol. 96(1), pages 41-62, January-F.
    17. J. Luis Guasch & Jean-Jacques Laffont & Stephane Straub, 2003. "Renegotiation of Concession Contracts in Latin America," ESE Discussion Papers 103, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
    18. Spagnolo, Giancarlo, 2012. "Reputation, competition, and entry in procurement," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 291-296.
    19. Guido Imbens & Karthik Kalyanaraman, 2012. "Optimal Bandwidth Choice for the Regression Discontinuity Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(3), pages 933-959.
    20. Lee, David S., 2008. "Randomized experiments from non-random selection in U.S. House elections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 675-697, February.
    21. Imbens, Guido W. & Lemieux, Thomas, 2008. "Regression discontinuity designs: A guide to practice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 615-635, February.
    22. Banfield, Edward C, 1975. "Corruption as a Feature of Governmental Organization," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 587-605, December.
    23. Jeremy Bulow & Paul Klemperer, 2009. "Why Do Sellers (Usually) Prefer Auctions?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1544-75, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Decio Coviello & Luigi Moretti & Giancarlo Spagnolo & Paola Valbonesi, 2013. "Court Efficiency and Procurement Performance," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0164, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
    2. Baldi, Simona & Bottasso, Anna & Conti, Maurizio & Piccardo, Chiara, 2016. "To bid or not to bid: That is the question: Public procurement, project complexity and corruption," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 89-106.

    More about this item


    Procurement; Regression Discontinuity; Regulatory Discretion; Restricted Auctions;

    JEL classification:

    • C31 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models; Quantile Regressions; Social Interaction Models
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:11286. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.