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Auctions vs Negotiations in Public Procurement: Which Works Better?

  • Lalive, Rafael
  • Schmutzler, Armin

Public agencies rely on two key modes to procure goods and services: auctions and direct negotiations. The relative advantages of these two modes are still imperfectly understood. This paper therefore studies public procurement of regional passenger railway services in Germany, where regional agencies can use auctions and negotiations to procure regional passenger rail services. This offers the unique opportunity to assess the two procurement modes within the same institutional and legal framework. We first characterize the decisions of the agency in a simple reduced form framework of negotiations and auctions. This analysis suggests accounting for the endogeneity of the choice of procurement mode by estimating the mode of procurement, quantity and price simultaneously. We then test this framework using information on lines that were auctioned and lines that were directly negotiated with the former monopolist. Results indicate (i) endogeneity of procurement choice can be fully characterized by observed line characteristics;(ii) frequency of service is 16 percent higher on lines that were auctioned compared to lines that were negotiated, and (iii) the procurement price is 25 percent lower on auctioned lines than on those with direct negotiations. Taken together, these results indicate a significant efficiency enhancing effect of auctions.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8538.

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Date of creation: Aug 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8538
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  1. Bulow, Jeremy & Klemperer, Paul, 1996. "Auctions versus Negotiations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 180-94, March.
  2. Boitani, Andrea & Cambini, Carlo, 2006. "To bid or not to bid, this is the question: the Italian experience in competitive tendering for local bus services," European Transport \ Trasporti Europei, ISTIEE, Institute for the Study of Transport within the European Economic Integration, issue 33, pages 41-53.
  3. Steven Tadelis, 2009. "Auctions Versus Negotiations in Procurement: An Empirical Analysis," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(2), pages 372-399, October.
  4. Patrick Bajari & Steven Tadelis, 1999. "Incentives versus Transaction Costs: A Theory of Procurement Contracts," Working Papers 99029, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  5. Gagnepain, Philippe & Ivaldi, Marc, 2010. "Contract Choice, Incentives, and Political Capture in the Public Sector," CEPR Discussion Papers 8053, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Michael G. Pollitt & Andrew S. J. Smith, 2002. "The restructuring and privatisation of British Rail: was it really that bad?," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 23(4), pages 463-502, December.
  7. Philippe Gagnepain & Marc Ivaldi & David Martimort, 2013. "The Cost of Contract Renegotiation: Evidence from the Local Public Sector," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(6), pages 2352-83, October.
  8. Che, Y.K., 1991. "Design Competition through Multidimensional Auctions," Working papers 9123, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  9. Hong, Han & Shum, Matthew, 2002. "Increasing Competition and the Winner's Curse: Evidence from Procurement," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(4), pages 871-98, October.
  10. Rafael Lalive & Armin Schmutzler, 2005. "Exploring the Effects of Competition for Railway Markets," SOI - Working Papers 0511, Socioeconomic Institute - University of Zurich, revised Apr 2007.
  11. Duso, Tomaso & Roller, Lars-Hendrik, 2003. "Endogenous deregulation: evidence from OECD countries," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 67-71, October.
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