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Do Expiring Budgets Lead to Wasteful Year-End Spending? Evidence from Federal Procurement

Author

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  • Liebman, Jeffrey B.

    (Harvard University)

  • Mahoney, Neale

    (University of Chicago)

Abstract

Many organizations have budgets that expire at the end of the fiscal year. Faced with uncertainty over future spending demands, these organizations have an incentive to build up a rainy day fund over the first part of the year. If demand does not materialize, they must rush to spend these resources on low quality projects at the end of the year. We test these predictions using data on procurement spending by the U.S. federal government. Using contract-level data on a near-universe of federal contracts, we document that spending in the last week of the year is 4.9 times higher than the rest-of-the-year weekly average. Using a newly available dataset that tracks the quality of $130 billion in information technology (I.T.) projects, we show that quality scores for year-end projects are 2.2 to 5.6 times more likely to be below the central value. Allowing agencies to roll over unused funding into the subsequent year can improve efficiency. We calibrate a dynamic model of spending and show that allowing rollover leads to welfare gains of up to 13 percent, and that intermediate policies can achieve a large portion of these gains. We document that the one federal agency that has the ability to roll over unused funding for I.T. projects does not exhibit a year-end spike in spending or drop-off in quality in this category of spending.

Suggested Citation

  • Liebman, Jeffrey B. & Mahoney, Neale, 2013. "Do Expiring Budgets Lead to Wasteful Year-End Spending? Evidence from Federal Procurement," Working Paper Series rwp13-038, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp13-038
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    File URL: https://research.hks.harvard.edu/publications/workingpapers/citation.aspx?PubId=9135&type=WPN
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Shafik Hebous & Tom Zimmermann, 2016. "Can Government Demand Stimulate Private Investment? Evidence from U.S. Federal Procurement," IMF Working Papers 16/60, International Monetary Fund.
    2. Fitzenberger, Bernd & Furdas, Marina & Sajons, Christoph, 2016. "End-of-year spending and the long-run employment effects of training programs for the unemployed," Freiburg Discussion Papers on Constitutional Economics 16/08, Walter Eucken Institut e.V..
    3. RAITERI Emilio, 2015. "A time to nourish? Evaluating the impact of innovative public procurement on technological generality through patent data," Cahiers du GREThA 2015-05, Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée.
    4. Jean-Noel Barrot & Ramana Nanda, 2016. "Can Paying Firms More Quickly Affect Aggregate Employment?," Harvard Business School Working Papers 17-004, Harvard Business School, revised Jan 2017.
    5. Spagnolo, Giancarlo & Decarolis, Francesco & Iossa, Elisabetta & Mollisi, Vincenzo & Giuffrida, Leonardo, 2016. "Buyer Quality and Procurement Outcomes: Explorative Evidence From the US," SITE Working Paper Series 41, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics.
    6. Stuart Baumann, 2015. "Putting it off for later," ESE Discussion Papers 260, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
    7. Jens Dietrichson & Lina Ellegård, 2015. "Institutions improving fiscal performance: evidence from Swedish municipalities," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 22(5), pages 861-886, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H00 - Public Economics - - General - - - General
    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General
    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • H57 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Procurement
    • H61 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Budget; Budget Systems
    • L00 - Industrial Organization - - General - - - General
    • L20 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - General
    • L24 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Contracting Out; Joint Ventures

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