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Procurement Contracting with Time Incentives: Theory and Evidence

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  • Patrick Bajari
  • Gregory Lewis

Abstract

In public sector procurement, social welfare often depends on the time taken to complete the contract. A leading example is highway construction, where slow completion times inflict a negative externality on commuters. Recently, highway departments have introduced innovative contracting methods based on scoring auctions that give contractors explicit time incentives. We characterize equilibrium bidding and efficient design of these contracts. We then gather an extensive data set of highway repair projects awarded by the California Department of Transportation between 2003 and 2008 that includes both innovative and standard contracts. Comparing similar con- tracts in which the innovative design was and was not used, we show that the welfare gains to commuters from quicker completion substantially exceeded the increase in the winning bid. Having argued that the current policy is effective, we then develop a structural econometric model that endogenizes participation and bidding to examine counterfactual policies. Our estimates suggest that while the current policy raised com- muter surplus relative to the contractor's costs by $359M (6.8% of the total contract value), the optimal policy would raise it by $1.52B (29%).

Suggested Citation

  • Patrick Bajari & Gregory Lewis, 2009. "Procurement Contracting with Time Incentives: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 14855, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14855
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gil, Ricard & Marion, Justin, 2009. "The Role of Repeated Interactions, Self-Enforcing Agreements and Relational [Sub]Contracting: Evidence from California Highway Procurement Auctions," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt6ds5d1pp, University of California Transportation Center.
    2. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Tirole, Jean, 1987. "Auctioning Incentive Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(5), pages 921-937, October.
    3. De Silva, Dakshina G. & Dunne, Timothy & Kankanamge, Anuruddha & Kosmopoulou, Georgia, 2008. "The impact of public information on bidding in highway procurement auctions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 150-181, January.
    4. Han Hong & Matthew Shum, 2002. "Increasing Competition and the Winner's Curse: Evidence from Procurement," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 871-898.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • H57 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Procurement
    • L0 - Industrial Organization - - General
    • L74 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Primary Products and Construction - - - Construction
    • L78 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Primary Products and Construction - - - Government Policy

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