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The Allocation of Authority in Organizations: A Field Experiment with Bureaucrats

Author

Listed:
  • Oriana Bandiera
  • Michael Carlos Best
  • Adnan Qadir Khan
  • Andrea Prat

Abstract

We design a field experiment to study how the allocation of authority between frontline procurement officers and their monitors affects performance both directly and through the response to incentives. In collaboration with the government of Punjab, Pakistan, we shift authority from monitors to procurement officers and introduce financial incentives to a sample of 600 procurement officers in 26 districts. We find that autonomy alone reduces prices by 9% without reducing quality and that the effect is stronger when the monitor tends to delay approvals for purchases until the end of the fiscal year. In contrast, the effect of performance pay is muted, except when agents face a monitor who does not delay approvals. The results illustrate that organizational design and anti-corruption policies must balance agency issues at different levels of the hierarchy.

Suggested Citation

  • Oriana Bandiera & Michael Carlos Best & Adnan Qadir Khan & Andrea Prat, 2020. "The Allocation of Authority in Organizations: A Field Experiment with Bureaucrats," NBER Working Papers 26733, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26733
    Note: DEV PE POL
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D04 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Policy: Formulation; Implementation; Evaluation
    • D2 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H57 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Procurement
    • H83 - Public Economics - - Miscellaneous Issues - - - Public Administration
    • M42 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Auditing
    • M48 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O2 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy
    • O23 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Fiscal and Monetary Policy in Development
    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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