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Competition and cost overruns. Optimal misspecification of procurement contracts

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Abstract

Most cases of cost overruns in public procurement are related to important changes in the initial project design. This paper deals with the problem of design specification in public procurement and provides a rationale for design misspecification. We propose a model in which the sponsor decides how much to invest in design specification and awards competitively the project to a contractor. After the project has been awarded the sponsor engages in bilateral renegotiation with the contractor, in order to accommodate changes in the initial project’s design that new information makes desirable. When procurement takes place in the presence of horizontally differentiated contractors, the design’s specification level is seen to affect the resulting degree of competition. The paper highlights this interaction between market competition and design specification and shows that the sponsor’s optimal strategy, when facing an imperfectly competitive market supply, is to underinvest in design specification so as to make significant cost overruns likely. Since no such misspecification occurs in a perfectly competitive market, cost overruns are seen to arise as a consequence of lack of competition in the procurement market.

Suggested Citation

  • Juan J. Ganuza, 1998. "Competition and cost overruns. Optimal misspecification of procurement contracts," Economics Working Papers 471, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Mar 2002.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:471
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hart, Oliver D & Moore, John, 1988. "Incomplete Contracts and Renegotiation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(4), pages 755-785, July.
    2. Cremer, Jacques & Khalil, Fahad, 1992. "Gathering Information before Signing a Contract," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 566-578, June.
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    4. Cremer, Jacques & Khalil, Fahad, 1994. "Gathering information before the contract is offered: The case with two states of nature," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(3-4), pages 675-682, April.
    5. Caspar, Vitor & Leite, Antonio P. N., 1989. "Selection bias induced cost overruns," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 175-187.
    6. Aghion, Philippe & Dewatripont, Mathias & Rey, Patrick, 1994. "Renegotiation Design with Unverifiable Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 257-282, March.
    7. Tai-Yeong Chung, 1991. "Incomplete Contracts, Specific Investments, and Risk Sharing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(5), pages 1031-1042.
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    13. Tracy R. Lewis, 1986. "Reputation and Contractual Performance in Long-Term Projects," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(2), pages 141-157, Summer.
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    Cited by:

    1. Aleix Calveras & Juan-Jose Ganuza & Esther Hauk, 2004. "Wild Bids. Gambling for Resurrection in Procurement Contracts," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 41-68, July.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cost overruns; procurement contracts; strategic ignorance;

    JEL classification:

    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • H57 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Procurement
    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions

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