Procurement Contracting with Time Incentives: Theory and Evidence

Patrick Bajari, Gregory Lewis

NBER Working Paper No. 14855
Issued in April 2009, Revised in December 2011
NBER Program(s):Industrial Organization Program

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%).

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14855

Published: Gregory Lewis & Patrick Bajari, 2011. "Procurement Contracting With Time Incentives: Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(3), pages 1173-1211. citation courtesy of

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