x

Please fill out this short user survey of only 3 questions in order to help us improve the site. We appreciate your feedback!
What Are the Priorities of Public Buyers? Evidence from a Conjoint Experiment with Bureaucrats in Finland, Germany, and Italy
Last registered on September 03, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
What Are the Priorities of Public Buyers? Evidence from a Conjoint Experiment with Bureaucrats in Finland, Germany, and Italy
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0006401
Initial registration date
September 03, 2020
Last updated
September 03, 2020 7:27 AM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Region
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
University of Turku
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority
PI Affiliation
Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority
PI Affiliation
Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority
PI Affiliation
Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority
PI Affiliation
Aalto University
PI Affiliation
ZEW Mannheim
PI Affiliation
ZEW Mannheim
PI Affiliation
ZEW Mannheim
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2020-09-09
End date
2020-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Achieving high-quality purchases at low costs is the primary goal of public procurement, but realizing this goal in practice is often difficult. One potential obstacle relates to the interplay of incentives and preferences of bureaucrats. Very little is known about how bureaucrats make procurement decisions when facing competing goals under risk considerations, and whether their preferences are aligned with those of the taxpayers.

We study how bureaucrats make decisions, and in particular, how they trade off and choose between alternative public procurement outcomes. Like many other domains in public decision-making, bureaucrats' procurement decisions are complex and are decided based on multiple features of the bids and the whole procurement process itself. To explore how public procurement officials make choices in this multidimensional framework, we use a conjoint survey experiment among non-probability samples of public procurement employees in Finland, Germany, and Italy. In the experiment, respondents have to make choices between a series of two fictitious profiles of tender outcomes. For each outcome scenario, the respondents have to decide which tender outcome they would prefer to have realized. These fictitious profiles differ with respect to several attributes that are randomized by the researchers. The tender outcomes differ with respect to certain features of the submitted bids such as price and quality as stated in the bids, the bureaucrat's relationship with the chosen firm through previous tenders, the number of received bids in the tender, potential favoritism of local firms and litigation risks.

In the framework of this stated-choice experiment, we study the causal effect of these attributes on bureaucrat preferences and the relative importance – and as such, the priorities – of each attribute for decision-making. We also ask whether procurement choices differ by the respondents' background characteristics on the bureaucrat-, office- and country-level.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Blesse, Sebastian et al. 2020. "What Are the Priorities of Public Buyers? Evidence from a Conjoint Experiment with Bureaucrats in Finland, Germany, and Italy." AEA RCT Registry. September 03. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.6401-1.0.
Sponsors & Partners

There are documents in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access to this information.

Request Information
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
A conjoint survey experiment (choice experiment) as detailed below.
Intervention Start Date
2020-09-09
Intervention End Date
2020-12-31
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The primary outcome considered is the binary choice regarding which of the two respective decision scenarios concerning tender outcomes is desirable in the eyes of the procurement bureaucrat. Procurement outcomes are defined by six experimental features which affect the utility of these outcomes. These six experimental attributes to procurement outcomes are the price of the purchase as stated in the winning bid, quality as promised in the winning bid, the number of submitted bids, whether judicial complaints were filed to challenge the tender, geographical location of the winning firm, as well as the procurement official’s previous experience with the winning bidder.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The study involves a conjoint survey experiment that is carried out among a non-probability sample of procurement employees in Finland, Germany, and Italy. We reach out to procurement officials through collaboration partners in each country (Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority, Deutsche Vergabenetzwerk in Germany, and Telemat in Italy) via e-mail and send invitations to participate in our online survey, embedding the conjoint scenarios, using individualized web-links for each respondent.

First, all respondents are presented with an introductory text identical across experimental conditions. Second, all survey respondents first answer (optional) background questions about their socio-demographic, job- and office-characteristics. For example, we ask about their education, job experience, and individual career concerns and status. Moreover, we ask about their office-characteristics (e.g., office size or type) as well as the typical tendering procedure (e.g., open vs. restricted) and the awarding rule officials typically work with (lowest price vs. scoring rule), and typical tendering outcomes relating for example to the level competition and occurrence of litigation. Third, all respondents are presented with an identical introductory text to the conjoint part of the study. Fourth, all respondents face a series of decisions between two fictitious profiles of tender outcomes. For each scenario, the respondents have to decide which tender profile they would prefer to have realized. Profiles differ with respect to several attributes that are randomized by the researchers. Moreover, the order of the attributes is randomized across respondents but is fixed at the respondent level.

Specifically, we ask the following outcome question after each decision scenario:
“Please look at the following pair of hypothetical tender outcome scenarios carefully and make a decision which you would like more. Which tender outcome scenario do you prefer?”

We employ the following attributes and respective realizations in each of the 6 hypothetical decision scenarios:

The price as stated in the bid from the winning firm is:
 much lower than I expected
 a bit lower than I expected
 what I expected
 a bit higher than I expected
 much higher than I expected

The quality of the bought good or service as promised in the bid from the winning firm is:
 as I expected
 a bit better than I expected
 much better than I expected

As a result, the tender received …
 ... 1 bids.
 ... 2 bids.
 ... 4 bids.
 ... 8 bids.

The selected winner is …
 … is a firm that was unknown to me through previous tenders.
 … is a firm I already knew from previous tenders and trusted.
 … is a firm that I already had a bad experience with.

The winning firm is:
 A local bidder from your region
 A non-local bidder that does not come from your region

After awarding the contract, ... legal complaint has been filed against the tender.
 … no … [weighted probabilities of 90%]
 … yes … [weighted probabilities of 10%]

Respondents then select between the depicted tender outcomes of profile A or B.
Finally, after the conjoint analysis, we ask respondents which of these attributes are most and least important (i) for achieving a desirable tender outcome, (ii) in their daily work, and (iii) in improving their career prospects. We randomize the order of these follow-up questions to study the mechanisms of stated choices and to distinguish between choices, work practices, and career concerns of bureaucrats.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Uniform randomization of choice scenario from the set of possible choice scenarios based on a professional survey software.
Randomization Unit
Randomization is at the individual choice scenario level
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
Number of individuals in our surveys. We field the survey to approx. 1,300 procurement employees in Finland, 2,000 in Germany, and 18,000 in Italy. The exact number of survey invitations is unknown at this point, because the contact information data bases of collaboration partners are constantly updated. We do not know ex-ante the response rate but expect about 2,000 completed surveys embedding our experiment. We expect the response rate to be the highest in Finland as there we use endorsement letters to boost the response rate.
Sample size: planned number of observations
12,000 choices across 2,000 individuals.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Uniform randomization of 720 possible pre-determined choice scenarios across 12,000 choices (6 choices per expected individual response).
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

There are documents in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access to this information.

Request Information