A CGD Working Paper with Ben Crisman. Governments buy about $9 trillion worth of goods and services a year, and their procurement policies are increasingly subject to international standards and institutional regulation including the WTO Plurilateral Agreement on Government Procurement, Open Government Partnership commitments and International Financial Institution procurement rules. These standards focus on transparency and open competition as key tools to improve outcomes. While there is some evidence on the impact of competition on prices in government procurement, there is less on the impact of specific procurement rules including transparency on competition or procurement outcomes. Using a database of World Bank financed contracts, we explore the impact of a relatively minor procurement rule governing advertising on competition using regression discontinuity design and matching methods. The rule does appear to have a small, positive impact on bidding levels, suggesting the potential for more significant and strongly enforced transparency initiatives to have a sizeable effect on procurement outcomes.
This is a report of the CGD Working Group on Publish What You Buy. Government contracts regarding the use of public property and finances should be published by default. Many jurisdictions already require that contracts be made public in response to requests for the information; some now publish contracts proactively. Doing so helps new entrants compete in the market for public contracts, helps governments model their projects on other successful examples, and allows citizens greater insight into how their taxes are being spent. This brief, summarizing the conclusions of the Working Group on Government Contract Publication, provides a practical outline for reaping the benefits of open contracts while addressing legitimate concerns about costs, collusion, privacy, commercial secrecy, and national security. There is the full paper, a brief, and editorials in The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal.