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What Are the Priorities of Bureaucrats?

Working Paper
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The functioning of public bureaucracies is considered a principal driver of government effectiveness and state capacity. Surveying more than 900 real-life procurement officials in Finland and Germany on the basis of hypothetical choice experiments the authors of this study find that bureaucratic decision-making is based to a large extent on intrinsic motivation. While bureaucrats lack important career or pay incentives, they have substantial discretion at work. Contracting officers value a certain degree of competition and consider (too) rigid regulation as the biggest threat to the procurement process. This supports previous research finding that in countries with high public sector capacity more rules are detrimental to procurement outcomes. Another important conclusion that can be drawn from the survey is that procurement bureaucrats aim to avoid negative risks concerning prices and supplier reputation as well as awarding public contracts to bidders with prior bad performance.