Assessing the quality of government at the regional level using public procurement data
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Public procurement, that is the purchase of goods and services by public entities, plays a crucial role in the development and quality of government across the European Union (EU). On average, it amounts to about 13 % of GDP or 29 % of government spending (European Commission, 2016; OECD, 2015). It is a genuinely cross-cutting government function concerning virtually every public body from federal ministries to local state-owned utilities, making it broadly representative of the quality of government. Public procurement is also one of the principal means through which governments can influence growth rates and the quality of public services, for example, by investing in highways or government IT infrastructure. In addition, EU Structural and Cohesion Funds destined to improve the EU’s territorial cohesion are also largely spent through public procurement.
However, our understanding of the quality of public procurement processes and outcomes is very much in its infancy, which limits governments’ capacity to intervene in pursuing public procurement as well as broader developmental objectives. With the increased availability of tender and contract-level public procurement datasets, such as those unlocked by the EU-funded DIGIWHIST project, it is possible to explore the quality of regional governance through public procurement.
The following working paper aims to:
- Assess EU-wide procurement data in terms of its availability, quality, reliability and limitations for the purposes of analysing the regional quality of governance;
- Assess public procurement performance at the regional level and interpret the results in light of existing regional indicators (e.g. the European Quality of Government Index);
- Put forward recommendations on how the identified weaknesses in procurement performance and capacity could be addressed