Active and Passive Waste in Government Spending: Evidence from a Policy Experiment

61 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2008

See all articles by Oriana Bandiera

Oriana Bandiera

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Andrea Prat

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics

Tommaso M. Valletti

Imperial College Business School; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: March 2008

Abstract

We propose a distinction between active waste and passive waste as determinants of the cost of public services. Active waste entails utility for the public decision maker (as in the case of bribery) whereas passive waste does not (as in the case of inefficiency due to red tape). To assess the empirical relevance of both forms of waste, we analyze purchases of standardized goods by Italian public bodies and exploit a policy experiment associated with a national procurement agency. A revealed preference argument implies that if public bodies with higher costs are more likely to buy from the procurement agency rather than from traditional suppliers, cost differences are more likely to be due to passive waste. We find that: (i) Some public bodies pay systematically more than others for observationally equivalent goods and such price differences are sizeable; (ii) Differences are correlated with governance structure: the central administration pays at least 22% more than semi-autonomous agencies (local government is at an intermediate level); (iii) The variation in prices across public bodies is principally due to variation in passive rather than active waste; (iv) Passive waste accounts for 83% of total estimated waste.

Suggested Citation

Bandiera, Oriana and Prat, Andrea and Valletti, Tommaso M., Active and Passive Waste in Government Spending: Evidence from a Policy Experiment (March 2008). CEIS Working Paper No. 115. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1115339 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1115339

Oriana Bandiera

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD) ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom
+44 20 7955 7519 (Phone)
+44 20 7055 6951 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Andrea Prat

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Tommaso M. Valletti (Contact Author)

Imperial College Business School ( email )

South Kensington Campus
Exhibition Road
London SW7 2AZ, SW7 2AZ
United Kingdom

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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