Data-Driven and Digital Procurement Governance: Revisiting Two Well-Known Elephant Tales

18 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2019 Last revised: 12 Sep 2019

Date Written: August 21, 2019


This paper takes the dearth of quality procurement data as an empirical point of departure to assess emerging regulatory trends in data-driven and digital public procurement governance and, in particular, the European Commission’s ambition for the single digital procurement market. It resorts to two well-known elephant tales to send a message of caution. It first appeals to the image of medieval bestiary elephants to stress the need to develop a better data architecture that reveals the real state of the procurement landscape, and for the European Commission to stop relying on bad data in the Single Market Scoreboard. The paper then assesses the promises of blockchain and smart contracts for procurement governance and raises the prospect that these may be new white elephants that do not offer significant advantages over existing sophisticated databases, or beyond narrow back-office applications — which leaves a number of unanswered questions regarding the desirability of their implementation. The paper concludes by advocating for EU policymakers to concentrate on developing an adequate data architecture to enable digital procurement governance.

Keywords: Big data, machine learning, algorithmic screens, data architecture, governance, public procurement, public procurement 4.0, data insufficiency, indicators, GovTech, RegTech

JEL Classification: C50, C80, D40, H57, K21, K23, K42

Suggested Citation

Sanchez-Graells, Albert, Data-Driven and Digital Procurement Governance: Revisiting Two Well-Known Elephant Tales (August 21, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Albert Sanchez-Graells (Contact Author)

University of Bristol Law School ( email )

Law School Wills Memorial Building Queen's Road Br
Bristol, BS8 1RJ
United Kingdom

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