Abstract: For the last 20 years, a series of public procurement reforms has sought to enhance the efficiency of purchases by increasing public buyers’ discretionary power. Yet it has been argued that there is a lack of empirical results concerning the impact of such reforms on outcomes, including efficiency. In this paper, we attempt to fill this gap by studying the use of the French “adapted procedure”, a tendering procedure that allows discretion to public buyers to adapt the procedure to their needs.
Using an original and comprehensive dataset from a French social housing constructor, we empirically assess the use of such procedures on the two goals identified by the government (fluidification of the procurement process and access of SMEs) and on efficiency. Our main results suggest the following: (i) using their increased discretionary power, public buyers were able to reach more efficient outcomes regarding the objectives set: the duration of the procurement procedure decreased and SMEs had broader access to the bidding stage (ii) these positive results came at no cost in terms of ex ante efficiency of public procurement. We conclude by discussing the implications of our results for public policies.