Cost-effectiveness, domestic favouritism and sustainability in public procurement: A comparative study of public preferences

Shelena Keulemans (Department of Public Administration and Sociology, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Steven Van de Walle (Public Governance Institute, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Publication date: 8 May 2017



The purpose of this paper is to explore and explain public preferences for different public procurement practices. The paper looks into public support for cost-effectiveness, discriminatory procurement in favour of domestic suppliers and sustainable procurement.


This study uses Eurobarometer public opinion data on 26.836 EU citizens from 27 EU countries.


This paper shows that EU citizens want public authorities to evaluate multiple aspects of any procurement offer in their public procurement decisions. It also found that, although cost-effectiveness and domestic favouritism are still important to EU citizens, citizens are most supportive of the objectives of sustainable procurement. Some associations between citizens’ procurement preferences and their social characteristics and political attitudes were found, but these only explain citizen procurement preferences to a limited extent. Country of residence has the strongest association with citizens’ acceptance of the objectives of sustainable procurement.

Research limitations/implications

Even though the data contain information on the procurement preferences of a large number of EU citizens, it is a topic of inquiry that is sensitive to social desirability bias.


This paper contributes to the empirical understanding of public attitudes towards public procurement. It is one of few studies on citizen attitudes towards different public procurement practices.



Keulemans, S. and Van de Walle, S. (2017), "Cost-effectiveness, domestic favouritism and sustainability in public procurement: A comparative study of public preferences", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 328-341.



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