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The impact of e-procurement on institutional quality

Lela Mélon (Department of Civil Law, Faculty of Law, Pompeu Fabra University , Barcelona, Spain)
Rok Spruk (School of Economics and Business, University of Ljubljana , Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Journal of Public Procurement

ISSN: 1535-0118

Article publication date: 15 June 2020

Issue publication date: 25 October 2020




Because of the renewed interest in public purchasing and the strategic use of public funds under the requirements of sustainable development, the question arose once again as to how to curb the fall of institutional quality once criteria other than price are inserted into the decision-making in public purchasing. E-procurement has been repeatedly named as one of the most efficient tools to that effect and the present paper sets out to discover whether the implementation of e-procurement in a particular country per se entails also higher institutional quality, allowing for a wider implementation of green and sustainable procurement at the national, regional and municipal level without the fear of worsening the country’s institutional quality. By analyzing the implementation of e-procurement in Denmark, the Netherlands and in Portugal, this paper aims to verify the hypothesis that the implementation of e-procurement implies better institutions in terms of public purchasing. As such, the conclusions will be used in further research on the prerequisites for a successful implementation of green public procurement across the European Union.


Gathering data on institutional quality of three early e-procurement adopters (Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal) allows for comparison of institutional quality pre- and post-e-procurement implementation. By using difference-in-differences comparison the paper seeks to answer the question how doesmandatory e-procurement influence institutional quality on the national level.


The paper finds that the reform is generally associated with a relatively stronger control of corruption in the Netherlands and Denmark, while a similar reform in Portugal failed to translate into a stronger control of corruption. Furthermore, while using the quality of regulation as a dependent variable, a positive and robust effect on the quality of regulation in Denmark was shown, while the quality of reputation in the Netherlands and Portugal declined in the post-reform period, with the drop in the quality of regulation in Portugal being considerably greater, a two-fold higher amount than the estimated drop in the Netherlands. The paper suggests that in spite of the same aims, the reform yielded substantially different or even opposing effects compared to Denmark.

Research limitations/implications

By examining three examples of early adopters, further research with broader impact is needed to deduce general implications for e-procurement implementation. Furthermore, implementation of e-procurement at the regional or local level can also yield distinct results.

Social implications

Understanding the actual impact of e-procurement on institutional quality is indispensable for further study on the matter. The present study argues that e-procurement needs to be accompanied by additional measures or variables to yield a positive impact on institutional quality in public procurement.


As to originality, the present paper uses a law and economics approach, originating or better said drawing motivation from green public procurement concerns, trying to provide an insight in terms of tools that can be used to eliminate concerns regarding institutional quality when implementing green public procurement practices.



The authors would like to thank Thomas Emery, Nuno Garoupa, Leo Reutter, Pedro Santos Azevedo and to the participants of 10th Annual Conference of Spanish Association of Law and Economics at Católica Porto Business School for discussion, comments and feedback on the draft version of the paper. All the errors in this paper are our own.

The research was funded by the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 789461 (SCOM project – sustainable company).


Mélon, L. and Spruk, R. (2020), "The impact of e-procurement on institutional quality", Journal of Public Procurement, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 333-375.



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