Time overruns as opportunistic behavior in public procurement. Journal of Economics, Volume 110(1), pp. 25-43.
We consider the supplier’s strategic choice on delivery time in a public procurement setting as the result of the firm’s opportunistic behavior on the optimal investment timing when production costs are uncertain. We model the supplier’s trade-off between the option value to defer the contract execution and the penalty payment in the event of delays. We also take into account the issue of penalty enforcement, which in turn depends on both the discretion of the court of law in voiding contractual clauses and the “efficiency” of the judicial system (i.e. the average length of civil trials). We test our main results on Italian public procurement data showing that the supplier’s incentive to delay is greater the higher the volatility of production costs and the lower the “efficiency” of the judicial system. We then calibrate the model using parameters that mimic the Italian scenario on public works procurement and calculate the maximum amount that a supplier is “willing to pay” (per day) to postpone the delivery date and infringe the contract provisions. Our calibration results are consistent with the theoretical model’s predictions and the empirical findings.