In spite of the many efforts in the pursuit of a European single market, many barriers
continue to lie ahead, as the field of public procurement illustrates. In 2015, around 40%
of all high-value procurement tenders in a large pool of European countries attracted only 2
bidders or less, and only 3% of all winning companies had their offices outside the procuring
country. This paper explores a rather unaccounted dimension behind the competitiveness
of tenders: the administrative capacities of contracting authorities. For this, we first build
a theoretically-informed multidimensional framework of administrative capacities and subse-
quently test the effect of these capacities on competitiveness, by using a comprehensive and
curated database of more than 120.000 procurement contracts in 32 European countries. The
findings show that most administrative measures robustly explain a portion of competitive-
ness, in particular administrative aspects related to the choice of instruments and procedures
to conduct the bidding calls, such as electronic procurement. Findings also show that the
behaviour of these relationships is counterintiuitive at times, and highly dependent on the
national context, suggesting that organizational path-dependency undermines convergence
under EU regulation.
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