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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Public Management Review

For a Special Issue on
Strategic public procurement: a public management perspective

Abstract deadline
01 April 2022

Manuscript deadline
15 October 2022

Cover image - Public Management Review

Special Issue Editor(s)

Andrea Patrucco, Department of Marketing and Logistics, College of Business, Florida International University
[email protected]

Katri Kauppi, Department of Information and Service Management, School of Business, Aalto University
[email protected]

Carmela Di Mauro, DICAR, University of Catania
[email protected]

Fredo Schotanus, Department of Law, Economics and Governance, School of Economics, Utrecht University
[email protected]

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Strategic public procurement: a public management perspective

Background of the special issue

Public procurement activates supply chains providing goods, services and construction projects to enable provision of public services such as healthcare, defense, security, transport and education. Its economic impact is substantial, representing, on average, 12% of nations’ Gross Domestic Product (OECD, 2021) with an even larger climate footprint (e.g., 18% in the Netherlands) (RIVM, 2021).

In many countries, public procurement is used by government organizations but also by other regulated, non-governmental bodies, such as utilities and licensed healthcare providers. By looking at the cross-disciplinary body of research (Trammel et al., 2020), we can identify four distinctive strategic objectives that public organizations should pursue with their procurement decisions:

  1. Achieving value for money (Wang and Li, 2014; Callens et al., 2021)
  2. Providing accountability and integrity (Pashev, 2011; Bauhr et al., 2020)
  3. Promoting economic, social, and environmental responsibility (Knutsonn and Thomasson, 2014; Isaksson et al., 2018; Eckersley et al., 2021)
  4. Contracting efficiently and effectively (Schotanus et al., 2011; Alonso et al., 2015; Patrucco et al., 2021)

Because of these broad objectives, public procurement must – in comparison with private procurement – comply with formal, regulated processes to ensure transparency, objectivity, proportionality, non-discriminant equal treatment, accountability and evidence of value for money (Harland et al., 2019). In addition, while private procurement is often concerned with dyadic buyer-supplier relationships, public buyers more often buy for and on behalf of citizens, thus engendering the management of triadic procurement relationships with suppliers, governments, and citizens.

Especially in countries where government spending on goods and services is a significant percentage of overall annual spend (e.g., Netherlands 45%, Japan 42%, Germany 35 %, Canada 32%, UK 32%) (OECD, 2021), public procurement has attracted criticism for being inefficient when awarding contracts to suppliers (Karjalainen, 2011) but also excessively bureaucratic in handling communication and relationships with suppliers – thus discouraging private companies (e.g., small-medium businesses) from engaging with the public sector (Di Mauro et al.,  2020). This represents an issue especially if we consider that the performance of public service delivery (i.e., efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, and transparency) is strongly related to procurement performance.

For these reasons, in recent years, several countries worldwide have launched strategic public procurement initiatives to shift the focus from price-based to value-based procurement to limit excessive focus on cost reduction when procuring critical and strategic items (Meehan et al., 2017). Outcome-based contracts with suppliers are also being adopted by public organizations at different government levels (Farr, 2016).

However, despite the introduction of strategic public procurement tools in areas such as sustainability and innovation and the growth in their adoption, the recent pandemic and the climate crisis have brought to the fore recognition that public procurement must incorporate long-term objectives more effectively (Phillips et al., 2021).

In this direction, public organizations at different levels are working to redesign their procurement systems and enhance their managerial capacities. Among possible areas of improvement, a more strategic management of relationships with external suppliers should be at the top of public management priorities (Rosell and Saz-Carranza, 2020). Additionally, there is an increasing awareness of the need of stronger supply chain competences, also to prepare for and mitigate future crises (Sadiq and Kessa, 2020). The lack of adequate competencies, processes and practices are, in fact, key barriers that prevent “best-in-class” suppliers from engaging with public organizations (Loader and Norton, 2015).

Scope of the call and expected contributions

On these grounds, the goal of this call for papers is to attract relevant contributions able to provide new perspectives on how public procurement can develop and implement a more strategic approach to the management of relationships with for-profit and non-profit suppliers and partners. We welcome contributions addressing either the selection or the post-contract award phases. This reconceptualization will allow public procurement to move from its tactical goal to deliver public services, works and goods to become a key contributor in the broader delivery of public management goals.

With reference to the strategic public procurement objectives previously discussed, we welcome papers focused on one or more of the topics listed in the following table.

Strategic procurement objective Possible papers’ contribution could belong (but not limited) to one or more of the following areas
Value for money
  • Formalization of procurement strategies in the public sector to increase value of public service delivery
  • Public value creation through public procurement and supplier relationships
  • Promotion of market and public sector innovation through supplier relationships
  • Strategic planning of public procurement in local governments
  • Citizens’ involvement in public procurement decisions
  • Management of triadic relationships buyer-supplier-user
  • Professionalization and evolution of public procurers’ competences to manage strategic supplier relationships
Accountability and integrity
  • Procurement’s role and relationship to other public management areas
  • Transparency of public procurement practices to citizens
  • Ethics, integrity compliance and corruption in the context of public procurement
  • Public procurers’ managerial discretion in supplier selection and quality of public performance
  • Impact of procurement on transparency and accountability of public services
Economic, social and environmental responsibility
  • Use of public procurement to deliver community benefits
  • Inclusion of sustainability objectives in public procurement decisions
  • Government’s support to participation of SMEs and disadvantaged groups in procurement contracts
  • Implementation of supplier development in the public sector (e.g., toward sustainable objectives and/or to support SMEs)
Efficient and effective contracting
  • Optimization of contracting out decisions, including balancing public values such as transparency, accountability and effectiveness
  • Impact of public sector reforms (such as decentralization or centralization) on public procurement goals and practices
  • Use of outcome-based contracting and incentives to increase the value of public service delivery
  • Joint procurement initiatives and contract performance
  • Lifecycle management of public procurement projects and contracts
  • Inclusion of value- and outcome-based criteria (e.g., green or social supplier evaluation) in contract evaluation
  • Approaches used in contract performance evaluation in specific public organizations (e.g., local governments, public healthcare)
  • Use of digital technologies to support the management of contract and supplier relationships
  • Extension of supply chain management practices to public procurement

We seek contributions that have compelling implications on the strategic role of public procurement in public management. We particularly encourage submissions that address one or more of the previous topics by using a cross-national perspective (with an appropriate justification of the validity for using multi-country data) and/or are focused on developing countries (that are more subjected than others to some procurement issues, such as integrity and accountability). Papers need to make a strong contribution to the public management field and adopt a public management perspective. Papers with a strong emphasis on private supply chains are not deemed suitable for this call.

In addition to relevance to public management, the contributions should also have a strong theoretical focus. Here, we encourage the application of well-known public management theories (such as transaction cost economics, public value theory, agency theory, relational view theory and goal setting theory) to public procurement, but also of theories commonly applied in other disciplinary fields studying procurement. Examples include (but are not limited to) the resource-based view (Barney, 2012), the knowledge-based view (Grant, 2002) and the social exchange theory (Cropanzano and Mitchell, 2005). For a wider view of theories widely applied in procurement and supply chain management see e.g., Spina et al. (2016) and Gligor et al. (2018). Whichever the theoretical angle adopted, and whether the approach is theory developing, testing or elaborating, we expect papers to explain how public procurement and strategic management of buyer-supplier relationships can support the achievement of wider public management goals. Additionally, although we understand the strict connection between public procurement and regulation issues, we are looking for managerially focused contributions. Therefore, purely legal and regulatory focused pieces are not considered in scope with this call.

Methodologies such as surveys, multiple case studies, conceptual contributions, and experimental approaches are all considered suitable for this call. Systematic literature reviews are welcomed but only if they can provide a strong conceptual contribution as a main take-away from the study. Descriptive reviews of past articles, modeling and pure mathematical papers, instead, are not deemed appropriate for the call.

Submission Instructions

Submission of proposals: April 1st, 2022

We invite interested authors to send extended abstracts no longer than 1,000 words (references excluded). The proposal should provide sufficient details on the research questions, methods, data, (anticipated) findings and contribution to the special issue for the co-editors to evaluate the suitability for the call. Please submit your proposal to [email protected].

Feedback to the authors on the submitted proposals and invitation to submit a full paper: May 15th, 2022

Full paper submission through the PMR Scholarone submission system: October 15th, 2022

Revision process: October, 2022 – September, 2023

We will select three reviewers for each paper but accept that a decision can be made on the basis of two, if delays start to occur.  All four of the Guest Editors will comprehensively assess the paper, and a joint decision about the paper will be made.  We will liaise with the PMR Editor should there be areas of doubt or concern where advice would be helpful but otherwise the special issue Guest Editors expect to handle the full review and decision process.

Papers will be published online first once accepted.

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