Research perspectives on public procurement: Content analysis of 14 years of publications in the journal of public procurement

Publication Date01 Mar 2017
AuthorAndrea Stefano Patrucco,Davide Luzzini,Stefano Ronchi
Andrea Stefano Patrucco, Davide Luzzini, and Stefano Ronchi*
ABSTRACT. The paper aims to evaluate the state of the literature on public
procurement through examination of the works published in the Journal of
Public Procurement from 2001 to 2014. 231 research outputs were
collected and ana lyzed (with regard to, e.g., the background theory used,
research method, and content of the papers), providing a structured
overview of prior research topics and findings and identifying main gaps in
the existing literature. This t ype of study is unique, as a broad literature
review related to public procurement does not currently exist; therefore, the
work has been designed with the intention to a) synthetize the prior research
on public procurement; b) provide researchers with a structural framework in
which future research on public procurement topics may be oriented; c)
identify promising and active areas for future research.
The paper aims to assess the current state of the art and trends
of Purchasing and Supply Management in Public Administration (also
known as public procurement”) by conducting a structured
examination of the publications issued by the Journal of Public
* Andrea Patrucco, Ph.D., is a Lecturer, Department of Ingegneria
Gestionale Politecnico di Milano. His main research interests are in the field
of purchasing and supply management (public procurement and supplier
collaboration management) and innovation in management edu cation
teaching. Davide Luzzini, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor, MIT-Zaragoza
International Logistics Program, Zaragoza Logistics. His research interests
are in the field of purchasing and sup ply management. Stefano Ronchi,
Ph.D., is a Full Professor, Department of Ingegneria Gestionale Politecnico di
Milano. His research interest is in purchasing and supply management with
a particular focus on e-procurement, spend management and purchasing
Copyright © 2017 by PrAcademics Press
procurement (JoPP), which can be considered the most technical and
focused journal in the field.
The term “public procurement” can be defined as the “overall
process of acquiring goods, civil works and services, which includes all
functions from the identification of needs, selection and solicitation of
sources, preparation and award of contract, and all phases of contract
administration through the end of a services’ contract or the useful life
of an asset” (UNDP, 2010, p. 5). According to Harink (1999), public
procurement involves more than the procurement process alone;
being a powerful tool to increase government efficiency, decrease
public expenditure and foster economies, its design must include
components such as the strategy and policy of the organization,
methods and procedures, personnel and organization, and information
(Thai, 2009).
Traditionally, the focus on public procurement has been limited,
lagging far behind the private sector in terms of research and
accumulated knowledge, resulting in academic works that are usually
in documentary form (explaining the situation in a certain country, e.g.,
the international section in the JoPP) or limited to a specific aspect
(legal, e.g., Public procurement Law Review; or administrative, e.g.,
Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting and Financial Management).
However, the situation is changing. Public and academic interest in
public sector management has intensified during the last decade,
giving birth to the new public management discipline (Pollitt &
Bouckaert, 2000) that is focused on how the public sector can be more
effective. Therefore, due to its pervasive impact on the global and local
economy, public procurement is emerging as a pivotal topic for
academics and researchers and is continuing to evolve both
conceptually and organizationally (Thai & Piga, 2007).
In this area, many researchers have attempted to design
conceptual procurement models and frameworks suitable for
approaching such a complex system; however, several authors have
noted that this research has been widely unstructured: the field is
fragmented in many sub-field and a more systematic approach to
research on public procurement seems necessary (e.g., Araujo, 2004;
Telgen, Harland, & Knight, 2007; Murray, 2009).
The lack of existing synthesis inhibits deriving at definite findings,
which both disables the field to develop toward a mature state and
hampers practical application. To fill this gap, it seems useful to
deepen the topic of public procurement by means of a systematic
literature review, build around a detailed content analysis of research
works published during the last decade. This type of research is unique,
as only few scholars in this field have tried to use this approach to
explore and systematize prior and actual public procurement
Therefore, with the present article, we want to enrich the public
procurement research field essentially in two ways. On one hand, by
designing a structured conceptual framework for public procurement,
we are able to give a detailed overview of the research status in this
field, supporting scholars in positioning their works (methodologies
used and public procurement topics addressed). On the other, by
conducting a detailed content analysis of publications in the most
important journal in the field, we fill a gap in existing research, as such
a structured analysis is not present. So, giving evidence on most
prominent subjects, research designs and study characteristics, we
would like to design a synthesis of existing findings for each level of the
framework, and build a research agenda that could inspire future
The article is structured as follows. The first section will give an
overview of the actual state of public procurement research and its
main concepts. Next, the approach used to deliver the literature review
will be described. Then, an analysis of the database obtained will be
presented, along with key statistics. Finally, we critically discuss the
evidence provided by our analysis and present several conclusions and
future research directions.
From a research perspective, private supply management (PSM)
can hardly be considered an established and fully mature discipline
(Murray, 2009; Spina, Caniato, Luzzini, & Ronchi, 2013), even though
scholars are working hard to enhance its status in both the academic
and business environments due to the increased relevance of PSM to
companies in various industries. This has resulted in different reviews
(more or less extensive), aim to analyze the research output; these
literature reviews (LRs) are either generic or specific. Generic LRs
consist of broad overviews of the discipline, focusing on a

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