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The article ' Discretionary Authority and Prioritizing in Government Agencies', written by UvA Economics and Business researchers Maarten Pieter Schinkel, Jan Tuinstra and Lukaš Tóth, has been nominated for the Antitrust Writing Awards 2020.

The paper, examining budget spending in government agencies such as a competition authority, is nominated in the ‘Procedures’ category for the Academic Articles Award. The article explores how a factors like the agency director's preferences, staff quality, and budget determine which cases the agency picks up. The paper was published in 2019 in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory.

Political influencing via agency head and budget

Small changes in the budget can steer priorities to different types of cases. Instead of taking up relatively easy cases, like cartels brought in by a leniency application, more resources may be spend on ‘trendy but ‘more risky cases, such as an investigation of Google’s search algorithm.

The value that the head of the agency gives to media-attention plays a crucial role in this. The priority shifts can have major consequences for social welfare: standard cases are much more likely to lead to a successful conviction, but also have less of an impact than more complex cases. But it’s the complex cases that are more likely to be unsuccessful.
The article exposes the mechanism by which this happens inside an agency. By appointing a certain type of board member and setting the budget, government agencies can be politically influenced in subtle ways.

About the Antitrust Writing  Awards

The aim of the Antitrust Writing Awards is to promote scholarship in the field of competition and to contribute to competition advocacy. The nominated articles were selected by a jury. They are assessed using an international peer-reviewed evaluation process and by readers of Concurrences.