An analysis of the distribution process of accounting and auditing tasks from the EU to public and private firms

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1 An analysis of the distribution process of accounting and auditing tasks from the EU to public and private firms University Maastricht Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Maastricht, September 30th, 2008 Jansen, N.A.W. I Master Thesis in Accounting Master in International Business (Economics) Supervisor: Prof. Dr. S. Maijoor

2 Abstract Governments in the European Union (EU) and the European Commission (EC) outsource many tasks to firms, a process that is known as tendering. Some of these outsourced tasks (tenders) comprise work for external auditors and accountants, further referred to as auditors. The way in which the European Union distributes these tasks to the audit firms will be explained in this paper, after which an analysis will be established on the distribution. This analysis will assess whether the allocation of tasks follows the same pattern as the build-up of the concentrated audit and accounting market, in particular, whether proportionality is adhered to in the distribution process. Concentration means that a few firms dominate the market. Also, the allocation of tenders to non-domestic firms will be investigated and some supplementary analyses will be done based on earlier papers written about the tender market. Results show that the allocation to the tender market does not represent the structure of the audit market, thereby not assuring proportionality. The tender market seems to show less signs of concentration. Results on the distribution of accountancy and audit tenders show that the allocation of these tasks to non-domestic firms is even worse than shown by previous authors. The supplementary analyses confirm the findings in previous research: the increasing use of different selection criteria, the unclear specifications of tenders, the low chances small firms have in the process and the best-practices used by firms to get more tenders. ii

3 Table of contents 1. Introduction 1 2. The EU tender process TED 6 3. Development of the hypotheses Research design Results Supplementary analyses Benefits of the tender process Drawbacks of the tender process Formulation and selection criteria of the tenders Competition for small firms and restrictions to participation Means of influence Summary and conclusion Limitations Future research References Appendix 37 iii

4 1. Introduction Public procurement implies that a government, or any public authority, buys goods and services from public and private firms. The difference between a public and a private firm is that the shares of a private firm are not listed on a stock exchange. The difference between the public and private sector is that the public sector is the government, whereas the private sector contains private/public firms, not controlled by the government. Public and private firms will be described further on as just firms. Looking at the fact that, as the EC states: Total public procurement in the EU ( ) is estimated at about 16% of the Union s GDP or 1,500 billion in 2002 (European Commission 2008), one can see that this public buying is an important source of income for many firms. The member states of the EU and also the EC itself have many tasks that have to be performed by firms. However, the EU itself does not distribute auditing tasks that are directly related to their own financial matters. For the EU, since the Treaty of Maastricht, the European Court of Auditors has been put in place to perform these tasks. The European Court of Auditors main tasks are to check the whole budget of the EU and how the members states spend their subsidies (Groenendijk 2004). Since they only have 800 auditors at their disposal, assistance with their main tasks and smaller tasks of less importance, like analyzing the bookkeeping system of a small EU-sponsored business (European Commission 2006), or performing a risk-management analysis on an infrastructure project commissioned by the EU are outsourced to private audit firms. Also, tasks of the EU relating to countries outside the EU are outsourced. Like for the EU, national governments have an entity in place that provides oversight over the finances of the government. For the Netherlands, this institution is called De Rekenkamer. However, their task is more of an assessment whether the government funds were spent rightfully and is therefore not so comprehensive as the tasks that the European Court of Auditors perform. Auditors, therefore, perform tasks for national governments. This means that audit tasks from the EU that are not related to their own finances and tasks from national governments are outsourced to firms that perform these services. All countries in the EU use a so-called tender process to achieve this goal of outsourcing all kinds of tasks. This tender process and the means by which the EC and the member states outsource tasks is elaborated on in this thesis. 1

5 The aim of this paper is to investigate the EU s tender process, used by its national governments and the EC, with a focus on audit tenders. After having examined the way in which the EU s tender process works, a first-hand data collection process will establish a division of the assigned audit tenders from all countries of the EU, per firm, over the period With this division, it is can be seen whether the tasks allocated to the Big-4 and Non Big-4 audit firms are divided in a proportional way, as the EU claims it does. If the EU wants to make sure that tasks are divided in a proportional way, so that the tender market resembles the audit market, a high concentration rate should be observed, since this rate prevails in the audit market. This high concentration rate means for the audit market, that a large amount of revenues are obtained by the four largest audit firms. With this division, it should therefore be shown that the high concentration rate in the audit market also prevails in the tender market. Therefore, the first research question is: Does the distribution of audit tenders to firms show the same proportions as the concentration ratios in the general audit market? If the claims of the EU about proportionality are to be right, this research question needs to answered positively. With the dataset of all assigned audit tenders at hand, another claim of the EU can be researched for the audit tenders, namely that the international distribution of tenders is stimulated by the use of the EU s tendering system. This international distribution basically implies that foreign firms now have better possibilities of competing on the tender market. Many papers have been written about this claim of the EU and many different outcomes have been observed. This thesis will also look at the international distribution of tenders, but now for the allocation of audit tenders to see which claims from previous papers and the EU are right. Furthermore, it is interesting to see how the findings by this thesis match the ever increasing international nature of the profession, since this should stimulate international distribution of audit tenders. Therefore, the second research question is: Is the allocation of audit tenders to domestic or non-domestic firms more domesticallyorientated than the allocation of all tenders in the EU? Since the EU tries to stimulate non-domestic companies to perform tenders, the higher the number of audit tenders going to non-domestic companies, the better it is for the claim of the EU. However, since most research done about this topic proves the EU wrong in their claim of promoting non-domestic firms participation in the tender market, the lower the number of audit tenders going to non-domestic companies, the more it proves the points of previous research. 2

6 Lastly, with the data at hand, research done about other aspects of the EU s tender process can also be verified, namely for one whether the tenders, their criteria and procedures are clear and well executed and which types of tenders are used, meaning that findings from previous research about whether the tender specifications are clear and accurate and if different selection criteria are used that fit the tender process better are also valid for the audit tenders. Secondly, it will be researched in this thesis how firms try to influence this process by means of lobbying and if they have a chance at succeeding in this. Thirdly, the fact of whether small firms have a fair chance at getting tenders will be researched, since this can partly explain the outcomes from the first research question about concentration. The paper s build-up is as follows: Section 2 will discuss the EU s tender process, the principals the EU tries to adhere to, the central European website for tendering: Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) and the existence of TED-intermediaries; Section 3 will discuss the main hypotheses of this paper; Section 4 will discuss the research design, so the way in which the data are collected and how the data are composed (which factors are recorded) and the assumptions taken; Section 5 will discuss the results to the hypotheses from the data analysis; Section 6 will look at some supplementary analyses that can be retrieved from the dataset; Section 7 will summarize and conclude the paper; Section 8 will discuss the limitations of the paper; Section 9 will discuss future research possibilities; Section 10 will state the references used in this paper and section 11 is the appendix. 3

7 2. The EU tender process Before starting to examine the EU-tender process, it is important to understand what is meant by tendering. Tenders are defined (Gordon 2005) as: A proposal (usually made formally and in writing) to supply goods or services in response to a competitive offer put out by the private or public sector. This basically boils down to the following: certain institutions, firms or persons that want to see a specific task completed, want to get the most advantageous offer for this task from the party performing the tender e.g. they want the task to be completed in a way that maximizes quality and minimizes costs. To achieve these goals, the parties offering the tasks introduce the element of competition. By introducing this factor, all applicable parties can bid on the opportunity of getting the task assigned to them. The one that has the best mix of qualifications and price offered may perform the task. The benefit of tendering, therefore, is the lowest price or best quality mix for the party offering the task and fair competition for the parties accepting the task, which implies that every firm, domestic or non-domestic, has the opportunity at getting extra assignments and thus attaining extra revenue. The member states of the EU and the EC have long since used this procedure to assign tasks and contracts to firms. Before continuing with the specific methods, procedures and guidelines that the EU and its national governments have in place for assigning tasks via tenders to firms, a distinction has to be made between tenders and public-private partnerships. A public-private partnership (PPP) is a government service or private business venture which is funded and operated through a partnership of government and one or more private sector firms (GDFSuez 2008). It is basically the government and one or more firms working together on a project. The basic difference between tenders and PPPs is the fact that PPPs are established on the basis of long-term contracts and have direct government involvement, whereas carrying out a tender is the sole responsibility of the contracted party and is normally short-term based (whereas some do have longer terms of engagement). 4

8 Tendering by national governments is a practice that has been around for quite some time. To make sure that the tender process is performed in a fair way, the EU has issued guidelines on public procurement from the 1970 s onward. However, these early directives were limited in scope (Cox 1993). Since then, the EU has refined and adjusted its guidelines. In the directive on the award of public contracts, the criteria for awarding contracts in the EU are described (European Union 2003). The most important condition is that tasks and contracts with a value exceeding a certain threshold have to be listed at a European level via a central website and via an official EC journal. The official thresholds are listed in table (1) in the appendix. One can see the issuing parties (central government, the EU and others) with the types of contracts and the appropriate thresholds cited here. The type of contract of interest for this thesis is the supply and service contract. The EU has established these directives to maintain an atmosphere in which principles like equal treatment, non-discrimination, mutual recognition, proportionality and transparency are adhered to in the tender process (European Union 2003, p.28). However, although the directives want to achieve these goals, they also specify certain other practices that can be used in this process that counter this objective, namely auctions can be restricted for some bidders; some auctions take the form of a competitive dialogue, which is an interview with the candidates (European Union 2003, p. 48); some auctions make room for flexible procedures, which consist of the clients offering the solutions to the problem of the contracting authority (European Union 2003, p.19) and if the bidder proposed the idea him or herself, he or she can derive some benefits from this, also named design contests (European Commission 1992). These criteria, from which most are open to choose from by the tendering party, have been put in place to facilitate the tender process and ease the selection process for the contracting authorities. Although it seems that these different conditions are limiting the main goals mentioned earlier, the EU maintains that if these conditions are used, they can and may not hinder the basic factors underlying the tender process. So, for example, when a restricted procedure is selected, discrimination of parties should and may not occur. Besides ensuring equal treatment, non-discrimination, mutual recognition, proportionality and transparency, there is another reason why the EU decided on requiring tasks or contracts to be publicly listed. This reason relates to the overall objective of the EC to ensure free movement of goods throughout the EU and the according disappearance of the inter-eu borders, namely, the EU wants to stimulate non-domestic firms to perform tenders throughout the EU. 5

9 By publishing all EU and national government tenders on a central website and journal, non-domestic firms now have equal chances at getting access to all tenders, which was not the case before the introduction of these guidelines. Another benefit from posting all tenders (with a value above a certain threshold) on a central website is that lobbying now has a lower chance of success. Actual data about lobbying are not available on this subject, but papers do mention the many different negative effects lobbying has on the EU, like postponing, weakening or blocking sorely needed progress in the EU (Bianchi 2007). When looking at the claims of the EU about ensuring equal treatment, nondiscrimination, mutual recognition, proportionality and transparency, it is possible that these claims are not completely valid and that the views of the EU about promoting the free movement of services and lobbying are somewhat optimistic. To really understand the tender process of the EU and its benefits and drawbacks, a closer look has to be taken at the way this procedure works. The next section will highlight this process. 2.1 TED The EC requires with its new directives that all tasks that are put out for tender from its national governments and the EC itself (with a value above a certain threshold) have to be posted on a central website, named TED (Tenders Electronic Daily), to ensure equal competition in receiving the tenders and promoting non-domestic firms participation in the tender process for national tenders. The tendering parties, as described by the EC paper on public procurement (European Commission 1992), consist of the state, regional and local authorities, bodies governed by public law and associations formed by one or more local or regional authorities or bodies governed by public law. These parties can issue tenders and have to post these proposed contracts or tasks, when they are worth more than the applicable threshold, as is shown in table (1) in the appendix, on the TED website. The contracting parties can also post the estimated value of the whole tender and the procedure for awarding the contract in the specifications. The parties are free to choose from an open or restricted procedure, but can only use the negotiated procedure in exceptional circumstances. They can also divide the contract into lots (sub-assignments), when applicable. 6

10 The basis for the award of the contract can also be defined by the tendering party. They can choose from all kinds of qualities that they find important, be it lowest price, best reputation, best qualified and many others. Some authors state that a combination of these factors is also possible and that the use of this option is becoming ever more popular (Wong et al. 2000). Besides these options, the tendering parties also have to specify for which industry the contract can be of interest and what the task exactly entails, so that interested parties know the capabilities needed and whether the tasks are appropriate for their firm. Firstly, this specification is done via CPV, Common Procurement Vocabulary, codes. CPV is a code used to identify the general nature of the tasks, so that interested parties can search more efficiently, since the number of tasks appearing on TED can range up to 500 per day (Levy 1999). The system of CPV codes works in a quite simple way. The codes are made up of nine digits. The first number relates to a very broad category, whereas the second digit (which is a subcategory of the first main category) specifies the area somewhat more. This continues until the eight digit, which narrows the field in such a way that it is clear for the interested party what is expected from him or her. More specifically: The first two digits identify the divisions; The first three digits identify the groups; The first four digits identify the classes; The first five digits identify the categories; Each of the last three digits gives a greater degree of precision within each category and the ninth digit serves to verify the previous digits (a check-digit) (SIMAP 2008). Obviously, the more specified the CPV-code used in the tender, the clearer it is for the interested party what is exactly expected from the executing party. Secondly, the contracting parties can specify the assignment further in the tender, by (exactly) describing what is expected from the parties performing the task. So, whereas the CPV codes are put in place to filter the assignments, the description can offer more information to interested parties. After issuing parties have posted their tenders on TED, all interested parties can respond on these tenders. Whether all respondents are selected to participate depends on the procedure selected. As previously stated, in an open procedure, all participants can offer bids on tenders, whereas in restricted procedures, participants interested first have to be granted the right to participate in the bidding process, before sending in tenders. The party that offers the best combination of factors as defined by the tender award criteria wins the contract, which is normally in the form of a framework agreement, meaning that the contract will generally extend its time frame over one or more years. 7

11 The total value and number of tenders offered to firms is quite large. As was already stated, governments only have to post tenders on TED, when the value of a tender exceeds certain thresholds, which are shown in table (1) in the appendix. This means that even more tenders are offered each year than posted on the website. At the end of the 1980 s, public authorities issued tenders with an overall value of about 10-16% of Europe s GDP (Yee 2003). As already stated in the introduction of this paper, the EU published on its website, that public procurement accounts for 16% of Europe s GDP in 2002 (with a value of 1,500 billion), but this percentage can vary between member states from 11 to 20% (European Commission 2008). These data suggest that from 1980 to 2002 the level of public procurement did not increase or decrease over the years. Martin et al. (1999) report that in 1993 government expenditure via tenders in the EU accounted for 1,020 billion European Currency Unit (ECU). ECU is a composite monetary unit consisting of a basket of European Community currencies that served as the predecessor to the Euro. Its value is equivalent to the Euro. Yet, it is also shown that contracts worth only 300 billion ( 384 billion) are outsourced by the governments and the EC each year and that around 500 tenders are put on TED each day (Levy 1999). This shows that there is some uncertainty about the total value of public procurement in the EU. Seeing that each day up to 500 contracts are uploaded on TED, it could be a real problem to filter all the appropriate tasks that are of interest for a certain party looking to perform tender assignments. Because this selection process can be quite difficult, many different firms have specialised in this appropriation process and have assumed the role of intermediaries between tender offering and tender accepting parties, serving clients that are interested in tenders, but do not want to spend time on collecting and looking for assignments. They will find the appropriate tasks for the firms online on TED, with the possibility to either give a firm weekly updates on available tasks or they will offer firms means to find tenders for themselves in a quick and easy way. There are also firms that offer training in using TED and bidding on tenders. Others will even bid for their clients in the appropriate writing style. 8

12 The main argument used by these firms to promote themselves is that 500 tenders can be uploaded per day. However, these tenders relate to many different fields and countries. The TED website (that can be used free of charge) can filter these tenders easily and quickly and saves preferred search terms. Seeing the prices that these firms ask for their services and the relative ease in which an individual can make use of the TED website through the use of CPV codes, the services these firms offer seem quite expensive. However, seeing that these firms have much experience and provide solutions on a relatively easy and stable base, it is understandable that firms prefer these intermediary firms to do this work for them and are not willing to spend time on it themselves. Wrapping up, the method used by the EC seeks to ensure equal treatment, nondiscrimination, mutual recognition, proportionality and transparency in the tender process used by all EU member states. Also, it intends to ensure fair competition and maximizes the value gained through the tender process. This paper will look at the statements made by the EU that were just described and see if they are adhered to in the tender process for audit tasks, as described in the introduction. One of the points that will be highlighted is the EU s claim that tasks are distributed proportionally. These tasks fall under the heading of Service tenders. The appropriate CPVcodes used in this paper for the selection of the tenders are: for the audit tasks * and for the accountancy tasks *, as shown in the appendix in table (2). 9

13 3. Development of the hypotheses Many papers have been written about the EU s tender process. They have highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of this process. Indeed, the criteria used by the EC for the selection of this tender process are clear. However, the objectives of the process, the principals which the EC claims the process has to adhere to and the outcomes of the process are subject to much criticism by many different authors. The benefits of the process are also acknowledged, but far more research focuses on the drawbacks of the current way in which tasks are outsourced. This section will do research on two important features of the tender system: the effective stimulation of proportionality and non-domestic firm participation. The focus will therefore be on the practical outcomes of the tender process with respect to the proportionality of the division of audit tasks and the actual allocation of tasks to domestic and non-domestic firms and compare these results with the arguments and findings of other papers that have also done research about the tender process of the EU. The section supplementary analyses will focus on some other points of attention. For the first hypothesis, it should be noted that the market for audit tasks is highly concentrated. The firms participating in this market can best be described via a hierarchy, with the biggest four audit firms on top and the rest following from a distance. This phenomenon is called concentration, meaning that a few firms dominate the market. Many papers have been written about the concentrated audit market, like the one by Abidin et al. (2003) who show that the audit market in the UK is highly concentrated and that it is the Big- 5 or Big-4 firms who dominate the market. A paper written by Prins (2008) shows almost all government organisations of a larger size and multinationals are audited by the Big-7 firms. Another paper written by Maijoor et al. (1995) shows that the Dutch audit market had low and stable levels of concentration over a long period of time and that these levels have begun to increase substantially over the past two decades, for 1995 onwards. As Hanney (2007) shows: in the case of the audit and accountancy market, the so-called Big-4 firms serve an average of 91% of the large public firms in the G8 countries. Concentration can therefore be seen as a important phenomena in the audit market nowadays. 10

14 The danger of this high concentration rate is that large firms do not have much choice in which auditors they can select, since it is only the bigger audit firms that can handle really large clients. Also, because of the fact that certain tasks can not be performed by only one audit firm, since performing the audit and certain non-auditing tasks will comprise auditor independence, firms have even less choice in auditors. To see whether this concentration rate also appears in the distribution of audit tenders, an accumulation of tasks to audit firms should be made to see whether the claims of the EU are correct (that the tasks are assigned proportionally) and because of that, as is expected in this paper, the high concentration rate also persists in the tender market. Based on these facts, the following hypothesis can be stated: H 1 : The distribution of audit tenders to firms shows the same proportions as the concentration ratios in the general audit market. For the second hypothesis, it should be noted that many criticisms have been made about the basic purpose of the establishment of TED, namely the promotion of tasks being performed by non-domestic firms operating outside the borders of their home country. National governments have been discriminating non-domestic firms in the tender process for a long time or better said, they were favouring domestic firms, so as to stimulate the homeeconomy. Many papers have done research about the fact of whether the EU s new approach (obliging tenders above a certain threshold to be mandatorily published on TED and in an official EU journal) has yielded the intended results. As is stated in an article from The Economist, Crossborder public procurement accounts for 10% of all EU contracts (Yee 2003). This means that of all the tenders that have been awarded to firms, 10% have gone to non-domestic firms. Seeing that this percentage was 6% in 1987, according to Yee (2003), there is already significant improvement in this objective from the EC. However, there has been some controversy about this issue. For instance, this percentage was only 2% in 1985 (Martin et al. 1997), and ever since, there has been little improvement: in 1999, still 98% of all contracts were supplied to domestic firms (Levy 1999). Some also show that there was little change in this field and that preferential purchasing remains as strong as that identified a decade earlier (Gelderman and Brugman 2006). 11

15 Whatever the exact outcome is, all authors that write about this topic do seem to agree about one thing: namely that, as Yee (2003) states it, public authorities continue to favour local firms in procurement tenders and as Martin et al. (1997) state it: the data suggest considerable doubt about the true extent of openness in EU public procurement markets. To see which authors are right (at least relating to the field of audit tenders), a detailed analysis of the nationality of the parties that received tenders will be made on basis of the data collected for this paper on which a comparison can also be made to see whether there has been improvement over the years. Next to the percentage of tasks that go to non-domestic firms, it is important to see which country issues most of its tasks to non-domestic firms in general. As is shown by research from Martin et al. (1999), each country issues on average 1-2 percent of tasks to non domestic firms. Definite outliers for 1993 are Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Ireland and Belgium, with 5 to 17% of tasks going to non-domestic firms (however, their total number of tasks is relatively small). These countries give out many tasks to non-domestic firms. France and Germany show little support for involving non-domestic firms in their tender process with relatively low percentages of 0.59 to 0.9%. The UK achieves the average rate of 2%. Because the data for this paper are retrieved in a first-hand data collection process, it makes for the opportunity to do research in a completely different way then is regularly used by papers about this topic. Most authors tend to send out questionnaires to firms. Few authors have actually done first-hand research within the TED database to observe actual outcomes. Two papers have been written, however, about the allocation of tenders to domestic and nondomestic firms with a research design, similar to the on used in this thesis (Martin et al. 1997; Martin et al. 1999). In these papers, the authors use data from the TED database to see all the direct allocation results. These results over 1993 can be used to compare the data from this paper, since the way in which research is done is very similar. This will show a comparison between past results and more current measurement. By looking at the distribution of audit tenders that were assigned by governments in the EU, a similar overview like Martin et al. (1999) established by means of their paper can be made to show differences and similarities of the audit market vs. the complete tender market. 12

16 It is expected that there will not only be no improvement from 1993 to , but that there will actually be a deterioration of the tender allocation to non-domestic firms. This assumption builds on the fact that it is expected that no improvement will have occurred from 1993 to current day (as no improvement was shown by Martin et al. (1997) and Martin et al. (1999) from 1985 to 1993) and that it does not seem logical to have foreign firms perform domestic tenders. Neighbouring countries do have a chance, but countries that lay at the other side of Europe do not seem to be a logical choice for performing the tender. Also, due to the country-specific nature of the selected tenders, namely because country-specific local Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) is still being used by smaller firms, nondomestic firms will not have an opportunity at participating, just because they do not have the right experience in that field. Based on the findings from the previous authors and the expectations formed in this paper, the following hypothesis can be stated: H 2 : The allocation of audit tenders to domestic or non-domestic firms is more domesticallyorientated than the allocation of all tenders in the EU. 13

17 4. Research design This section will show how the data were collected and used to produce the results. The first point that has to be highlighted about the research design is its focus. Previous literature in this area took its sample of firms from the construction industry or accumulated all assigned EU tenders. This paper will take all the assigned audit tenders. By using this approach it will be interesting to see whether, besides the presence of the Big-4 in the tender market, previous results, obtained from research in this market, also hold up for audit tenders. Papers that focus on construction firms are the following by Wilson et al. (1987), Betts (1990), Fong and Choi (2000) and Wong et al. (2000). Another point in which this research differs from most previous tender papers is that this research was conducted in a different and more extensive way than other papers in this field. Most of the papers use questionnaires that are sent out to firms to evaluate their perspective on the tender process. Some papers, like the ones written by Martin et al. (1997) and Martin et al. (1999) focus on retrieving data first hand, but focus on fewer research goals than this paper (however, with a larger sample). The data collection process started with retrieving all assigned tenders from the period that have been published on TED from the website. An example of the tenders that were accumulated is shown in figure (1) in the appendix. This example is not formatted in any way and therefore shows the original layout of the assigned tenders, retrieved from TED that were used as input for the data for this thesis. Before this retrieval could commence, filters needed for extraction of the data from the assigned tenders had to be put in place to get an appropriate sample, which was done by CPV-codes. The codes used are listed in table (2) in the appendix: services that were included fell under the CPV-categories * and *. The first overlapping category (Auditing Services) contains Financial Auditing Services, Internal Audit Services, Statutory Audit Services, Fraud Audit Services and Accounting Review Services. The second category is Compilation Of Financial Statement Services (this was chosen since it is a service that many audit firms perform) and contains no subcategories. The category * with its subcategories was left out, although (the main category) Bookkeeping Services sounds applicable to this research. However, this category is made up of two subcategories which are both not relevant to this research, namely Payroll Management Services and Sales And Purchasing Recording Services, since they imply internal services. 14

18 Since this main category of bookkeeping services only implies these two subcategories (the heading category of Bookkeeping Services merely serves as a title for the two subcategories), it is not of interest for this study on audit tasks. The first thing that came to attention when going over the data was that many data were incomplete. Firm names were missing, CPV codes and descriptions were missing or specified too generally and most importantly: fees were missing or incorrectly stated. Fees could be stated to account for the whole or a part of the period, most fees were stated in different currencies, some fees only stated the highest and lowest amount offered, some only stated the expected value of the tender, some fees only stated an hourly amount and no hours and some fees were simply missing. Next to this, there was hardly any information about framework agreements and many tenders did not state what the award procedure was. All of these drawbacks will be elaborated on further in the supplementary analyses section. Because of the fact that the data were incomplete in many cases and sometimes unclear, some assumptions had to be made in how to record all of this data consistently. The first assumption was about what to do when data were missing. It was decided that even though sometimes data were missing, for means of completeness on other aspects that were included, it was still necessary to incorporate this data. Tenders that lacked a firm name were included in the country comparison and excluded in the Big-4 vs. Non Big-4 comparison. Tenders that lacked a fee were only included in the total number of tasks assigned and in the country comparison. The second assumption was how to define the fees retrieved by the firms. Because the fees were stated in many different ways, some basic guidelines had to be adhered to, so as to make sure that the fees fully reflect their correct value and are still comparable. The first step was to look at what values of the fees should be incorporated in the data. The decision was made to firstly take the total definitive value. If this value was not stated, the lowest offered amount was taken. If this value was not or incorrectly reported (not adhering to the thresholds in appendix table (1) or whichever ones were applicable for that year), the total estimated value was taken. When it was stated that the assignment was a framework agreement, extending over a certain period, the value of the assignment was multiplied by the appropriate period. This was only done, when the value of the assignment did not already contain this extended period (in the case of total definitive value ). Fees were then translated to current exchange rates (as of ), so all fees appear in euro values, which makes comparison easier. 15

19 The last assumption was about the division of the contracts. Some contracts stated that multiple firms were working on the tender or the tender s subject contained multiple descriptions and CPV codes. When an assignment contained more than one CPV-code, firm or both, the total fee was divided evenly, therefore giving each subject a portion of the task, but still leading to one effective task. Also, CPV-codes not included in the selection appeared in most tenders, since most tenders included audit, accountancy and other nonrelated tasks. These codes were also included in the sample, with an even proportion of revenue assigned to them, but were classified under the heading of Other. In the results, the Other section was left out, so that all outcomes relate to the pre-specified audit tasks. Another assumption was to only include the most specified subcategories possible. However, since most tenders were not specified in much detail, most CPV codes only included general, broad categories. In these cases the broad categories were included. When an assignment contained multiple firms working on it, the fee was again divided equally, unless the assignment was subdivided in multiple lots with each having its own value and firm working on it (meaning either each tender or each lot counts as one or 100%). This effectively means that there are 1165 tenders in the sample and 1563 effective tasks. The data contained in the tenders was put in Excel, with different aspects per column. Column 1: the name of the firm. Column 2: the country that issued the tender, also the EC. Column 3: it is classified whether they are a Big-4 or Non-Big-4 firm and the Big-4 firms are classified further with a code from one to four, which Big-4 firm they are. Column 4: this column generalizes the different Big-4 firms to a single code again. Column 5: the date the tender was placed on TED. Column 6: the number of the tender. Column 7: the type of service defined by its CPV-code. Column 8: the same column as column 7, except for the fact that the services other than the ones included in the area of interest for this paper are renamed Other. Column 9: the total fee received for the tender. Column 10: the currency the fee was noted in. Column 11: the euro value of the fee, translated using current exchange rates. Column 12: the percentage of the assignment that was awarded to either the part of the assignment or the executing part(y)(ies). Column 13: the euro value of the assignment times the percentage, to show the value relating to this part of the tender. 16

20 One other minor column included the specific year values for possible trend comparison, however, a trend comparison was not deemed to provided added value to the research and was therefore not used. Another column stated whether tenders included a framework agreement (so the tender extended over multiple years, with the value adjusted accordingly) and other columns were included which stated the award procedure of the tender (when an award procedure was stated and price was not stated as being the sole criterion, the award procedure was named MCS (Multiple Criteria Selection). MCS will be elaborated on further in the supplementary analyses. With this data at hand, the hypotheses could only be answered with the use of a decent research strategy. For both hypotheses, a research strategy with the accompanying assumptions was formulated. In order to test hypothesis one, total revenues from the EU audit tender market and revenues from the Big-4 in the EU tender market had to be compared with worldwide revenues from the total audit market and worldwide revenues for the Big-4 firms together. The according revenues have been found via the International Accounting Bulletin (International Accounting Bulletin 2007). Based on these revenues, concentration among these four firms will be compared in the total world market in 2007 vs. concentration among these four in the tender market over the full period (for more exact comparison). The concentration levels will be tested and compared via n-firm concentration ratios (calculated as taking the revenues of top-performing companies in a certain industry, adding them up and then dividing this number by the total market revenue of this industry) and via a Herfindahl-Hirschman (HH) index (calculated by taking the market shares (firm revenue divided by industry revenue), squaring them and adding them up for all top-performing companies). With this data at hand, the aim of the research can be tested, which is to see whether the audit tenders are distributed proportionally with regard to concentration and with this, one can test the EU s claim about proportionality. 17

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