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# Partial Allocation in Budget-feasible Mechanism Design: Bridging Multiple Levels of Service and Divisible Agents

December/2023, WINE 2023

GAME-THEORY

Budget-feasible procurement has been a major paradigm in mechanism design since its introduction by Singer [20]. An auctioneer (buyer) with a strict budget constraint is interested in buying goods or services from a group of strategic agents (sellers). In many scenarios it makes sense to allow the auctioneer to only partially buy what an agent offers, e.g., an agent might have multiple copies of an item to sell, they might offer multiple levels of a service, or they may be available to perform a task for any fraction of a specified time interval. Nevertheless, the focus of the related literature has been on settings where each agent’s services are either fully acquired or not at all. The main reason for this, is that in settings with partial allocations like the ones mentioned, there are strong inapproximability results (see, e.g., Chan and Chen [9], Anari et al. [4]). Under the mild assumption of being able to afford each agent entirely, we are able to circumvent such results in this work. We design a polynomial-time, deterministic, truthful, budget-feasible (2+√3)-approximation mechanism for the setting where each agent offers multiple levels of service and the auctioneer has a discrete separable concave valuation function. We then use this result to design a deterministic, truthful and budget-feasible mechanism for the setting where any fraction of a service can be acquired and the auctioneer’s valuation function is separable concave (i.e., the sum of concave functions). The approximation ratio of this mechanism depends on how ‘nice’ the concave functions are, and is O(1) for valuation functions that are sums of O(1)-regular functions (e.g., functions like log(1+ x)). For the special case of a linear valuation function, we improve the best known approximation ratio for the problem from 1 + φ (by Klumper and Schäfer [15]) to 2.