Government Contracts Digital Signature Complied with Certification Requirement
Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Digital Signature Complied with Certification Requirement

By Government Contracts Editorial Staff

A motion to dismiss an appeal for lack of a proper claim certification was denied by the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals because the record contained sufficient evidence to indicate that the digital signature on the certification was verifiable. At issue was whether the contractor’s vice president’s signature, affixed to a claim through the use of a digital signature computer application that required the use of a unique password and user identification, complied with the Contract Disputes Act’s claim certification requirement (41 USC 7103(b)). The Federal Acquisition Regulation defines signature as “the discrete, verifiable symbol of an individual that, when affixed to a writing with the knowledge and consent of the individual, indicates a present intention to authenticate the writing. This includes electronic symbols” (FAR 2.101). The government argued that, to be verifiable, an electronic signature must be capable of being authenticated with a “validated, trustworthy certificate underlying the digital signature.”

“Draconian Demands”. The board rejected this definition as lacking support in either the FAR or CDA. The board found no appeal where the government successfully argued that the ink signature certifying a claim was inadequate or facially belonged to somebody else. Accordingly, the board would not impose “draconian demands on digital signatures, not required to be met for their ink counterparts.” As with ink signatures, a digital signature is verifiable when a mark can be tied to an individual. Here, the digital signature originated from the VP’s email account, and the contractor’s information technology manager indicated that the signature originated with the VP because it required a password and user identification unique to him. Thus, nothing in the CDA or prior board decisions required the exclusive use of an ink signature or imposed standards for digital signatures that were any more stringent than those that apply to such traditionally-accepted ink signatures. (URS Federal Services, Inc., ASBCA, ¶95,882)

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