Despite technological advance, some (perhaps even you) still cling to the notion that a signature, written by a human hand, is the only official kind. In other words, if a person doesn’t personally affix his “John Hancock” in cursive script or some other creative form, then the document really isn’t signed.
If this thought sounds familiar, we’re here to liberate you. You are no longer bound like a medieval prisoner to your tube filled with ink. You can use an electronic signature in your contract work with the U.S. Government, including certifications connected to claims submitted under the Contract Disputes Act.
A government contractor must include certain details in a certified claim, including a sum certain, signature, and a request for a final decision. With regards to the “sum certain,” a contractor cannot avoid this requirement by attempting to portray its claim as one not for monetary relief, when the contractor is really just asking for money.
Let’s suppose that, under your contract, an agency hasn’t properly paid for your work. Or the agency took actions that caused you damages. Can you run off to the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals to register your complaint and recovery your money?
Yes . . . if you’ve taken an important preliminary step: filing a claim with the contracting officer.
What goes around, comes around.
The government sometimes refuses to pay a contractor for a modification when the government official requesting the modification lacks appropriate authority. But contractual authority isn’t a one-way street benefiting only the government. A recent decision by the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals demonstrates that a contractor may not be bound by a final waiver and release of claims if the individual signing on the contractor’s behalf lacked authority.
When issues arise in performance of a federal contract, a contractor may seek redress from the government by filing a claim with the contracting officer. However, commencing such a claim may result in an exercise of patience and waiting by the contractor.
The Contract Disputes Act, as a jurisdictional hurdle for claims over $100,000, requires a contractor to submit a “certified claim” to the agency. The CDA also requires the contracting officer, within sixty days of receipt of a certified claim, to issue a decision on that claim or notify the contractor of the time within which the decision will be issued.
That second part of the equation can lead to some frustration on the part of contractors. As seen in a recent Civilian Board of Contract Appeals decision, a contracting officer may, in an appropriate case, extend the ordinary 60-day time frame by several months.
The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals can order an agency to “speed up” its decision on a certified claim if the contracting officer’s anticipated time frame is unreasonably slow.
In a recent case, the ASBCA ordered a contracting officer to issue a decision approximately eight weeks earlier than the contracting officer planned to do so. The ASBCA’s decision highlights a little-known provision of the Contract Disputes Act, which entitles a contractor to request that an appropriate tribunal order an agency to hasten its decision on a claim.
A contractor did not file a proper certified claim because the purported “signature” on the mandatory certification was typewritten in Lucinda Handwriting font.
A recent decision of the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals highlights the importance of providing a fully-compliant certification in connection with all claims over $100,000–which includes, according to the ASBCA, the requirement for a verifiable signature.