ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES, ELECTRONIC TRANSACTIONS AND ELECTRONIC RECORD MANAGEMENT FOR STATE FORMS - 1734

(Revised: 03/2021)

Purpose

This policy requires all forms that are designed to be completed by internal or external customers (public or private sector entities) conducting business with the State of California, whether standard (STD) or agency forms, are available in an electronic format. Agencies shall use electronic signatures (hereafter “e-Signatures” or “e-Sign”) in place of a wet signature unless prohibited by law.

This policy identifies the permissible types of e-Signatures, electronic transactions, and electronic records (hereafter “e-Records”) when utilizing forms for state business.

Scope

This policy applies to all business processes conducted using forms managed by Forms Management Center (FMC) including STD forms and agency business-use forms. This policy enables state agency staff to conduct transactions electronically, to accept e-Signatures by other parties, and to sign agreements on the agency’s behalf by using an e-Signature. This policy does not waive or modify any requirement or limitation as to which officers and employees are authorized to bind their agency to a contract.

This policy does not affect a state agency’s right or obligation to have forms be provided or made available in alternate formats when required by applicable policies, laws, or regulations.

Background

Federal legislation known as the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act made both electronic contracts and e-Signatures as legal and enforceable, with some exceptions, as traditional paper contracts and forms signed in person.

Following the federal government’s lead, California adopted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (California Civil Code § 1633.1-1633.17), which establishes the legal validity of e-Signatures and contracts in a manner similar to the federal law.

California law was revised to make clear that the state is authorized to use any type of e-Signature. See AB 2296 (Chapter 144, Statutes of 2016), effective 1/1/17.

Policy

State agencies shall ensure all forms are digitally available and can accept e-Signatures. When an electronic form is transmitted to a state agency, the chain of approval of all those required to sign that document must be clear and unambiguous. All parties required to sign must have unequivocally approved the same document.

Agency Responsibilities

When implementing the use of e-Signatures, agencies shall:

  • Implement an e-Signature policy;
  • Implement confidentiality procedures to address accurate identification, authentication, authorization, and accountability;
  • Implement integrity procedures to address non-repudiation;
  • Maintain an e-Record management procedure to ensure electronic form storage and availability;
  • Ensure processes and technologies are in place to accept and enable the use of e-Signatures;
  • Format forms requiring signatures to accept e-Signatures.

The Department of General Services (DGS) and FMC permit the use of the following e-Signatures, transactions and record management activities in conducting state business with STD or Agency forms:

  • Electronic Signatures: State agencies may accept permissible types of e-Signatures from all parties as legally binding and equivalent to handwritten signatures to signify an agreement. Each type of e-Signature will include the date the document was signed. Where state or federal laws, regulations, or rules require a handwritten signature, that requirement is met if the document contains an e-Signature unless otherwise prohibited by policies, laws, or regulations. Electronic forms must clearly and unambiguously show the chain of approval of all parties required to sign that document.
  • Electronic Transactions: State business operations utilizing forms can now be completed electronically. In some cases, state agencies may have a legal obligation to collect a wet signature. In such cases, some forms will still need to be submitted to the agency in paper format.  These requirements may change over time as technology adoption is implemented into policy.
  • Record Management: An e-Record may serve as the official copy of a business-related document. All relevant records, including e-Records, shall be maintained in a reliable recordkeeping system. Business conducted by electronic means shall be fully documented to meet recordkeeping requirements. Records shall be retained or disposed of in accordance with the approved records retention schedules stated in California State Records and Information Management (CalRIM) as supported by the State Contracting Manual (SCM) and the State Administrative Manual (SAM) 1600 et seq.

Types of E-Signatures Permitted for Use on State and Agency Forms by State Agencies

Only the following types of e-Signatures (further defined in SAM 1710) can be used on forms by state agencies.

  • Name Typed or Stamped
  • Recorded Voice
  • Personal Identification Number (PIN) or Password
  • Digitized Image of Handwritten Signature
  • Digital Signature
A form needs to include a statement confirming agreement (for example: “I confirm”, “I agree”, or “I accept”) that is tied to the e-Signature to create a binding electronic record. Most state and agency forms already include this language above the signature block.

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