Use of digital signatures can streamline your administrative processes but you could hit a stumbling block if you do not agree your use of digital signatures with your auditor.
Types of digital signature can vary from a scanned ‘wet signature’ to encrypted e-signature software such as Adobe Sign. Secure passworded e-portfolio systems such as Smart Assessor and Ecordia also apply the user’s digital signature, date and time, to documents generated and stored in the system. More on good practice with digital signatures.
ESFA funding rules explicitly permit digital signatures. “We accept electronic evidence, including digital signatures, but you must have wider systems and processes in place to assure you that learners exist and are eligible for funding.” Para A95 Common and performance funding rules 2016-2017 (Version 3, 30 March 2017).
Sound business processes are key: wider evidence is needed to authenticate identity and this is the provider’s responsibility. Evidence that the apprentice exists and is still on programme will be available through careful recording of review and monitoring processes involving the trainer, employer and the apprentice. Digital signatures are only part of a much more detailed evidence trail.
If in doubt, discuss your use of digital signatures with your ESFA auditor.