“Most people don’t realize that only a few people on campus have the authority to sign contracts,” said Kate Wasch, managing attorney in the Office of Legal Affairs. “We encounter individuals not understanding that there are very strict guidelines about who can sign a contract, and, inadvertently, they sign a contract — sometimes not realizing they are signing a contract. Not only is this a bad business practice, but it can place that individual personally at risk.”
Fortunately, the guidelines that pertain to who has the authority to sign contracts are fairly straightforward. At Tech, a contract is defined as any type of agreement made on behalf of Georgia Tech — such as a purchase order or hotel agreement — in which the parties make a legally enforceable commitment. As outlined in the annual memorandum from the Office of the President, per the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, only the president of each institution has the authority to sign contracts and assign that signature authority to others. Delegation of signature authority must be in writing, and the recipient cannot forward or assign this delegation to anyone else. If someone does sign a contract without explicit authorization to do so, under Georgia law, she or he may incur personal liability.
In addition, there are specific rules regarding purchase agreements. Agreements for the purchase of goods and services must be reviewed, approved, and acted upon by Procurement & Business Services. All agreements must be signed before the vendor is authorized to provide the goods and/or services. Any purchase agreement less than $2,500 should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org for review and signature. All purchase agreements $2,500 or greater that require review and signature should be attached to a requisition in BuzzMart.
The Office of Legal Affairs is available to answer questions about contracts including reviewing and approving legal forms, and can also provide guidance on signature authority. To learn more, visit www.legal.gatech.edu.