From a document I'm translating. The document lays down requirements for a company to comply with in order to pass certification:

Authorized Signature
A list of authorized signatures shall be kept including the name of the employee, the authorized signature and authorized signature competence and the backup of the person when absent. It shall be clearly defined how this list is managed and where it is kept.

I can't understand the meaning of "authorized signature competence". Does it mean "the range of documents that this particular person can officially sign"? This is my guess. I googled but found no clear definition.

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    I Am Not A Lawyer, so don't take my opinion as gospel. But my guess is the authorized signature competence here means the [generally-recognised / official] competency of the person providing the authorized signature. That's to say, the qualifications the signee has to justify attaching his signature to some official document (because you can 't just have the office tea lady signing contracts on behalf of the company). Nov 23, 2020 at 15:58
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    Also, I suspect that most if not all instances of signature in your text should probably be signatory. Which may or may not make a difference, but you really should consider consulting an actual lawyer if you're translating legal texts. Nov 23, 2020 at 16:07
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    I’m voting to close this question because it's about translating domain-specific "legalese" - that even native Anglophones don't necessarily know much about. Nov 23, 2020 at 16:47
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    Full Oxford English Dictionary, competence defn 4b [esp. Law] The quality or position of being legally competent; legal capacity or admissibility. But I found this in Google Books Competency of Signatory — The Comptroller General denied the protest of an unsuccessful bidder that the winning bid was signed by an individual who was not an authorized representative of the successful bidder. Nov 23, 2020 at 17:37
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    Permission or delegated authority. In my day job, I issue Statements of Financial Authority and these contain the person's name, their post, and specify the account codes (i.e. budget areas) and maximum amounts for expenditure that they can can authorise. I would say that someone who attempted to go outside their SFA was trying to exceed their comptency. Nov 23, 2020 at 18:35

1 Answer 1


One of my longer answers: please be patient with me.

In the running of any legally constituted company or charity the question arises: who has authority to make legally binding contracts dealing with such matters as purchases and employment of staff, or to be responsible for the adherence to the law? - or to certify compliance with regulatory or quality standards - as in your question.

It is normal for these issues to be handled by a "scheme of delegation". Separate schemes may deal with finance, purchases, employment, regulation or certification. They have a common characteristic that the big decisions are handled by the senior people in the company and the smaller decisions are handled by staff lower in the hierarchy.

Without such a scheme, the legal force of agreements between the company and others is questionable, or the probity of the company is endangered. Those who are competent (=authorised) within the scheme to sign orders, agreements etc are acting as legal representatives of the company. Agreements made by others without signature competence are unlikely to be valid.

Here is an example from a part of the Scottish Government's general prescription of public schemes:

15.1 Purchasing authority No member of staff may award a contract without written delegated purchasing authority. This delegated authority to commit to a contract (purchasing authority) is entirely separate from delegated budgetary authority, including that detailed in individual financial responsibility statements.

15.2 Separation of duties In any procurement process, the key roles of budget holder and purchaser should not be performed by the same individual. The budget holder should have authority to commission goods, services or works and to provide financial authority for the expenditure. The purchaser should have authority to commit the organisation to a contract for the purchase of goods, services or works.

Scottish Procurement Policy Handbook. 15

and here is an example of a detailed part of a financial scheme of delegation:

University of the Highlands and Islands Financial Regulations

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This example shows the monetary size of delegated authority at various staff levels. At the lowest level, staff may commit to orders less than £500. Only the university secretary has authority to authorise purchases above £25K. The secretary is the only person with authorised signature competence for these large purchases.

I have described a financial scheme but the same principles apply to schemes of certification and demonstration of compliance with the law and various standards.

  • Top rate answer, Anton. This is part of what I do (finance policy). Nov 23, 2020 at 20:25
  • You say that competent is synonymous with authorised, which is indeed true in many contexts. The OP's text, however, contains the phrase 'authorized signature competence', which makes one wonder whether the synonymity can be assumed in this particular case.
    – jsw29
    Nov 23, 2020 at 23:25
  • The competence represented by the authorised signature. Nov 24, 2020 at 7:27
  • @MichaelHarvey thank you. A cheering note to start another corona day.
    – Anton
    Nov 24, 2020 at 7:41
  • Why would one say 'The secretary is the only person with authorised signature competence for these large purchases' instead of either 'The secretary is the only person that is authorised to sign for these large purchases' or 'The secretary is the only person with signature competence for these large purchases'? Is there ever any reason for having both authorised and competence together, if they convey the same information?
    – jsw29
    Nov 24, 2020 at 17:21

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