A task order is an order for products or services associated with a main general contract that sets out the basic stipulations of a business agreement. This document provides information about a specific task the client wants the provider to perform under the terms of the general contract. Task ordering is used commonly with government contracts, although it can occur in the private sector as well. When service providers receive the documentation, they need to read through it with care to make sure they understand what is required, and to confirm that it does not exceed the mandates of the general contract.
In the general contract, two parties agree to do business with one another in specific circumstances. The general contract creates terms and conditions for the business relationship, and may establish a framework for the lesser task orders. When the client wants something specific from the provider, a task order must be written out to request it and to provide as much information as possible. Without this, the provider cannot move forward.
The task order explains what the client wants done, and any limitations. For instance, there may be cost limits, or a request to use materials from a specific source. The task order can include a request to inform the client if costs climb above a certain amount, so clients are aware when projects start to get large. It also discusses deadlines, delivery locations, and other topics that the provider needs to know about in order to complete the order satisfactorily.
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Task orders allow clients to draw upon existing general contracts as long as the terms of the relationship are still current. Rather than having to draw up a new contract for each individual task, they can use the general contract as a framework and call on the provider when more services are necessary. Many government agencies use a standardized form for task orders to make sure all the information is present and to avoid ambiguities and other problems that could arise with custom documentation.
The service provider usually requires authorization before it can move forward with a task order. This prevents situations where people exceed their responsibilities and order a provider to perform a task that has not been authorized. The task order may need to be countersigned or otherwise validated to confirm that the agency is aware it has been issued and does request the services outlined at the costs indicated.