Monday, February 28, 2005

What is an Audit?

State Controller Steve Westly is recommending that California's stem cell agency clarify auditing procedures for both the institute and grantees.

His recommendation is contained in a 20-page
review of fiscal standards prepared for distribution to the oversight committee at its meeting tomorrow. The review examined procedures at the NIH, the National Science Foundation and the relatively new and small Stem Cell Research Foundation.

Westly notes that despite longstanding standards at the NIH and NSF, both agencies “still periodically encounter problems that raise questions over the use of grant funds by some of the grantees.” He suggests that CIRM use the agencies' standards as a starting point.

Westly's report says CIRM should “clarify audit requirements for (both) the institute and its grantees.”

“The initiative specifies that the institute shall annually commission an independent financial audit of its activities from a certified public accounting firm. However, what constitutes a financial audit could be interpreted differently, from a very limited-scope financial statement audit to a comprehensive financial and compliance audit. In addition, given that the initiative specifies that the Institute shall commission the audit 'of its activities,' it is unclear as to whether the audit would include the activities of the grantees, which, in our opinion, pose a higher risk,” the report says.

“Therefore, if the financial audit does not include the activities of the grantees, the institute should make arrangements for such activities to be audited. One option would be to adopt the federal single audit requirement by having those grantees receiving grant funds in excess of a certain amount arrange for an independent audit. Another option would be to create an audit function within the Institute to perform grant audits. The institute could also directly contract with other audit organizations for such audits.”
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