Monday, July 13, 2009

CIRM's Troubled Grant Management System: A $1 Billion Oversight Matter

The California stem cell agency is likely to have approved $1 billion in grants by the end of this year, but its grants management system appears to be in disarray, which may be something of an understatement.

CIRM has never publicly revealed the full nature of the problems, which date at least back to 2006. However, in its budget presentation last month, the agency identified oversight of grants as an area of “risk.”

In January, the California State Auditor reported that CIRM was not in compliance with the auditor’s two-year-old recommendations for implementation of a comprehensive grants management system. As the result of a months-long study in 2006, the auditor said that a system was needed to provide accountability and assess how well CIRM was meeting its strategic goals.

CIRM plans to spend at least $575,000 and likely more this year to help fix its problems. CIRM did not provide comparable figures for last year.

It is not clear how much has been spent in the last two years since directors were told that the “complete cost” of a solution from Grantium would be $757,000. The Grantium software now appears to have been tossed out.

CIRM’s budget for this year allots $335,000 for software, training and development connected to the grant management system. Another $240,000 is slated for Kutir Corp. of Newark, Ca., for information technology services. Kutir had a $200,000 contract during the last fiscal year.

This year’s contract with Kutir – size unspecified -- comes before the CIRM directors Governance Subcommittee on July 21 at a teleconference meeting with locations around California.

The June staff's budget commentary on the grants management system said,

“CIRM’s ability to track and report on its grant research portfolio
needs improvement.

“There is a critical need to have a robust electronic grants management system for managing grants, reporting outcomes, monitoring finances, complying with regulations and meeting other requirements as they arise. CIRM had been testing a grants management program that is not able to meet all if its needs. CIRM has revised its approach and has purchased, or is investigating, components of a grant management system that will be flexible enough to handle its evolving programs and processes. Funds for this process are included in this budget. In the long run it is expected that this new approach will be less costly to CIRM than the previous approach."

During next week's look at the Kutir contract, one would hope that there would be a full discussion of past costs connected to the Grantium system, the nature of the problems, the plan to resolve the issues and its likely cost.

Locations where the public can take part can be found in San Francisco (2), Los Angeles (2), La Jolla, Sacramento, Irvine and Stanford. Specific addresses are on the agenda. Sphere: Related Content


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