Overseeing CIRM's largess is no small task. The agency has approved 320 grants and one loan worth more than $1 billion. It is expected to approve another $2 billion over the next five or so years – more if it can secure funding beyond its current bonding authorization of $3 billion.
The amount CIRM is spending for grant management, not including state staff time, is tiny compared to the total portfolio. However, grant management is critical for the agency, which labelled the task as a “risk” as recently as last June.
In a new staff report prepared for a meeting Wednesday of the CIRM directors' Governance Subcommittee, the agency said it has made “considerable headway” since last spring. But CIRM said additional work will be needed, including a decision on whether to buy additional software or develop it in-house with the use of more consultants.
More immediately, the staff asked directors for approval of an additional $300,000 for technology assistance, extending and expanding two existing contracts with Turner Consulting of Washington, D.C., and 25by7 of Santa Monica, Ca. Some of the increases will cover costs in addition to grant management.
CIRM did not offer a total for past grant management spending in the documents it prepared for its directors. Nor did it predict the ultimate cost. The California Stem Cell Report compiled the $1.2 million figure from two new documents on the CIRM Web site. The first was a report on grants managements expenditures through June 30, 2009. The second was a report on all spending on outside contracts through Sept. 30, 2009, including additional funds for grant management.
The report on grant management is the most complete explanation of the status of the system, which was supposed to cost no more than $757,000, directors were told in October of 2007. But by spring of 2008, CIRM began hiring outside consultants to deal with the issue.
“However, that effort failed because CIRM's needs continued to evolve rapidly beyond the original scope, so the two parties mutual agreed to terminate the contract in 2009.”CIRM cannot solve its technology issues in-house because Prop. 71, written by CIRM Chairman Robert Klein and others, capped the CIRM staff at 50 employees. The grant report said that “it has long been clear” that the agency faced critical problems because of the hiring cap.
Currently, 48 percent of CIRM's staff (20 out of the current 42 employees) is involved “centrally in some part of the grant life-cycle,” which includes everything from applications to standards enforcement,
The agency, however, does not have a single information technology staff person dedicated to grants management, according to its report. It had one in 2005-6, but he resigned. Currently CIRM has five grant management officers compared to one in 2006-7.
CIRM staff began “compliance site visits” in 2008-9 when it had 295 grants awarded, completing eight visits that fiscal year. CIRM expects to see 230 progress reports from grant recipients during the current fiscal year, compared to 16 in 2006-7.
CIRM posted the reports on the grant management system and the contract extensions on its Web site last Wednesday. The public can participate in next Wednesday's Governance meeting at teleconference locations in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles(2), Stanford, Irvine and La Jolla. Specific addresses can be found on the agenda.