Tuesday, January 26, 2010

CIRM Oversight Panel Recommends More Accountability, Transparency at Agency

The California state panel charged with overseeing financial practices at the state's $3 billion stem cell research agency today urged it to improve its accountability and make its performance more open to the public.

State Controller John Chiang, the state's top fiscal officer and chairman of the panel, said,
“Californians overwhelmingly voted in 2004 to provide billions of public dollars to find cures for chronic, debilitating and deadly diseases that affect millions of Americans each year. To ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent lawfully, wisely and successfully, the stem cell program must pursue the highest standards of transparency to be fully accountable to the public.”
CIRM had no immediate comment on today's action.

In a news release, the controller's office said the Citizens Financial Accountability Oversight Committee voted unanimously to endorse recommendations last year by the Little Hoover Commission, the state's good government agency, to make CIRM's practices more open to the public.

Specifically, the committee cited recommendations “to improve efficiency and transparency in the way grants and loans are distributed, make future business practices more open, and use the authority of the CIRM governing board and the CFAOC to enhance oversight of the stem cell program.”

Asked for elaboration, Hallye Jordan, deputy controller, said in an email that the committee
“...formally advised CIRM to implement those proposed recommendations that need no legislative authority and support legislation where statutory changes are required. Here are the three:

“The Legislature and CIRM should improve efficiency and transparency for distributing grant and loan funds,

“The CFAOC and the CIRM governing board should use their authority to enhance oversight, and

“The CIRM governing board should begin planning for CIRM's future through an open process.”
John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., said,
“The Little Hoover Commission’s recommendations were made after thoughtful study. Now another oversight panel has endorsed that work. CIRM would do well to listen.”
The financial accountability committee, created by Prop. 71, also voted to post its members' statements of economic interest and travel expenses on both the controller's and CIRM's Web site. The committee urged CIRM to post the same information for its directors and staff.

Both the controller and the governor post that information on their Web sites. (Here is the controller's office info and here is the governor's.)

The vote on the Little Hoover recommendations was unanimous, with Chiang, Daniel Hollander, Loren Lipson, Gurbinder Sadana and Jim Lott in favor. Daniel Brunner was absent.

The vote on posting statements of economic interests was 4-1 with Hollander, a recent appointee to the panel by CIRM Chairman Robert Klein, dissenting.

We have asked CIRM for comment on the actions. We will carry it when we receive it. Sphere: Related Content

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