Friday, May 28, 2010

IOM Study of CIRM to Come Before Stem Cell Directors in August

Directors of the California stem cell agency are moving forward with a proposal to commission a blue-ribbon study of their $3 billion effort by the Institute of Medicine.

The directors' new Science Subcommittee on Tuesday voted to bring the proposal, which is now connected to legislation to remove the CIRM staff cap, to the full board in August, said a spokesman for CIRM.

In response to an email query, Don Gibbons, chief communications officer for CIRM, said the panel directed the staff to “work with the leadership of the committee to develop the full scope of work for any IOM(Institute of Medicine)study.”

Gibbons also said that CIRM is seeking to verify that “this scope of work could qualify for the audit required” by SB1064 by Sen. Elaine Kontominas Alquist, D-San Jose. The bill is now on the Senate floor, clearing the Appropriations Committee Thursday on a 10-0 vote.

CIRM and Alquist negotiated a compromise on the legislation that has won the approval of the CIRM board, the first time it has endorsed legislation that would alter the agency's activities. CIRM needs passage of the bill to remove the 50-person cap on CIRM staff.

During the negotiations, proposals for independent performance audits were stripped from the bill – ones that would be conducted under the auspices of the Citizens Financial Accountability Committee, a sister panel to CIRM. As it now stands, a performance audit would be required, but it would be commissioned and paid for by the agency itself. CIRM has made it clear that it is not interested in addressing the accountability concerns raised by the citizens committee.

The bill specifies that use of the state auditor would be acceptable. However, that agency might have difficulty with evaluating the science side of CIRM's performance. The state auditor could presumably hire a consultant to assist in that area. Instead of the state auditor, the stem cell agency could contract with a private firm, which is more likely to be susceptible to suggestions from CIRM about the conduct of the performance audit.

The Institute of Medicine may well tilt to the science side of CIRM's activities with a lesser focus on whether the people of California are getting a good return on their $6 billion (including interest) investment. The institute may also be less interested in CIRM's accountability and openness than would be the case with an audit done for the Citizens Financial Accountability Oversight Committee.

Still to be determined is the cost of the performance audit and timetable. Costs in the neighborhood of $400,000 have been mentioned for a performance audit. An IOM study could run more. To be useful, an audit should be done as quickly as possible. However, it is certain to take many months or more to complete. Sphere: Related Content

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