Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Two State Agencies Looking Into CIRM Tomorrow and Friday

This is a busy week for the California stem cell agency, but not all the action is in Burlingame where CIRM board convenes tonight for a preliminary round, followed by the main event tomorrow.

Two other state bodies will be looking at CIRM at meetings in Los Angeles and Sacramento. One of the panels is the only entity specifically charged with oversight of the $3 billion agency's finances. That is the Citizens Financial Accountability Oversight Committee(CFAOC), which convenes in Los Angeles on Friday. The second group is the state's good government agency, the Little Hoover Commission, which recommended in 2009 a number of changes at CIRM to improve its operations and transparency.

On tap for the CFAOC is a look at implementation of the first-ever law passed dealing with the Golden State's unprecedented $3 billion research effort. The measure, SB1064, removes a 50-person cap on the agency's staff, allows for compensation of up to $15,000 a year for some patient advocates serving on the CIRM board and requires the agency to commission the first-ever performance audit of its program.

The CFAOC is chaired by the state's top fiscal officer, Controller John Chiang. An early version of SB1064 contained a provision, supported by Chiang, that would have had the CFAOC commission the performance audit. But CIRM successfully lobbied to take the audit out of the hands of the CFAOC. You can expect questions to be raised during the Friday meeting about the progress of CIRM on setting up its audit.

Also likely to come up is the subject of staffing, particularly in connection with sweeping recommendations by CIRM's external review that would seem to require substantial additional staff.

A new member of the CFAOC, Jim Kovach, former head of the Buck Institute, is expected to be sworn in. Kovach was appointed by CIRM Chairman Robert Klein, whose last appointee to the panel attended one meeting last January and then quit. Kovach is a physician, a lawyer and former professional football player with the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints.

You can find a host of budget and other financial documents related to the meeting on the CFAOC website.

The agenda for the Little Hoover Commission says only that a "scoping memo" involving CIRM will be presented to the full commission tomorrow afternoon in Sacramento. The commission staff has not elaborated on just exactly what that means although it comes under the subject of "schedule/project selection."

As for tonight's meeting of the CIRM directors' Governance Subcommittee, you can read about that here. The full board meeting that begins tomorrow morning was subject as well of a number of earlier piecesl on the California Stem Cell Report. (See here, here, here, here and here.) For those of you following those items, the agency still has not posted any information about the cost or scope of its proposal to pay for the attendance of perhaps hundreds of persons at an international stem cell conference in Toronto in June.

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