Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cost Overruns and Candor from CIRM

The California stem cell agency now says it is "mind-bogglingly silly" to think, in effect, that the total cost of the Grantium contract for a new grant management program would only be $757,000.

CIRM's directors were assured last October during their meeting in San Diego that the figure was the "complete cost." The expenses were reviewed at the time in some detail by Ed Dorrington, CIRM's information technology director. Richard Murphy, interim president of CIRM, vouched for the figures as well.

We raised questions about the cost in our posting below -- "CIRM Lagging" – since CIRM is seeking an additional $85,000 to perform work that is necessary for the Grantium software.

Don Gibbons
, chief communications officer for CIRM, responded to our item,
"Regarding your posting on Grantium, it is mind bogglingly silly to think that a one-person IT department at CIRM could handle all the internal aspects of migrating to a new grant management system while maintaining a legacy system that is our responsibility."
Our response: CIRM's chief executive told its board one thing in October. Now CIRM says something different. New, complex software installations are usually difficult. The costs should have been anticipated. That's what good management is all about.

Additionally, CIRM has chosen to go lean on its staff, keeping it far less than the 50 authorized even after some directors have repeatedly worried about burnout and overwork. In fact, last December Murphy told the directors' Governance Subcommittee that he had chosen not to replace a departing information technology staffer because "the institute is now working quite well in its computer capabilities." That was two months after the Grantium contract was approved by directors.

CIRM Chairman Robert Klein also chimed in at the time, praising the "lean" staffing at CIRM. Lean is good, especially in state agencies that sometimes tend to be overstaffed. But there can also be a financial cost – perhaps in this case $85,000. Less obvious is the wear and tear on employees that results from excessively long hours week-in and week-out.

(Editor's Note: An earlier version of this item incorrectly reported that CIRM had "roughly 26" employees. Following the posting of this item, CIRM reported that it has 31 employees.)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:06 AM

    I wonder if Mr. Gibbons thinks the CIRM board was as "mind boggingly silly" to believe Murphy as you.


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