Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Consumer Watchdog: CIRM Budget Needs More Explanation

Consumer Watchdog's John M. Simpson says a deeper explanation is needed of the proposed operational budget for California's $3 billion stem cell research agency.

The organization is set to routinely approve this week a 46 percent increase in spending to a total of $13 million, all of which is probably justified. But Simpson says CIRM has failed to provide sufficient details, and a clearer explanation is needed.

He cited the "other travel" budget item, which is up 287 percent from the current fiscal year – from $144,000 to $558,000. Simpson said on his organization's blog,
"If the average trip costs $3,000 they've got a budget budget for 185 trips or 4 trips per employee for the year. CIRM would average more than three people on the road every week of the year and that doesn't include travel to ICOC meetings."
Simpson wrote,
"I'm not saying the increases are unjustified; I just don't know."
Simpson also noted CIRM's recurring failure to post background information in a timely fashion in advance of its meetings. Regarding tomorrow's meeting of CIRM's board of directors, he noted that as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, "at least ten agenda items that reasonably would require a written explanation lacked documents."

Simpson pointed to the state controller's office as example to emulate. Controller John Chiang is chairman of a committee that has financial oversight responsibilities for CIRM. Simpson wrote,
"The board's next meeting is at 1 p.m., July 7, in San Diego. Since last week the agenda, with all relevant documents, has been available on the controller's website.

"That's how good, open government works."

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