Monday, November 23, 2009

CIRM Directors to Discuss Agency's Management of $1 Billion in Grants

A panel of directors of the California stem cell agency is slated to be briefed early next month on the “at risk” system that it uses to oversee more than $1 billion in grants to more than 300 California scientists.

In June, CIRM staff warned that the grant management system was troubled. Its complete costs have not been reported publicly although directors were told in 2007 that the amount would be no more than $757,000. CIRM has since severed its contract with the original contractor and hired additional consulting and technology help.

Grant management and others issues related to CIRM's information technology are on the agenda of the Governance Subcommittee of the agency's board of directors on Dec. 2. The information posted on the agency's Web site is skimpy at this point, but hopefully will be supplemented before the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Also to be considered is the addition of Turner Consulting Group and 25by7 to CIRM's outside contractors, who together account for the second largest category of spending, $3.1 million, in the agency's operational budget. CIRM must rely on non-state employees because of the 50-person cap on its staff, a limit that is embedded in state law by Prop. 71, which created CIRM.

The 25by7 firm is appears to be a technology support business with operations in San Jose, Santa Monica, Los Angeles and New York. The one-sentence item on the CIRM agenda says directors will be asked to approve a contract with 25by7 for network, server and desktop services. No value for the contract was available on the CIRM Web site.

Also up for approval is a contract with Turner, again with no value specified. No details were provided on the nature of Turner's work nor was it identified beyond its name. Turner may well be the Washington, D.C., information technology firm that says that it saved the government more than $166 million through its work, which includes grants management. Its clients include the NIH, the National Science Foundation and the USDA.

The Governance meeting will be available for public participation at a number of locations throughout the state. Specific addresses can be found on the agenda.

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