Friday, June 11, 2010

CIRM's Budget Preparation Problems a 'Bit Alarming'

The California stem cell agency called off its budget review meeting this week apparently because of its inability to provide the spending plan information in a timely fashion.

According to a source who can be identified only as a CIRM insider, the situation is “a bit alarming.”

The source said,
“Frankly, the budget documents were not provided in time for anyone, either board members or the public, to digest and understand them in order to conduct a meaningful decision-making process. What is surprising and a bit alarming is that the same problem occurred last year and staff committed then to timely dissemination of the budget for this year. The cavalier 'aw shucks' attitude towards preparing and disseminating on a timely basis the budget, which one knows a year in advance will be due, reflects either incompetence or an intentional effort to avoid meaningful oversight by the directors."
Another reader, who also must remain anonymous and who works elsewhere in state government, said that the problems indicate that CIRM needs help and organizational changes. He said his own agency has been successfully putting its budget together for months now with the assistance of the state Department of General Services and Department of Finance.

CIRM has not responded to our request earlier this week for explanation of why it cancelled yesterday's meeting of the directors' Finance Subcommittee. The cancellation came after we published on Tuesday an item headlined, “CIRM Stiffs Public on Spending Plan.”

Our comment: It is clear that this is a matter that reaches the highest levels of the stem cell agency. Failure of an orgtanization to perform routine tasks – which is what budget preparation is – in a routine fashion is a strong indicator of pervasive management problems.


  1. The following is posted as a comment at the request of CIRM's chief communications officer, Don Gibbons, who emailed it to us:
    “A couple date facts you should have. Staff submitted the budget to the chair of the finance committee Wednesday June 2, had a conference call with her Friday June 4 and submitted the revised budget to the chair’s office for distribution Monday June 7.”

  2. Anonymous4:08 PM

    So a week before the scheduled sub-committee meeting, staff got around to submitting the budget to the committee chair. Ten days before the scheduled meeting, it should have been publicly posted. Well before that date, the budget should have been reviewed by the appropriate parties.
    I'm glad the grossly overpaid cheese spreader is fessing up to a disgraceful budget process. No comment from grossly overpaid senior staff about why they didn't get around to preparing a timely budget?

  3. Anonymous9:27 AM

    The primary focus of governmental accounting is stewardship in spending taxpayer dollars according to the public’s will -- embodied in a proposed budget which, once adopted, becomes the spending authority for CIRM for its entire fiscal year. After that, watch for Budget Amendments which normally must also be approved by the governing body, resulting in a Revised Adopted Budget.

    Following Mr. Gibbon's chronology, is it reasonable for the chairperson of CIRM’s finance sub-committee to receive CIRM’s proposed budget on a Wednesday, finish reviewing it two days later, and a revised budget prepared by the following Monday for dissemination to CIRM’s directors and the public in anticipation of its formal review a mere three days later on Thursday of that same week? Can well-meaning stewards of the public’s funds adequately digest such a budget on such a timetable? Can the decision-making process be a meaningful one under those conditions? Reportedly, last year's budget materials were lacking, disseminated late, and erroneously described as approximately 3% less spending not approximately 25% more spending(although apparently CIRM’s press releases contained qualifiers on that issue).

    Has CIRM not learned from last year’s budget adoption experience? As to the issue of year-to-year budget comparisons, this reader does not understand what “RECENT [emphasis mine] change in governance policy to start reporting contract amounts in annualized amounts” Mr. Gibbons at CIRM referred to a few days ago, which he states would make it “easy for either of us to add up an annual budget” and would appreciate him identifying the specific CIRM document which adopts what strikes this reader to be a such a fundamental budgeting policy.

    In all, that CIRM has delayed its budget discussion meeting is excellent progress towards increasing transparency and accountability at CIRM. Thanks, California Stem Cell Report, for the great work.


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