Thursday, May 24, 2012

CIRM Directors Pleased with Performance Audit Findings

The $3 billion California stem cell agency received a "very favorable" performance audit report compared to other government agencies, CIRM directors were told today.

Representatives of Moss Adams, which was paid $234,944 by CIRM for the study, made the comments during a presentation today to the agency's 29 directors. During their comments, CIRM executives and directors focused on the favorable aspects of the findings of the six-month study.

CIRM Chairman J.T. Thomas said the report showed that CIRM is "doing better than being on the right track." Co-vice chairman Art Torres said,
 "Comparatively we have done very well."
The report praised the professionalism of the CIRM staff – "a high caliber group" – and noted the seven-year-old agency is both "ramping up and ramping down" at the same time – a reference to the end of state bond funding for CIRM in 2017.

Prior to the presentation, CIRM President Alan Trounson said the staff would review the findings and come up with a plan for the board at its July meeting. The agency is already implementing some of the recommendations.

The audit was required by a recent state law that also allowed CIRM to hire more than 50 persons, a cap imposed by Proposition 71, which created the agency. The audit found a need for improvement in 27 areas and made recommendations. Of the 20 recommendations with the highest priority, half involved how CIRM manages its information, much of which is needed for good decision-making. The audit did not assess the scientific performance of the agency.

The Moss Adams report, performed by the Seattle firm's San Francisco office, said,
"CIRM board members and senior management do not receive regularly updated, enterprise-level performance information. The ability to evaluate performance against strategic goals is critical to effective leadership and program monitoring, evaluation, and reporting. CIRM does not currently have a formal performance reporting program."
In addition to decision-making information, Moss Adams called for improvements in the agency's long-troubled grants management system, better grant outcome tracking, development of a results-based communications plan, creation of a comprehensive, formal business development plan, formulation of a comprehensive information technology plan that would include steps to establish clear responsibility for CIRM's website and improved monitoring of invention disclosure forms from grantee institutions.

Last week, in a long overdue move, the agency hired a director for information technology, who is expected to solve many of the problems cited in the audit.

State law requires another performance audit in a few years. 

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