Stem Cell Agency Notes Improvements to Concerns in Audit
The chair of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine's governing board on Wednesday said that many of the agency's policies were strengthened or clarified before a state audit was released on Tuesday that raised questions about conflict-of-interest and reimbursement policies, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/1).
California voters in 2004 approved Proposition 71 to create CIRM and provide $3 billion in taxpayer funding over 10 years for stem cell research. The funding primarily was intended to finance human embryonic stem cell research, for which federal funds are restricted (California Healthline, 2/27).
Robert Klein -- chair of the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee, which oversees the agency -- acknowledged that some expense limits occasionally were exceeded but that the exceptions were justified and the expenses were reimbursed using charitable donations rather than public funds.
The audit noted a potential for wasting millions of dollars in taxpayer-backed bond proceeds if grant recipients are not closely monitored. However, the agency already has taken precautionary measures to hold researchers accountable for how they spend grants.
Klein said the agency also has begun recording voting records of members of grant review committees for future audits.
The agency said it tightened procedures in December 2006 for contractors and consultants and is preparing a detailed manual to guide staff in selecting independent contractors (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/1).