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Controller's Stem Cell Agency Audit Ignores California Agency's Built-in Flaws
Date:5/12/2008

SANTA MONICA, Calif., May 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An audit of the state stem cell agency by California's Controller ignores fundamental flaws in Proposition 71 that created the agency, Consumer Watchdog said today.

The audit released by State Controller John Chiang found that with a relatively minor exception the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) complies with the requirements of Proposition 71, the initiative that created the agency, as they relate to conflict-of-interest policies, grant administration, administrative expenses and expenditures.

"The problem is that Prop 71 deliberately created an oversight board that is fraught with conflict," said John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog's Stem Cell Oversight and Accountability Project. "The board is dominated by representatives of the very institutions that will receive most of the $3 billion in research funds handed out. Controller Chiang found that CIRM is following Prop 71's rules, but those rules specifically put the foxes in charge of the chicken coop."

Find a copy of the controller's news release and audit here: http://www.sco.ca.gov/eo/pressbox/2008/05/pr08026.pdf.

The audit found that "specialist" scientists had failed to sign post-review conflict-of-interest certification forms and urged that they be required to do so. CIRM said it would follow the advice.

"Big deal," said Simpson. "Under Prop 71, none of these disclosures are open to public review. They should be."

The audit did not deal with the case of John Reed, a board member who tried to influence the awarding of a grant to his institution, The Burnham Institute for Medical Research. The state's ethic's board, The Fair Political Practices Commission, is investigating that incident at Consumer Watchdog's request. Chiang also asked the FPPC to investigate.

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SOURCE Consumer Watchdog
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