State leaders call for moratorium on CPRIT grants

Just hours after Sen. Wendy Davis announced proposed legislation to reform the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, the state’s top three lawmakers are called a moratorium future grants.

In a letter to the state agency’s oversight committee, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus are called on CPRIT to “fully address concerns that have been raised about its organization before any future grants are awarded.”

CPRIT is currently the subject of three investigations. Most recently, the Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity unit announced it was investigating an $11 million grant awarded to the Dallas based Peleton Theraputics. An independent audit found CPRIT awarded the grant without the required scientific review.

State leaders are now calling on the agency to cooperate with the current reviews and implement recommended changes to its practices before any more grants are awarded.

Sen. Davis calls for CPRIT reform as emergency item

Sen. Wendy Davis announced Wednesday she intends to file legislation to reform the embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Davis is calling on Gov. Rick Perry to make the legislation an emergency item for the coming session.

The state agency, which launched in 2009, is the subject of several investigations.

A September internal audit of 14 funded companies raised questions over an $11 million dollar Peloton grant. The grant was approved despite the fact Peloton was a “start-up” company without a management team. The records show a “lack of documents available for review.”

Now, the State Attorney General’s office and the Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit are investigating the agency. So far, the DA’s office has not made any specific criminal allegations.

In an open letter to Gov. Perry, Sen. Davis asked that he add CPRIT reform to his list of legislation to be tackled first thing, in January. Those reforms include evaluating whether private donors should “be allowed to supplement the salaries of the agencies’ employees, particularly where those donors have an interest in the awarding of those funds.”

Davis is also proposing changes in the law to make the agency more transparent in an effort to avoid cronyism. In a separate letter to Comptroller Susan Combs, Davis requested the agency’s audits be posted on the comptroller’s website.