The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has approved a $157.6 million budget for calendar year 2009, a $13 million increase from the $144.6 million it approved for 2008.

The board, which inspects public accounting firms and disciplines misbehaving auditors, plans to increase its staff to deal with the effects of the economic crisis on companies and their auditors. "These are critical times for investors, public companies, and their auditors," said PCAOB Chairman Mark W. Olson in a statement. "It is therefore essential that the PCAOB continue to work in the interest of investors to advance its activities, while it remains a good steward of its resources."

The budget is paid for by an annual assessment of accounting support fees paid by public companies and other issuers, under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The budget is subject to approval by the Securities and Exchange Commission and will be available on the PCAOB Web site at after it has been transmitted to the SEC. 

The majority of the PCAOB expenses are associated with hiring and retaining accountants to conduct inspections of registered public accounting firms. The PCAOB expects to achieve a staffing level of 531 employees by year-end 2009. Firm registration and inspection personnel currently account for roughly 50 percent of the total. Non-personnel expenses -- such as rent and utilities, information technology, travel and other administrative costs -- make up the remainder of the budget.

As of Oct. 31, 2008, there were 1,866 public accounting firms registered with the PCAOB, including 879 firms based outside the U.S. By law, registered firms with more than 100 public company audit clients must be inspected annually, while firms with fewer public company audit clients must be inspected at least once every three years.

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