The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board is falling behind in its plan to recruit a small army of veteran auditors for the coming year -- a development that led it to trim its budget for the year and that could lead to frustrating delays in the Sarbanes-Oxley-mandated inspections of the more than 1,400 public accounting firms that have registered to audit the financial statements of publicly traded U.S. corporations.

As recently as Oct. 26, 2004, PCAOB officials had expected to have a staff of 300 in place by the end of 2004, and were counting on hiring an additional 150 staffers during the coming year. The majority of those new hires were expected to be the experienced auditors needed to conduct inspections of the accounting firms registered with the PCAOB. However, in the nine weeks since then, "hiring has occurred at a slower than forecast rate," the PCAOB said, in acknowledging that it will fall far short of its recruitment goals.

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