Small public firms are being given another one-year reprieve from complying with strict auditing rules created five years ago in the wake of accounting scandals at Enron and WorldCom, the Securities and Exchange Commission confirmed Friday.

Among other measures, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires companies to hire outside auditors to report on internal financial controls. Critics say the rules are disproportionately costly and time consuming for smaller businesses.

This week, the SEC said it would put those requirements on hold while conducting a cost analysis for small companies, which it expects to complete by 2009. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox initially announced the move during a federal hearing in December.

Last year, the agency eased the regulations by allowing company officials to identify potential risks in their bookkeeping and focus efforts only on those areas.