To ease the burdens small public companies face complying with post-Enron Corp. accounting requirements imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a Securities and Exchange Commission advisory panel is recommending that certified consultants, who may not necessarily be bona fide accountants, be permitted to verify the strength of corporate internal financial controls.

The move generated debate Wednesday during a meeting of the SEC’s advisory committee on small public companies and is likely to provoke protests from accounting firms if it is formally proposed by the SEC. The idea could be revised when the panel meets again April 20.

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