AAT celebrates 25 years with new look and gala celebrations

Thursday, 10 October 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • AAT Annual Conference to be held today at Waters Edge
By Cheranka Mendis The Association of Accounting Technicians of Sri Lanka (AAT) yesterday celebrated 25 years since its inception with a gala celebration and felicitation ceremony at Waters Edge, Battaramulla, followed by the inauguration of the association’s annual conference, which begins today. AAT, which was launched as an initiative of the Institute of Charted Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka) in 1987 to bridge the gap that existed in the market then for mid level accountants – as was discovered during Asian Development Bank research carried out at the time – has grown progressively over the years to host over 37,000 students, 20,000 past finalists and over 35,000 members today. The association also went in for a fresh brand identity with the launch of a brand new logo, marking the change in the body in terms of strategy, thinking and ideas. A first day cover and commemorative stamp was launched along with an exclusive credit card for AAT members, courtesy HNB. As the association celebrated its silver jubilee, Speaker of Parliament Chamal Rajapaksa commended it for the service rendered to the nation by encouraging the youth and producing a network of skilled professionals throughout the country. “All of us must know something about accounting as we manage our own affairs. But when it comes to industry, trade, commerce or business, a large scale professional accountancy and auditing comes into play in order to ensure transparency, accountability and optimal realisation of resources in society,” Rajapaksa said. While governments have to be accountable to people, companies and organisations must be accountable to stakeholders, he remarked. “This is therefore an important discipline in the social structure.” Considering the impact AAT has made in accountancy education and producing accounting technicians to the country, AAT’s ability to manage and grow without any governmental financial assistance so far was recognised as the shouldering of a great responsibility at national level by the Speaker. “The commanding height of the Sri Lankan economy today is the growth of the small and medium size enterprises in industry trade and commerce,” he asserted. These enterprises require accounting professionals for financial management at affordable costs. “Services rendered by your institute in producing such personnel are therefore an invaluable asset in the present context of the country’s development effort.” As Sri Lanka moves towards achieving greater economic progress after 30 years of internal conflict, AAT’s contribution towards human resource development was also remarked upon by Rajapaksa. “I understand that you are about to establish a business school as well to improve knowledge and skills of members, to keep pace with technological advances and modern development trends in the profession. I wish you luck in this effort.” The present Government has recognised the AAT qualification to function as authorised representatives under the Inland Revenue Act and a statutory provision has already been made by the Government Gazette notification. The educational institute serves the need of a large number of students who pass GCE A/L examination but do not qualify to enter the university system by offering them facilities for job oriented courses of study, he said. “You are serving the nation a great deal and opening up avenues for students to enter the accountancy profession, which was at one time limited to the elite class of society.” Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena also attending the celebrations remarked on the progress made by accountancy as an industry with the establishment of the Vidyodaya University, under which managerial and accountancy related studies are conducted. “We were all children of free education,” Gunawardena said. “However, starting and then attracting students to study commerce and economic reacted education was a difficult job. Initially, they had to ask Government clerks and teachers to attend evening classes to promote management qualification as they were employed during day time and others were not too keen.” The progress today is therefore commendable as society has embraced accountancy and management as key areas to develop in order for the nation and then the world to progress further. AAT President Ganaka Amarasinghe quipped that as a 25-year-old association, AAT is now young, energetic and strong. “AAT is the only professional body providing mid level accountants to the national demand over the past few years,” Amarasinghe said. “Among our many achievements, what is significant is the creation of opportunity for children to obtain the qualification in the language they prefer – be it Sinhala, English or Tamil – at an affordable cost across Sri Lanka.” Recalling the old days, AAT’s second President (who took over the reins from Founder President Lakshman R. Watawala) and 25th Anniversary Committee Chairman, Reyaz Mihular noted that when he assumed duties there was only one small office where the AAT head office is now situated, with a small room with an air conditioner that did not work as a board room. “What we had was a committed set of individuals who wanted to give effect to the vision to produce top quality mid level accountants as environed by our Founder President,” Mihular said. “This is what drove the band of men at that time. Today we are proud to have an extraordinary building providing lots of facilities for students and members alike.” However, AAT’s growth is not limited to infrastructural expansion, he noted. “We borrowed a structure and excellent foundation from our founding body and created a professional education system which is outstanding with a program that is not confined to the city but reaches across the country.” Mihular emphasised that while AAT continues to provide excellent syllabuses and qualifications for students, professionals must work in an ethical manner upholding the respect of accountants which has been maintained in an impeccable manner over the years due to upstanding people who did not take shortcuts for solutions in the past. “AAT has reached adulthood and has a great responsibility which only increases with maturity,” he maintained. CA Sri Lanka President Sujeewa Rajapaksa also commended AAT for a job well done and stressed the importance of upholding the brand in the future. AAT Conference Committee Chairman Asoka Rupasinghe noted that today’s conference would see deliberations on the theme ‘Authentic Reporting – Discovery Debate.’ Technical sessions will be held on the topics of ‘Insights in Authentic Reporting,’ IFRS’s Role as a Tool for Bridging the Gaps,’ ‘Round Table of Users of Financial Reporting’ and ‘Is Integrated Reporting the Solution? If Not, What’s Next?’ Founder members, past presidents, first council members, initial staff members and current members serving for over 20 years and 10 years were felicitated at the silver jubilee celebrations.  Pix by Upul Abayasekera