October 2023: Aimed at playing a pivotal role in helping the country navigate through the ongoing crisis, and seize emerging prospects to help revive the nation, the 44th National Conference of Chartered Accountants organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka) was ceremoniously inaugurated on Tuesday on a grand scale.
The inauguration, graced by Ms. Asmâa Resmouki, President of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka attracted a distinguished assembly of the country’s corporate elite, including business leaders, c-suite executives, as well as prominent accounting figures from Sri Lanka and Asia Pacific.
This year’s conference, themed ‘Beyond the Perfect Storm: Seizing the Opportunity,’ promises to be a platform for insightful discussions, collaboration, and vision for the future. The conference which is dubbed the biggest annual business summit also saw the participation of Mr. Sanjaya Bandara, President of CA Sri Lanka, Mr. Heshana Kuruppu, Vice President of CA Sri Lanka, Ms. Anoji de Silva, Chairperson of the National Conference Committee, Mr. Anura Perera, Chairman of the Technical Committee; and Ms. Lakmali Priyangika, acting Chief Executive Officer of CA Sri Lanka.
Addressing the event which attracted over 2,000 delegates, President of CA Sri Lanka Mr. Sanjaya Bandara said that in times of turbulence, it is crucial to remember that storms don’t last forever. “They may bring challenges, but they also present opportunities for innovation and transformation. As such, our goal is to explore the path beyond these storms and highlight the importance of overcoming the economic crisis and the interconnect issues that came with the crisis,” he said.
In his keynote, Central Bank Governor Dr. Weerasinghe shed light on the challenges facing the country’s economy and the ongoing debt restructuring efforts. The Governor emphasized the importance of prudent financial management, the need for reforms, and the role of professional bodies in addressing these issues.
He also called upon members of professional bodies such as CA Sri Lanka to play an increasingly important role. He urged them to continue learning and enhancing their technical knowledge capacity while upholding a commitment to ethics, professionalism, and social responsibility. “Accountants, in collaboration with other professionals, must take a proactive stance in combatting corruption, improving resource management, enhancing transparency, facilitating investment mobilization, creating a robust investment climate, and instilling investor confidence. In doing so, they can contribute significantly to promoting economic stability.”
Dr. Weerasinghe also emphasized the crucial role accountants can play in the Financial Intelligence Unit’s efforts related to an upcoming country assessment on anti-money laundering and combating financing terrorism (AML/CFT). He stressed the necessity for Sri Lanka to address identified gaps in its AML/CFT framework to avoid potential risks which will adversely impact the country’s economic progress.
Chief Guest, Ms. Resmouki utilised the conference to shed light on the four challenges that the accountancy profession faces in its journey towards advancing in sustainability reporting. According to her, the first challenge was the importance of recognizing that sustainability starts from within companies, while the second challenge centers on the unified global approach to adopt sustainability reporting standards. She said that the third challenge recognizes the need for capacity building, particularly in developing skills and competencies related to reporting and assuring sustainability information, and the fourth challenge identified by IFAC is the crucial need to prepare high-quality assurance, as assurance is essential; or else the quality of ESG information may not match that of financial information, potentially threatening trust.
Ms. Resmouki said that embracing sustainability within organizations, fostering global alignment in standards, enhancing capacity building, and preparing for high-quality assurance are pivotal steps towards integrating sustainability into the core of corporate decision-making and reporting practices. “As we look forward to mandatory assurance, we must be careful against fragmentation, which creates unnecessary complexities. We should push for the adoption of the ISSA 5000 as the global baseline for broad-scope sustainability assurance engagements, and we also need a level playing field,” she added.
In her speech, Ms. Anoji de Silva said that the conference which has a history of over four decades serves as an important catalyst for professional growth, enabling participants to expand their knowledge, build valuable connections, and inspire out-of-the box thinking in its continuing quest to help members, the business community, policy makers and non-accountants to be better at what they do.
Articulating the rationale behind this year’s theme, Mr. Anura Perera said that the metaphor of a perfect storm represents a confluence of adverse events, which Sri Lanka is going through. “As we conceptualised the theme for this conference, we realised the significance of envisioning our future and taking decisive action to prevent a recurrence of the worst crisis our nation has endured.”
The three-day conference which concludes on 05th October is set to be a platform for thought-provoking dialogues, and exploring innovative solutions, while exploring ways to not only weather the storms of uncertainty but also harness them as opportunities for growth and transformation.