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“CA Sri Lanka qualified Chartered Accountants are known for their honesty and integrity the world over,” FCA Member Mrs. Shantha Fonseka.

Chartered Accountants are well known as a brand of unique and versatile professionals, who are sought after both locally and globally. However Sri Lankan Chartered Accountants, who have been produced by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka), are known and respected as well as have been in demand for their honesty, integrity and high work output among other notable skills.

CA Sri Lanka Member, Mrs. Shantha Fonseka, FCA, who is now retired and domiciled in Sydney, Australia, attributes the demand for Sri Lankan qualified chartered accountants primarily to the rigorous training they had to undergo at audit firms for four years, and the technical knowledge imparted by their study facilitators.

"We had to submit mandatory tutorials that were sourced from ‘Foulks Lynch’ a company in London. We had the advantage of past question papers known as ‘chartered telephones’ also from London which helped us prepare. Later, the tutorials were locally prepared by our Director of Studies, Mr. A T Benedict. His directorship was followed by Miss. Piyaseeli Jayaratne who continued the dedicated service for our benefit,” she said.

According to her, training was a value addition which helped them progress as well as go overseas. “We got jobs in Fiji, and that’s how we left Sri Lanka in the early 70s. We were among the first set of accountants (seven of us) who went to Fiji,” she said.

Mrs. Fonseka, a former Finance Manager at a pharmaceutical company in Australia, said that in the early 70s, Sri Lanka qualified chartered accountants were very much in demand in countries like Zambia, Fiji and other similar developing countries, due to the quality of training CA Sri Lanka members underwent.

“We were respected for our high quality of ethics, work output and honesty and integrity, as well as the good command of the English language, as our language of study was English. We were like the ambassadors of the Institute,” she said.

Following a work stint in Fiji, she along with her husband Rienzie Fonseka who is also a Chartered Accountant was transferred to the Australian Head Office of the company they worked for. "The only qualification we had was the Chartered Accounting qualification from Sri Lanka, and we were recognized solely for our performance and abilities which were due to the CA qualification we obtained from Sri Lanka,” she said.

However, Mrs. Fonseka' journey to be a recognized chartered accountant didn’t come easy and required a lot of hard work and commitment along with dedication.

“The four years of articled ship I underwent at Lawrie Muthukrishna and Company, is what helped me in excelling in my profession. The Chartered Accounting qualification is much respected and the institute is a brand in itself, and our senior principal Mr. Kandasamy was equally committed to ensure we excel in our work, as ultimately people rely on what we say,” she said.

“The training we underwent was absolutely super, it was rigorous, and not easy, it was more like a school and very disciplined, and our principal at the audit firm under whom we underwent training was very tough, but gave us very good training,” she said.

“The Chartered Accountancy profession is a prestigious one. We were chosen to work in the Audit firms as unpaid interns after a vigorous application process which involved an interview and an introductory course followed by an exam. This allowed us to learn from the best practicing Accountants (Principals) in these firms. During our time only seven of us passed the Final exam. It was not about the numbers but about the quality,” she said.

Mrs. Fonseka said that punctuality was a must during her articled ship at the audit firm. “If we got late, we were called in to give explanation, and we did not watch the clock and wait for it to strike 5 pm to leave office, we worked late, until we finished our work. We couldn’t hang on the phone talking for long as well,” she said.

“It was a commitment, even when we go to a client’s office, we needed to adhere to a proper dress code, behave properly, because the client reports back to our principal about our conduct. If we did not conduct ourselves in accordance with the necessary ethical standards, then the principal will not sign the document which allows us to sit for our exams, this meant delays in the completion of our study,” Mrs. Fonseka noted.

She said that the rigorous training that she underwent at the audit firm, helped her perform well at commercial establishments later on. “I have no regrets in all the hard work I put in and I am proud to be a member of the Institute,” she said, while adding that all members of the Institute must act as ambassadors of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka.