The Institute of Certified Management Accountants of Sri Lanka (ICMA) is working on deepening its relationship with the US Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), ICMA president Lakshman Watawala told The Accountant.

ICMA is in talks to find ways in which the national CMA qualification can be developed to achieve international recognition.

A spokesperson for IMA confirmed the US body remains positive that both can work together to build the management accounting profession in Sri Lanka.

"We conducted several university visits and discussions with the largest certification training provider in Sri Lanka and [worked] with CMA Sri Lanka [to] build awareness of the program," the spokesperson said.

Watawala is a former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (ICASL) and a founding president of the Association of Accounting Technicians of Sri Lanka, the other two national accountancy bodies.

The three are recognised by the International Federation of Accountants, of which ICASL and ICMA are full members.

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He was also involved in the creation of the management accounting body formed in 1999.

"At that time the management accounting profession was really dominated by CIMA [the UK-based Chartered Institute of Management Accountants]. And they were the only ones operating in Sri Lanka," Watawala said.

If the relationship between the ICMA and IMA moves forward it would confirm a trend whereby the Sri Lanka body chooses North American organisations as international development partners.

"When we started, we got the assistance from CGA Canada [now CPA Canada]. They were really helpful in getting us to prepare the syllabus, examinations and materials," he continued.

Asked about the reason of this choice, Watawala said:

"CIMA is not very much in favour of another local management accounting body coming, so that’s why we had to go to Canada and get their assistance. However, we do not really see any competition with CIMA because they are targeting a different market.

According to Watawala there is no relationship between the two professional bodies, and he adds: "In fact I have invited them for our global management accounting conference but they have not accepted the invitation."

A spokesperson for CIMA said that currently there are no memoranda of understanding with ICMA Sri Lanka, although the UK-based institute "does not rule out working with this body, or any other Sri Lankan body, in the future".

The spokesperson added: "While CIMA has been established in Sri Lanka for 50 years, we do not see other bodies as necessarily direct competitors. Like in other countries, we are open to working with other industry and professional bodies wherever relevant."

About 2,300 accountants are registered as members of ICMA, while ICASL counts around 5,500. CIMA could have about 4,000 qualified members, according to Watawala

CIMA refused to disclose data about its membership in Sri Lanka.

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