By Bandula Sirimanna As unbelievable as it might sound, the rise of an eminent Sri Lankan accountant Ajith Kodagoda from an audit officer at Air Lanka in 1982 to the chairmanship of three leading state entities in Fiji Islands at present is an inspirational saga for those who aspire to climb the ladder. His wide [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Eminent Lankan accountant climbs to the top of the public service ladder in Fiji


By Bandula Sirimanna

As unbelievable as it might sound, the rise of an eminent Sri Lankan accountant Ajith Kodagoda from an audit officer at Air Lanka in 1982 to the chairmanship of three leading state entities in Fiji Islands at present is an inspirational saga for those who aspire to climb the ladder.

Ajith Kodagoda and his mother. Pic by Mangala Weerasekera.

His wide smile with a cheeky grin and deep headmaster’s tone very similar to his father, former Colombo University Vice Chancellor and eminent broadcaster, the late Prof. Nandadasa Kodagoda lit up during a one-hour interview with the Business Times in Colombo recently.

Growing up in an intellectual environment where his father’s influence was in dominance, Ajith, the second child of the family, became a chartered accountant although his father wanted him to follow his footsteps.
An old Anandian, who believes in honesty, dignity and perseverance, he is an example that nothing could stop you from reaching the heights for which you aspire.

To cut a long story short, he said that he served as an accountant in Carsons Cumberbatch Plc and Shaw Wallace and Hedges Plc from 1984 to 1991 after qualifying in chartered accountancy and later he gained MBA qualifications in 1991.

He decided to migrate to Fiji islands in 1992 as he got an appointment as a finance controller in C.J. Patel and Co, Ltd in Fiji.

The then government appointed him as the honorary counsel of Sri Lanka in Fiji. The CJ Patel Group is a diverse group of organisations across a variety of industries, all with the common goal of delivering world-class products and services.

With its head office in Fiji, CJ Patel controls the operations of over 20 different companies across 10 countries, using a variety of business ownership models from joint venture, to wholly owned subsidiaries.

Mr. Kodagoda said that his company is successfully operating dairy, fast moving consumer goods, electronics, trading, marketing and advertising businesses as well as a media institution.

The late Prof. Nandadasa Kodagoda

It also manages Fiji’s largest daily newspaper, Fiji Sun which is widely read throughout the country, he revealed.
Fiji Sun has the latest pre-press equipment in Fiji and was the first newspaper to offer CTP technology and a much higher reproduction quality, he added.

Computer to plate (CTP) is an imaging technology used in modern printing processes.

Recognising his services to the country and his ability and knowledge and honesty, the Fiji government appointed him to the highest public service positions of Chairman of customs and revenue authorities of that country, he said.

This probably is the first time ever that a Sri Lankan has achieved high posts in customs and revenue authorities out of his country of birth.

He holds the chairmanship of the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority, National Provident Fund and Amalgamated Telecom Holdings Ltd and subsidiary companies at present Mr. Kodagoda said that he is serving in the top post of these state entities in an honorary capacity and is not drawing any remuneration for his work.

But he said that he doesn’t allow any corruption at his institutions as he is entrusted with the task of looking after public money.
He said that he will never allow anyone to rob a cent from institutions under him and financial discipline is being maintained from top to the bottom.

He added that he and his brother and sister were bought up by their parents in a Buddhist environment and they were highly disciplined with honesty and good qualities. This path opened for them by their father and their mother has paved the way for him to attain great heights in his career, he said. Many Sri Lankan professionals were forced to leave the country due to lack of opportunities.
They were motivated to seek greener pastures because of their thinking that the future in Sri Lanka was uncertain and they could not possibly educate their children in such an environment.

These migrants who play key roles in their respective countries overseas are now ready to work with the Government in its post war rebuilding effort, he added.

They want to give something back to their motherland and do not think in terms of revenue, he said.
It is essential for the Government to create a conducive business environment for expatriates to return and invest their knowledge and money here in Sri Lanka for the benefit of future generations, he added.

It is important for these expatriates who are in the mainstream to participate in Lanka’s development process.
Most of them are in the Corporate, Finance, Banking, Engineering and IT sectors. There are top Sri Lankan scientists in NASA as well, he revealed.

And also second generation expatriates, who left Sri Lanka as children or who were born there need to preserve their Sri Lankan identity and perhaps come back and contribute in the development process, he said.

Referring to his involvement in the Fiji National Provident Fund as its chairman, he said that long term sustainability is the most critical issue facing the fund at present.

“Short term pain will be a small price to pay to ensure that all the workers in Fiji have a sustainable and stable retirement fund,” he said.
“Petty politics, self-interest and narrow minded outlook by some members would not even divert our attention from the core purpose of the fund,” he added.

He told the Business Times that he is determined to see it through for the benefit of the working population to ensure that their life savings are safe, sound and invested wisely to ensure security in retirement.

“It is my view that the future holds many opportunities that will outweigh these challenges.”
The fund recorded a net profit of US$242.6 million for the 2011 financial year and its assets increased to $3.8 billion from $3.5 billion in 2010.

He disclosed that the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority has simplified customs systems and procedures by undertaking a time release study under his directions to ascertain the length of time taken to facilitate clearance of cargo at Fiji’s ports of entry. This helped the institution to gain a high degree of efficiency and accountability and also to facilitate smooth operations, he added.

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