Liberia: On First Class Flight, Cuffy-Browne Takes Daughter, Niece Along on Official Trip to Beijing
Monrovia – Liberia’s delegation to China for the Forum on China-Africa Relations was not just quite enormous and exorbitant, it also provided an opportunity for relatives including children of officials of government on the trip to take a vacation to Beijing, a FrontPageAfrica investigation has found.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
According to reports, over a 60-man delegation from Liberia is attending the summit which is intended to strengthen relations between African countries and the People’s Republic of China.
First Lady, Clar Weah, also reportedly made the trip to China with an 11-man delegation.
Adding to the numbers on the delegation are the daughter and niece of Deputy Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), Celia Cuffy-Brown.
Madam Celia Cuffy Brown’s presence on the delegation was intended to solidify discussion between the National Port Authority and Chinese government for the subsequent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to improve the infrastructure at the Freeport of Monrovia
However, pictures obtained by FrontPageAfrica show Madam Brown and her girls at a tourist site in China, though her visit to China was meant to be an official one. Malcom Scott, public relations officer to the NPA told FrontPageAfrica that there is no record the children’s travel expense was covered by the NPA.
Scott explained that the girls had come from the United Sates to spend vacation in Liberia and Cuffy-Brown decided to transit with her daughter in Beijing as she was returning to the United States. He maintained that the travel expense for the girls was not covered by the NPA.
First Class Galore
A FrontPageAfrica investigation revealed how Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah, switched from government’s approved business class to a whopping US$16,000 first class on an Emirates airbus from Accra, Ghana to Beijing, China. However, the Finance Minister was not alone in his quest for extreme luxury as an official of the pro-poor government.
FrontPageAfrica investigation further established that the deputy NPA MD also upgraded from business class to first class along with her daughter and niece.
The NPA could not confirm this information when contacted by this paper.
Business Class fares on Emirates run between $6,000 to $8,000 while First Class fares on Emirates run between $10,000 to $12,000 depending on the time of purchase. Upgrades on either service at departure could run up to US$16,000 for First Class between Accra and Beijing. In comparison, First Class fares from New York to Beijing run close to US$19,000.
Emirates First Class Features
The Emirates A380 first class includes onboard Lounges featuring a sleeker design – with a clean ivory palette, and bronze and wood grain accents. It has a more social seating arrangement and more open areas for mingling, and sink into relaxation with calming LED mood lighting while enjoying a cocktail and a selection of nibbles. It also features major live events with fellow travellers on the 55-inch LCD TV screen – with surround sound.
The First Class cabin also offers organic seaweed skincare range from award-winning Irish brand VOYA, available in the onboard Shower Spa. Passengers in the First Class cabin also have the luxury of pampering themselves with Bulgari amenity kits and luxury skincare essentials and Bulgari’s Eau Parfumée au thé noir – the signature woody floral fragrance.
Additionally, the cabin features new pajamas for First Class customers travelling on overnight flights using Hydra Active Microcapsule Technology to keep skin soft while flying.
The pajamas have matching slippers, an eye mask and a felt pouch so you can take them home with you – the Microcapsule Technology locks in the moisturizer so you can wash and wear them again.
Depleting Government’s Coffers
Speaking to OK FM, former Executive Director of the National Investment Commission, George Wesner, cautioned that the government’s coffer is being drained by officials of government’s obsession for first class flights.
Wesner lamented that it is unfortunate for a government official seeking international assistance for development and yet its officials are engaged into wasteful spending.
Right to Upgrade
The Ministry of Finance has been reacting since the FPA’s brought the minister’s luxurious flight to public glare. Deputy Minister of Fiscal Affairs Samora P. Z. Wolokolie told OK FM Thursday morning that any official of government has the right to upgrade from their approved class on a flight to a higher one, but at their own expense.
Wolokolie: “The Minister of Finance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the President, the Vice President, the Speaker, the Pro-Temp, the Chief Justice and justices of the Supreme Court are basically entitled to business class, according to the travel ordinance.
“If you upgrade from a business class or something higher than the business class, the differential as a result of the upgrade is something that would be bored by yourself…
“Assuming that the minister of finance upgraded from business class to a class bigger than business class – call it first class, call it premium class, the differential in that cost would be paid by him.”
A subsequent press release issued by the Ministry said the Minister violated no clause of the Revised Travel Ordinance of 2016/2017.
According to the Ministry’s Release, the purchase of the Minister’s ticket to Beijing, China was in accordance with the Government of Liberia Revised Travel Ordinance of 2016/2017 which changed the traveling class of the Minister of Finance and Development Planning as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs from economy to business class.
The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning in its release has also clarified that officials or employees of government traveling on official government business abroad are free at their own will and expense to upgrade their ticket with absolutely no financial burden to government.
Failed Attempt to Debunk FPA
The Finance Ministry in its release denied knowledge of the Minister’s first-class ticket purchased in Accra as reported by FrontPageAfrica, noting that Mr. Tweah’s air ticket was purchased from JOS Travel in Monrovia.
However, unlike FrontPageAfrica, the Ministry failed to provide evidence of receipt or the ticket purchased from JOS Travel and Tour.
FPA has attained additional evidence of Min. Tweah’s upgraded ticket which would fly him from Beijing to Dubai on Emirates Airbus 380 first class on September 8.
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