MEMBERS OF the British taskforce for the reconstruction of war ravaged Kosovo have accused the Department for International Development of dragging its heels in funding vital infrastructure repair work.
The taskforce had a frosty meeting with the DfID on Tuesday to discuss sending a team of 15 engineers to Kosovo. It had hoped to carry out more detailed assessments of damage to water and power systems this week and to start emergency repairs soon after that (NCE last week).
But DfID officials refused to release funds for the visit until they had drawn up their own terms of reference. This move means civilian engineers are unlikely to get on the ground for another two weeks - a total of six weeks after the conflict ended.
A source close to the taskforce said that DfID's attitude was causing 'considerable frustration' to the private sector and the Department of Trade & Industry.
'The DfID is displaying all the old tendencies of not really caring about British business. Britain is in danger of dragging its heels again,' he said.
Taskforce chairman and deputy chairman of Ove Arup Nigel Thompson warned that with 85% of the Kosovar refugees back in the country, damaged water and power systems could collapse at any time. He added: 'We were hoping to get people into Kosovo slightly earlier but we haven't got agreement with the DfID yet.'
A DfID spokeswoman said: 'There is no question that we are dragging our heels - we are moving very rapidly but we need a few days to ensure that whatever we do is sustainable and effective on the ground.'