The DEH said on Tuesday (4 November) that the initiative to get prisoners helping with garbage collection is yet to be fully signed off. This, in spite of the Health Minister's announcement to the Legislative Assembly that the prisoners would be starting as soon as last week. On 16 November, in the LA, Hon. Dwayne Seymour said he wanted to ensure prisoners "are rehabilitated and ready for work when they come back out... so that will start within the next week." The DEH Acting Assistant Director (solid waste) Mark Bothwell reiterated his department's commitment to the initiative, which has widely received praise from the Cayman community. The scheme would effectively kill two birds with one stone: counteracting absenteeism issues at the department and helping rehabilitate low risk offenders. "We're trying to find ways to help the community and get the garbage collected... and also help those guys who are going to be reintroduced into society," Mr. Bothwell reiterated. But Acting Department Director Richard Simms said it was further off than the Health Minister had indicated. "I don't have any definitive date as to if and when that's going to start," Mr. Simms admitted. He added: "as a matter of fact, we're still in the discussion stage about that." In fact, Mr. Simms revealed no agreement had been signed on the collaboration: "It's still up in the air as to if it's going to happen... but when? I just cant say at this point, because we're still going through a lot of discussion," he said. He acknowledged they had not "signed the official MOU just yet." But the acting chiefs say other issues like delays to collection caused by chronic absenteeism have been addressed. "We have really dealt with those persons who were having problems with. We're getting better. By virtue that we're on time and on schedule for the last week shows we have addressed those issues and we're getting better," the Acting Director promised. He also stressed the overtime overspending at the department was in the past, stating: "we are well within budget and well within our spending." He said the community will see for themselves that the proof is in the pudding. "Once you see a clean street, you know DEH is doing its work," Mr. Simms stated. Both Mr. Simms and Mr. Bothwell are still working in an acting capacity at the DEH. They said their contracts run until the end of this month, bu there is no confirmation yet as to whether their secondments will be extended.