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OUR VIEW: Here's one good thing to come from Benda investigations

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Richard Benda, the former secretary of tourism and state development, committed suicide in October in rural Lake Andes.

Soon afterward, it was reported that he was caught up in a couple of investigations. One examined his conduct while he worked for the state, and the other, which is still ongoing, examined a federal investor-immigration program that he worked closely with at a beef plant in Aberdeen.

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Because Benda took his own life, there are some questions about his activities that will never be answered. But the state investigation did divulge a number of things. Benda, for example, double-billed the state for airfare reimbursements when he flew to China and Las Vegas.

Back in December, a state official told us that Benda routinely saved travel receipts for months at a time and then submitted them all on a single voucher. Those lengthy vouchers may have made it more difficult for state financial officials to catch the double-billings.

Tuesday, the Legislature's Rule Review Committee authorized State Auditor Steve Barnett to set a 60-day window for state government employees to submit travel vouchers for payment.

It's a smart move and one that should have been made long ago. If state government officials wait months to turn in travel vouchers, they're being sloppy with the public's money and are creating situations in which mistakes are more likely. It's a practice that wouldn't be allowed in many businesses in the private sector.

The new policy is a relatively minor change, but at least it's one lesson from the Benda saga that our state leaders learned from and acted on.

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