Auditor general flags Royal Military College for costs, cadet behaviour - 660 NEWS
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Auditor general flags Royal Military College for costs, cadet behaviour

Last Updated Nov 21, 2017 at 3:40 pm MST

Auditor General Michael Ferguson holds a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, regarding his 2017 Fall Report. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – The Royal Military College of Canada has taken another blow to its reputation, this time from the federal auditor general, who is flagging problems with the school’s costs and the behaviour of its senior cadets.

The prestigious university’s primary purpose is to groom and educate the military’s next generation of leaders, which it has been doing in Kingston, Ont., for the last 140 years.

But in a report released Tuesday, auditor general Michael Ferguson said it costs almost twice as much to educate and train aspiring officers at the college as it does to send them through a civilian university.

The federal government spent approximately $400,000 to put a cadet through a four-year degree at the college, compared with approximately $240,000 at a civilian university.

Defence officials have said the higher costs reflect the unique nature of the military college, but Ferguson found that there was no noticeable difference between officers trained there or elsewhere.

“Once these officer cadets graduate from the Royal Military College and they enter the regular armed forces, there’s no difference between them and officers coming in from any other recruitment program,” he said.

The Canadian Armed Forces have been grappling with a shortage of personnel and the auditor general’s report suggested reducing costs at the school could free up resources for other recruitment.

Ferguson also raised concerns about senior cadets, who are expected to serve as role models and leaders for their more junior counterparts, but who were found to often abuse their authority.

Senior cadets were more likely to be the subject of disciplinary or criminal investigations, as well as academic misconduct such as cheating and plagiarism and were responsible for at least two other cadets being hurt.

Defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance promised Tuesday to re-double efforts fix the college, even as he defended the progress that has been made since a special review by eight current and former officers earlier this year.

That review, which Vance ordered after three suspected suicides and several allegations of sexual misconduct at the college, found in March that the school had suffered from years of neglect at the military’s highest levels.

Vance subsequently put the college and two other military schools directly under his direct command, while promising to invest more money and better people into the colleges.

“When I received the (special review) earlier this year, I ordered immediate changes to this critical institution,” he said in a statement.

“I am pleased that many of those recommendations, which are consistent with the auditor general’s report, have already been implemented or are in the process of being implemented.”

While some might see the findings as a reason to close the school after years of negative headlines, Ferguson instead urged officials to make it more efficient and ensure it is producing the best officers possible.

“In our opinion, the academic environment at the college does not consistently support the teaching of military conduct and ethical behaviour,” he said.

“The college must re-establish its focus as a military training institution so that it can produce the leaders the Canadian Armed Forces require.”

For his part, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan promised to monitor Vance’s efforts to clean up and modernize the school even as he emphasized its importance to the military and Canada.

“As the only federal, bilingual and military-focused university in our country, the Royal Military College is a premier national institution,” Sajjan said outside the House of Commons.

“It has educated some of our finest citizens and produced many of our most senior military leaders, and it must continue to do so.”

— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.