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State audit cites backlog in elevator inspections

More than one third of the registered elevators in Massachusetts — 14,211 in all — had expired inspection certificates in 2012, according to findings released by the office of state Auditor Suzanne M. Bump on Tuesday.

Bump’s office said in a statement that an audit of inspections statewide showed 25,250 elevators, or about 64 percent of the 39,461 registered, had valid certificates as of October 2012. More than 1,700 certificates had been expired for more than four years, auditors found.

“Uninspected elevators not only represent a safety risk to the public but also lost revenue to the Commonwealth,” Bump’s office said. The auditor said Massachusetts may have missed out on more than $3 million from inspection fees the state Department of Public Safety, which oversees the inspections, did not collect during that period.

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The Public Safety department disputed the findings, however, saying the compliance rate as of October 2012 was approximately 72 percent. The department also noted that elevator owners are responsible by law for renewing their certifications.

In addition, the department said it began sending notices in the spring of 2013 to alert elevator owners their inspection certificates would expire in 90 days. The agency also said it will launch an updated inspection system later this year.

Currently, the compliance rate for inspections has risen to more than 80 percent, based on monthly benchmark reports, said Terrel Harris, a spokesman for Public Safety.

But Bump on Tuesday urged continued vigilance.

“The Department of Public Safety is the public’s watchdog to ensure building owners are held accountable and elevators are safe,” she said. “To be accountable itself, the agency must raise itself to higher standards.”

The audit — which also reviewed the state’s oversight of amusement rides and ticket reseller operations — was made public months after a woman was seriously injured in May when she fell down an elevator shaft at Fenway Park after a Red Sox game. The elevator’s inspection certificate was valid at the time.

The team’s majority owner, John Henry, also owns The Boston Globe.

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Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen @globe.com.