State Auditor Suzanne Bump is calling for the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to do a better job of informing the pregnant women and families living in its state-allocated emergency housing of sex offenders living near them, according to an audit published Wednesday.

“They certainly need to change their policies and practices relative to identifying sex offenders who are living in and around the places where they are putting families, who are in, [in] many cases, desperate situations because they are homeless,” Bump said in a phone interview with WGBH News.

Bump’s office audited the DHCD's Emergency Assistance (EA) program, which provides emergency housing to pregnant women and families experiencing homelessness and helps them find stable, permanent housing. The audit examined the period of July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2018.

Bump told WGBH News that her office found "there were deficiencies in several areas," including a lack of "good oversight of the inspection of these facilities ... [or] good oversight of case management services."

"I think that the most compelling deficiency that we found has to do with the failure of the agency to properly screen the areas where they are placing pregnant women and families to protect them against the presence of registered sex offenders," Bump said.

A DHCD spokesperson said in a statement to WGBH News that the department “respectfully disagrees with the broad conclusion” the audit draws of mismanagement, “and believes the report’s findings do not accurately reflect the services the department provides to the thousands of families who are served by the program in Massachusetts.”

Bump said that a central concern was that some families are "placed temporarily in apartments in multi-family dwellings, and sometimes there are sex offenders who are already living there," yet she said families are not always notified of the sex offenders living there.

“Our point is that the agency ought to be screening and informing the families they're placing in these circumstances that there is a registered sex offender living nearby," she said.

In a response published in the audit, the DHCD acknowledged an incident occurred where a parent alleged that his son had been molested by a registered sex offender while living in DHCD housing. According to the DHCD, the alleged offender was not living in the same building as the victim at the time and — though he was registered as a level two sex offender — was not listed on the state’s online database.

According to Massachusetts law, the state’s sex offender registry isn’t legally obligated to publish information about level two sex offenders online if they were classified with that status prior to July 2013. The alleged offender in that incident fell into that category, according to a DHCD spokesperson.

A DHCD spokesperson said the department is taking action to address Bump’s recommendations, and has issued an updated policy relating to sex offender registry data and placement policies, including requiring households to disclose level two or three sex offender status on their EA application and submitting requests for that data from the state.

“As recommended by the State Auditor in the draft report, DHCD is in the process of reviewing its policies and practices regarding matters such as when and how the agency should obtain information from the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB); the limitations on what information is available; and what should be done with that information to appropriately manage risk to the safety of EA participants,” the response reads. “DHCD intends to meet with relevant public safety stakeholders, including representatives of SORB, to help inform its policy development.”

The report also claims that the department failed to monitor the physical conditions of its shelters or case management services for EA program participants.

The DHCD’s published response describes that claim as “inaccurate on its face.”

“DHCD does not agree with the Auditor's conclusion that the Department does not properly administer its Emergency Housing Assistance program,” the response reads. “Following visits to 60 shelters to observe their upkeep, the auditors found that 56 were in good condition and only four were dirty, cluttered or in need of repair.”

In response, Bump said the overall lack of a “uniform system for keeping track of inspections” was the main concern. “There have been duplicate inspections of facilities already inspected, and others have gone uninspected for longer periods of time than their policies require,” she said. “It is more of an internal control deficiency than a matter of subjecting people actually to unsafe conditions.”

“I do recognize that many agencies struggle with a lack of resources,” Bump said, “and I think that really that's part of the problem here — that there aren't sufficient people devoted to oversight. … But clearly when it comes to physical safety, they're protecting people from harm by other people. That's the most glaring deficiency.”