A review of the records from 60 clubs and bars found that most inspection reports are at least seven years old, WJAR said.
Rhode Island tightened its safety regulations after the fire at The Station, a nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., killed 100 people on Feb. 20, 2003. The fire was started by pyrotechnics incorporated into a performance by a rock group.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare acknowledged inspections in the city are years out of date and records are a mess. He said the department is switching to electronic records and plans to resume regular inspections this year.
Inspections have been conducting what are known as operational reviews, making surprise visits to open clubs to check for overcrowding. They also usually note fire code problems.
Mike St. Pierre, a lawyer representing many of the families affected by The Station fire, said the spot checks are no substitute for regular fire inspections.
"When they noted violations, which is what you're supposed to do, there was no follow-up," he said. "And if they're not doing their job, they're not protecting the public."