The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday censured First Variable Rate Fund for Government Income Inc., Washington's biggest money-market fund, for lax accounting procedures that enabled an employe to embezzle $1.55 million last year.

The SEC publicly reprimanded Government Securities Management Company Inc,. the money fund's manager, for maintaining inadequate controls over its internal bookkeeping between March 1, 1981, and June 5, 1981.

Last summer, First Variable officials discovered that $1.55 million had been transferred from the money fund to the account of Andre L. Prestes at Virginia National Bank.

Prestes was the boyfriend of Vera Lucia Campos, a clerk in the shareholder accounting department of the fund, who quit her job after the transfer was completed and before it was discovered.

Prestes withdrew $50,000 and transferred the remainder to a Swiss bank. First Variable officials were able to freeze the funds in the Swiss bank, and the $1.5 million, plus interest, was returned, according to Wayne Bardsley, general counsel for First Variable.

Campos and Prestes were indicted by a federal grand jury last December, but by that time the two had fled to their native Brazil.

The SEC action requires First Variable's accounting procedures to be scrutinized by independent auditors through 1983. First Variable's assets are currently $1.464 billion.