A five-month research project that cost at least $50,000 has concluded that the District of Columbia's Department of Human Resources is organizationally sound but has managerial problems.

The findings of Mayor Walter E. Washington's task force on DHR management and organization are similar to conclusions reached earlier in numerous studies. In fact, the panel based its determination partly on 17 such previous documents.

Established with great last January, the panel is concluding its work in a two-day discussion of the subject this week at Harvard University. The panel is headed by Philip J. Rutledge, who helped design and first directed DHR in the early 1970s.

The mayor, acting DHR director Albert P. Russo, City Council member Polly Shackleton and other city government representatives were in Cambridge, Mass., yesterday when the report was made available here.

Release of the findings was timed to coincide with the program at Harvard, where Rutledge icorporated the project into this studies as a fellow at Harvard's Institute of Politics.

After determining that management and organization problems are difficult "if not impossible" to separate, the panel conclude that management is the primary cause of DHR's deficiencies and that the organization should be altered "only under the most compelling circumstances."

The mayor organized his task force after City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker vowed last December to undertake a reorganization of DHR. The mayor will base his recommendations for improving DHR on his panel's findings. The Council, with the mayor's proposals, is to determine the agency's future shape.

The mayor, in a prepared statement on the report, said yesterday that he would "immediately carry out" one of the panel's recommendations: appointment of an executive deputy director for management in DHR on a short-term basis.

such a director would be responsible for improving performance and management of employees, setting up a training program and developing an internal inspection system.

Among managerial problems identified in the report were:

Lack of coordination among the DHR's five program administrations - narcotics treatment, mental health, community health and hospitals, payments assistance and social rehabilitation.

Centralization of personnel, information, reporting and other responsibilities in DHR's executive division where resources to perform those functions often are lacking.

Fragmentation and duplication of effort within the department. For example, mental health and narcotics treatment administrations both provide drug treatment.

That health activities are "unnecessarily splintered" with little relationship between planning, licensing, rate setting and cost containment in the area.

The task force said one problem affecting DHR is that the District of Columbia behaves more like a city than a state, while the city government actually has responsibilities comparable to both.

The panelists said they found that most of the city's problems are evident in other cities and states to some extent. The city government is especially troubled, however, by the close scrutiny of Congress and because the District, as the nation's capital, is constantly in a spotlight.

DHR has an acute problem in communications, the study's found. It was recommended that the agency improve its relationships with nongovernment private and public agencies. In addition, it was noted, managers within DHR have been denied the chance to communicate their program needs, because of the restraints on the budget.

In addition to the considering the 17 older reports, the panel also undertook numerous interviews with DHR officials, private agency representatives, community groups, physicians, and others.

One-third of the research, valued at an estimated $300,000, was donated by the Howard University school of social work. Students and faculty interviewed 300 middle-level employees to determine their attitude about DHR.

Rutledge, who earlier had estimated that the travel expenses, staff salaries and consultants' fees for the project would cost $85,000, yesterday amended that figure to about $50,000.

The panel devoted a "disproportionate" amount of time to reviewing health and health-related programs, the report said, because of strong feelings by some members that that area should be removed from DHR and because the City Council has legislated removal of D.C. General Hospital from DHR's control.

A majority of the panelists agreed that health program should remain in the agency, but several dissenting opinions from the minority were included in the report.

"There is evidence that no attempt has been made to coordinate even the various levels of health care," wrote James G. Haughton, executive director of health and hospitals in Cook County, Ill. If health remains within the agency, there is no guarantee the programs will be better operated, Haughton said.