The District of Columbia continued to have the highest rate of error in family welfare payments in the country during the last six months of 1976, according to a report released yesterday by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

The report said that 23.2 per cent of the recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children were overpaid and that 15.3 per cent of the recipients were not eligible for aid at all. A similar report released last December by HEW for the first six months of 1976 disclosed that the city's overall rate of erroneous payments was 23.3 per cent, also the highest in the country.

Albert Russo, director of the Department of Human Resources, which administers the welfare program, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But last December, he attributed the error rate to limited personnel. He said then that efforts to reduce errors have increased despite the fact that more welfare workers were needed to examine applications and certify people as being eligible.

HEW has said that welfare agencies and social workers make about 51 per cent of the payment errors in the program nationally, and that recipients make the rest, either by not understanding regulations or cheating.

But the latest HEW report indicated that although the government has reduced bureaucratic mistakes, nearly one in four welfare families still are ineligible or improperly paid.

During the second half of 1976, money spent erroneously in the $10 billion-a-year program fell to $423.4 million compared to $457.5 million in the first half of the year.

The federal government pays for about 55 per cent of the AFDC program, with states making up the difference.

The HEW report said that a three-year effort by federal and state governments has resulted in a 48.5 per cent cut in payment errors and $1.4 billion in savings.