In a statement bristling with protestations of outrage, the District of Columbia's manpower director has challenged accusations by a key political figure that his agency has fallen down in its administration of federally funded job programs.

The accusations were made Monday by D.C. City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, an all-but-announced candidate for mayor next year. The response by Thomas A. Wilkins, director of the D.C. Department of Manpower, was released by Mayor Walter E. Washington, who is considering a run for re-election.

"Contrary to Mr. Tucker's allegations of inefficiency and ineffectiveness, the city is, in fact, doing a creditable job with its manpower programs," Wilkins wrote. "It is quite obvious, based on the facts . . . that the Department of Manpower is managing its programs in a responsible manner."

A third political figure, City Council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-eight), jumped into the crossfire yesterday on the side of the mayor.

Rolark, chairperson of the Council's committee on employment and economic development, complained at a news conference that Tucker was trespassing on her turf, and asked: "Is he trying to politicize the issue?"

It was not clear whether the exchange of accusations and denials gave the manpower programs another black eye, or merely added to confusion among city residents.

In his seven-page letter to the mayor, setting forth his charges, Tucker said the manpower agency was two months late in signing 1978 contracts with the 14 agencies it hires to train "hard-core" unemployed to fill jobs.

Wilkins declared in his 10-page response that the delay was due to a shift to a more efficient system for hiring the agencies.

Tucker said the program is falling at least 30 per cent below its own estimates in the number of participants it has placed in jobs, that is "unresponsive" to the economic need; costs are running high and the program of women.

Wilkins acknowledged that the District's training and job placement achievements under the federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), fell short of ambitious goals, but said they were 8 per cent better than the national average in 1976, the last full year for which figures are available.

In that year, Wilkins said, it cost the District of Columbia $5,767 to train and place each CETA participant in a job - a cost figure only one-half to one-third the costs in Baltimore, Phildelphia, Richmond and Pittsburgh.

Wilkins said - and Rolark, in her news conference, stressed - that the city has put high priority on training and placing women in jobs.

Of the total of 131,370 persons who were served by city employment and manpower agencies in the 1977 fiscal year (which ended Sept. 30), 70,433, or 54 per cent, were women, Wilkins said.

The high proportion of women in CETA programs is especially impressive, he noted, when it is realized that federal regulations require priority for military veterans, most of whom are men.