Mayor-elect Marion Barry said yesterday that the District of Columbia government is in far worse administrative condition than he had believed, based on the findings of 15 transition task forces that have submitted interim reports to him.

Speaking at a District Building press conference packed by dozens of Barry supporters and transition workers, Barry painted a bleak -- but not unfamiliar -- portrait of the bureaucracy he will take over Jan. 2.

Employe morale was sagging, administrative direction is lacking, vigorous affirmative action is nonexistent and "the District of Columbia has been sued in almost every area. We're almost operating by court decree," Barry said.

"I thought I knew what were some of the problems," said Barry, who has been a member of the City Council for four years. "But... you find out that you really don't know what you thought."

Many of the more than six dozen problem areas and points for immediate action during the first weeks of the new administration were familiar themes from this year's mayoralty campaign. They included vacancies on many city boards and commissions, a high infant mortality rate in the District and the need for the city government to make more efficient use of its financial and human resources.

But Barry, who has barred reporters from task force meetings and a transition briefing he held Sunday with the City Council, called the press conference to make good on a commitment he had made to present an interim report on the transition.

"Some government officials, campaign workers, members of the press and others expressed doubt that such an important and far-ranging mission could be accomplished in such a short time." Barry said. "Well, today I can tell you the Barry army is still on the march and we've emerged victorious again."

Barry did not announce the names of any appointees to the new government but did say that a talent search has begun. To the delight of some supporters, he criticized as "speculation" reports in the news media listing likely appointments.

"To quote Malcolm X on his response to the press in a comparable situation once, 'Those who know won't say and those who say, don't know,'" Barry said.

While not denying that some workers from his campaign might go into the administration, Barry said those selected would be "competent and compassionate. (The) implications should never be made," he said, "that those who worked in the campaign and were appointed were appointed for political reasons."

Barry said, however, that he was every seriously" considering creating a special action council to respond to citizen complaints and a citizens public housing task force to work on the problems of restoring boarded-up houses to the market. He said such a task force might begin its work in Southeast Washington.

At yesterday's press conference, Barry continued the more conciliatory tone he has adopted since winning the Nov. 7 general election. He denied ever using the term "hit list" to refer to a listing of allegedly incompetent department heads that he would fire after taking office.

"I've never used that term. That's the press's term," he said. "I would appreciate that not be being used."