Beginning in May the nation's top bureaucrats, politicians, federal judges and generals must be prepared to stand a financial inspection by anybody whoe wants to conduct one.

The first of the tough, detailed financial disclosure statements from more than 15,000 senior civilian and military brass must be filed with agencies no later than Many 15. They will list, in some detail, outside income, gifts, property transactions and other financial matters for the 1978 year.

Waiting in the wings are members of the press, public and probably some interested subordinates who believee one can tell a lot about an oficial by the sources and amounts of outside income, and how much and to whom they owe money.

Practically everybody in government in a senior level position (Grade 16 or equivalent) at the civilian salary range of $44,756 or more, will be required to fill our a forme for 1978. This time next year they will have to do the same thing for the 1979 year. And make additions, corrections and changes whenever necessary.

Military personnel at the 0-7 level (that is a one-star general in the Army or Air Force) or equivalent also will be required to report nonfederal income sources, and who gave them substantial gifts. This will also include such things as free trips, vacations or other nonmonetary items with their approximate financial value.

The good news for clean govenrment freaks is thar the Congress, which often seems avove the laws it lays on the rest of us, will be included in the new financial disclosure filings. The not so good news is tha t Congress will police itself, a system that in past has not always worked 100 percent.

With certain exceptions (usually based on dollar minimums) the federal, military and political officals must list:

Income and honoraria worth $100 or more from any source in one year.

Gifts of transportation, food, lodging or entertainment from any source which amount to $250 within a year.

Any sort of reimbursement aggregating $250 or more in a year from a single source.

Certain property interests.

Debts, charge ackcounts or credit card accounts which exceed $10,000.

Sale, purchase or exchange of property.

Positions held outside government such as partner, board member or the like with firms corporations, nonprofit groups, labor unions or anybody other than Uncle Sam.

Compensation from any souce exceeding $5,000.

Income in excess of $100 to a spouse or children from capital gains, dividends, rents or interest in some cases.

Certain gifts to a husband or wife and, in some instances, figts given to minor children by nonfamily members.

Income from certain trusts.

An Office of Government Ethics has been set up to police the financial disclosures. It will decide whether any items appear to be improper or incomplete, and monitor the program. Civil penalties ranging from fines of $1,000 to $5,000 may be assessed (after court action) for violations. The office will be housed within the Office of Personel Mangement, formerly the Civil Service Commission.

The White House has picked Bernhardt K. Wruble, Currently Army's principal general councsel, to head the new office temporarily. Hehs 36 years old and will get $47,500.

Senior federal and military personnel will discover that government service has another price. Members of the public can see most of the data from most workers (exceptions are for people involved in intelligence work), and for a fee may fee may have copies of any or all doucments.

Guidelines will be issued shorty to tell covered personnel what they must report, and how it is to be done. In the case to the civilan side of government it is estimated that 85 percent of those covered live and work in the metropolitan Washington area. So in addition to income tax hassles coming up in the next few months, senior bureaucrats will themselves have an even more painful chore.