Assistant U.S. Secretary of Labor Ernest G. Green told a congressional subcommittee yesterday that the city's summer jobs for youth program is "considerably improved" this year over last, and noted that the city had taken several steps to make this year's program a success.

Green, in defending the $10-billion-a-year national Comprehensive Training and Employment Act (CETA) program he heads, noted that the District had quickly removed the head of its summer jobs program following a "poor performance," and had solved payroll processing problems that plagued the program earlier this summer.

The city's summer jobs program has been the target of a number of complaints, including poor supervision at work sites, work sites unfit for trustees, and pay checks not arriving on time. Last week the city's labor chief, William R. Ford, replaced the program director with orders from Mayor Marion Barry to upgrade the program.

Green said yesterday a federal monitoring report of the first 30 days of the program showed that it was progressing to the point that it should be much improved over last year.

His comments came in response to a question from Rep. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) as to why the city received $100,000 more in CETA funds for this year's program when last year's effort was rated the worst of any in 11 major cities studied by the U.S. Labor Department.

Snowe and others on the House manpower and housing subcommittee called Green as part of an inquiry into the Labor Department's ability to account for CETA money.

At a hearing in May, subcommittee members cited numerous reports of alleged misuse of CETA funds by private subcontractors, including rented limousines and "Happy Hour Training" charged to a D.C. program, and a wedding party aboard the Queen Mary for an official of a California firm.

The CETA program is the government's main effort to provide employment and job training for low-income unemployed persons.

Green refused to concede to the subcommittee that his department's monitoring efforts were less than adequate.

"We do not agree with characterizations of the program as being rife with fraud, abuse and mismanagement, although there are instances where each of these has occurred," Green said. "In the vast majority of jurisdictions, CETA programs have been run honestly and efficiently."

Many subcommittee members expressed doubt. Rep. Caldwell M. Butler (R-Va.) questioned $1.6 million in contracts that Green has awarded to the National Institute of Public Management, a District of Columbia firm headed by Philip Rutledge, a former U.S. Labor Department official and the first director of the D.C. Department of Human Resources.

Butler noted that NIPM had been given CETA money for international research projects, and questioned the revelevance of such products as papers on the "Brain Drain Between Developed and Developing Countries," and the "Manpower Components of Ghana's Five-Year Plan," as well as trips to Mexico and South America for conferences and research.

Butler said Labor Department officials contended that the program was of little use to the CETA program, and asked green how it could continue to be funded year after year.

Green said NIPM had performed valuable work in keeping him informed of international developements in the manpower field. He said he was not aware of any critical evaluations of the firm by members of the department.

Chairwoman Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.) said she was not satisfied with some of Green's answers and asked for more detailed information to be submitted in writing concerning his efforts to account for CETA money.