Purchasing abuses by the D.C. schools have worsened since 1984 when federal audits found most supplies were bought without bids at high prices, according to an audit by the General Accounting Office made public yesterday.

The audit also found that the University of the District of Columbia has failed to discipline employes who make unauthorized purchases. Although university officials began circulating a monthly list of unauthorized purchases last fall, the GAO found the university had not decided how to begin disciplinary procedures against employes who make them.

Federal investigators discovered that 23 percent of UDC purchases last year -- 1,380 orders -- did not go through the university's procurement office. In 4 percent of purchases -- 223 orders -- the university couldn't supply any information showing if the items were ordered, paid for or received.

"UDC procurement offficials could not explain why other UDC officials continue to circumvent" purchasing rules, the audit said.

Despite the auditors' finding of widespread purchasing violations at the District university, the situation was an improvement from 1982, when 65 percent of the university's purchases were made by unauthorized employes. University officials agreed with the current audit findings and said they will make improvements.

But earlier GAO recommendations appear to have made little improvement in the D.C. public school system.

GAO auditors received a variety of figures from school officials on the number of purchases made on the open market without bids last year and officials could not agree which one was accurate. However, all exceeded the number of open market purchases made in 1983, when the GAO initially criticized the practice as expensive and wasteful.

The lastest audit does not place a dollar figure on how wasteful the purchases are. The GAO report said, however, that a comparison of what the schools paid for certain supplies and what other government agencies paid showed that the schools paid much higher prices.

The no-bid, open market purchases are supposed to be reserved for emergencies, but an examination of 290 of such purchase orders last July found that 220, or 76 percent, were not for emergencies.

"Open market purchases also occurred for common use items which could have been purchased competitively with better planning," the audit found.

In July 1983, school officials said they planned to create a warehouse to reduce the school system's reliance on last-minute purchases, but GAO auditors found it wasn't opened for more than two years. The warehouse also is not being used to store large quantities of commonly used items, auditors found.

The school system is testing a new automated inventory system, the GAO found, but only one school has been covered so far. A property and equipment inventory is being conducted at all school buildings, but only 9 of the 114 principals and division heads required to submit an inventory by last month have done so.

School employes are using charge accounts, or "blanket purchase agreements" to simplify purchasing, but GAO auditors discovered during their research that this was causing less price competition and higher prices. School officials now require buyers to obtain three bids by telephone before making a purchase under a charge account.

School officials said they agreed with the new GAO findings and said a new deputy director had been appointed to improve purchasing and that the school superintendent will order principals to finish school inventories.

The recent audit is a follow-up to reviews of District buying practices requested by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the D.C. Appropriations subcommittee.