A high-ranking Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer has been named to oversee the General Services Administration's internal corruption probes.

Irwin M. Borowski, an associate director of the SEC's enforcement division, was responsible for uncovering payments by U.S. corporations to officials foreign governments. He succeeds Vincent R. Alto, a former Justice Department prosecutor who agreed last May to act as GSA's special counsel for up to six months.

GSA Administrator Jay Solomon said the selection of Borowski, which he announced yesterday, was in keeping with President Carter's instructions to obtain the best people available and to take "whatever steps are necessary" to deal with the GSA scandal.

So far, 20 GSA employes and contractors who repair federal buildings or sell office supplies to the agency have pleaded guilty and six have pleaded not guilty to charges of defrauding the government.

Borowski, 43, has handled many of the more sensitive SEC investigations involving foreign bribery, banks, public accounting firms, and mutual funds. He was described by SEC colleagues as a crack investigator with novel ideas for curtailing abuses.

Borowski was recommended for his post by SEC enforcement chief Stanley Sporkin.

"He's very imaginative," said Edward D. Herlihy, an assistant director of enforcement who works directly under Borowski. "He can come up with the most ingenious settlements to get money back to the people who were victimized.

"He's very persistent, very stubborn," another SEC colleague said. "He's a guy who looks under every stone."

Borowski will act as GSA's special counsel on assignment from the SEC, which has been lending its investigation expertise to other agencies that request it. His appointment will last at least six months.

Borowski automatically becomes a candidate to be selected as GSA's first inspector general, a post created by recently enacted legislation. The inspector general who will oversee both GSA's audit and investigate staffs, will be named by Carter with Senate approval.

Borowski, who has worked for the SEC for 13 years said yesterday, of his new post. "It looked to me like a tremendous challenge to see if government could be efficiently and honestly managed. I'd like to be able to finish the job when people could say the agency is clean."

The GSA scandal came to national attention under Alto, who testified last spring before the Senate Governmental Affairs federal spending sub-committee headed by Sen. Lavton Chiles (D-Fla.), that at least $66 million was being stolen by GSA employes each year.

Alto later characterized GSA's problems as the biggest money scandal in U.S history.

Alto chided the Justice Department for allegedly failing to pursue some GSA investigations aggressively enough, and some of his former colleagues at that department, while expressing respect for his prosecutorial abilities said they were surprised that he would talk openly about GSA investigations.

Alto, in turn, said he had come to realize the value of publicity in helping put an end to corrupt practices at GSA.

Alto described himself yesterday as "burnt out" by the constant pressures of tending to GSA investigations. In addition, he said, the new Justice Department task force formed to probe GSA corruption has insisted that investigations Alto started he turned over to it.

He said he had been hampered because he has not had the power to subpoena documents and witnesses - a power the new inspector general will have. "Without that, you can't prove bribes or kickbacks," he said.

"It's a good idea to have someone with a fresh look," Alto said. "He's got the maturity, the experience, he's worked for Sporkin, and he'll be able to get the allegiance of the people here."

Alto said he plans to open a law offfice in Washington early next year.