Few federal agencies have taken steps to protect sensitive information stored in their computer banks and that has encouraged abuse, a new study by the General Accounting Office concludes.

Examples cited in the GAO study--released by the House Government Operations subcommittee on government information and individual rights--include:

* A Transportation Department clerk who used a computer to steal $800,000.

* A team of Internal Revenue Service employes who entered fictitious returns into a computer to collect tax refunds.

* Thirty employes at the Agriculture Department who obtained unauthorized access to agency computer banks, allowing them to sell confidential data, release information prematurely and, in one instance, use the data to perform outside consulting work.

The GAO study blames the Office of Management and Budget for "failing to take a leadership role" in implementing information security programs as mandated by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980. "Other than issuing circulars, OMB has not taken any further action. . . ," GAO says.

The study said most agencies give employes access to computer banks without adequate background checks; few agencies have contingency plans in case information in their automated systems is lost, changed or stolen; and few senior managers realize how vulnerable their information systems are.