Some District workers appeared to be taking a passionate interest in their work recently--all too passionate for the D.C. government, which was footing their long-distance phone bills.

Officials at the D.C. social services commission became concerned when they found thousands of dollars of unauthorized long-distance calls being made each month, resulting in overspending of telephone budgets throughout the commission.

Then they discovered the lure at the other end of the line: a recorded obscene message at a telephone number in New York City which had turned into a frequent favorite of commission workers.

"A number of the unauthorized calls were going to a pornographic number in New York . . . featuring explicit sounds and details," social services Commissioner Audrey Rowe said yesterday.

When the discovery was made, Rowe shot off a blunt memo to administrators and office heads telling them, in effect, that errant employes would have to hang up for good. Those violating the long-distance policy would be found and possibly fired, she warned.

"We're doing an investigation right now," Rowe said yesterday. But she said this has proved difficult in some cases because the long-distance call often is charged only to a general number in a program area rather than to a particular individual's line.

Rowe said she considered calling the New York number herself to find out what was of such appeal to commission employes but thought better of it.