Howard R. Davia was the chief auditor for the General Services Administration in the 1970s, one of the people responsible for ferreting out waste, fraud and abuse in that agency. What he found so angered top GSA officials then that he was reassigned from his job in the inspector general's office until the Reagan administration took over.

Now, after three quiet years as regional administrator in Chicago, Davia has launched an attack that veterans say recalls the old days. In a series of sharp letters to acting GSA administrator Ray Kline, Davia has charged that Kline is embarking on "one of the largest GSA fiascos to ever occur" by letting the agency spend millions of dollars at the end of fiscal 1984 for computer equipment that isn't needed.

Davia said he was concerned with "the premature, contagious, largely unrestrained and somewhat whimsical rush now in progress to automate GSA."

According to Davia, in his region alone $900,000 worth of new computers were ordered despite his "disapproval."

Jerald D. Fox, a senior aide to Kline, said that the equipment was needed and should have been in place sooner to help managers monitor activities. Kline has asked Frank Carr, assistant administrator of the Office of Information Resources Management, to head a task force that will look into Davia's allegations. Carr was one of the senior officials who agreed that the automation was necessary. TRIMMING CLINKSCALES' SAILS? . . .

One of Davia's cohorts in the GSA woodshed during the Carter years was William A. Clinkscales Jr., who had been the chief investigator in the IG's office. After President Reagan took office, Clinkscales was named head of a new Office of Oversight at GSA, then was promoted to associate administrator for the Office of Policy and Management Systems. In that role, Clinkscales used tough talk and a sarcastic style to focus attention on mismanagement.

Now, the Office of Management and Budget has apparently tired of hearing complaints from GSA program managers about Clinkscales' second-guessing. GSA budget chief William B. Early Jr. confirmed that the OMB's senior budget examiners are considering zeroing out Clinkscales' operation in fiscal 1986.

"They've expressed a concern on the overhead in the agency, concern that we have a lot of check and check and check on each other that seems to be somewhat duplicative," Early said. The GSA's former inspector general, Joseph A. Sickon, had charged that the Clinkscales unit interfered with or duplicated his office's work.

Since administrator Gerald P. Carmen left in February, Kline has relied on Clinkscales less, but Fox said the GSA still thinks the office should be funded. Clarence A. (Pete) Lee, Clinkscales' deputy, said the unit has saved "the federal government millions of dollars by keeping an eye on programs in a timely manner," a backhanded knock of the IG's office, which has released a number of reports that were criticized as out-of-date. COURTEMANCHE, CONTINUED . . .

Speculation continues as to whether Jack Courtemanche will become the GSA's next administrator. Courtemanche was nominated last March, but a pending civil suit in California made him reluctant to face an acrimonious confirmation hearing in the Senate. The trial, which was supposed to begin in November, has now been delayed until at least June, Courtemanche said.

"I don't think the administration will wait until it's resolved to get me into the job," Courtemanche said, adding that he expects his nomination to go up to Capitol Hill again in January or early February. "But I have no good guesses."

So far, Courtemanche and his staff of two, operating out of the Old Executive Office Building, have little to do but watch the machinations at the GSA and try to fill vacancies. Among those who have joined the agency recently with Courtemanche's blessing are Patrick McKelvey, director of public affairs; Joan Moreci, director of the executive secretariat, and Abbie Weist, an aide in the Office of Congressional Affairs.