In its first five years, the Reagan administration augmented the White House staff with 349 employes on "detail" from Cabinet departments, and in many cases it did not reimburse the parent department as required by law, according to a General Accounting Office report.

"They have been stripping all these agencies" of employes to staff the White House," said Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) "and nobody dares raise a peep about it."

"This is a civilian version of how, if they don't like the law, they find gimmicky ways to get around it," Rep. Fortney H. (Pete) Stark (D-Calif.) said.

"The administration claims to be doing more for less," said Rep. Gerry Sikorski (D-Minn.) "but in reality they have increased staff with a kind of contempt for both the law and Congress."

A White House spokesman said the administration would have no comment until it had read the report, which will be released Thursday.

Many of those detailed are political appointees, hired at the direction of the White House, who never set foot in the departments that hire them, according to the GAO.

One woman who started out working in the White House correspondence unit was paid by the Department of Agriculture in 1983, by the Department of Justice in 1984, moved to the Justice Department with Attorney General Edwin Meese III in 1985 and returned to the White House three months later on the Department of Energy payroll, according to the GAO.

A current associate director of the White House Office of Personnel has been carried on the Interior Department's payroll since February 1981. She has been promoted 5 grades, in part, for her knowledge of the political situations in Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands and the Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands, according to the GAO. In fact, "She performed no duties at Interior," GAO said. The report did not name the woman. Neither the White House nor the Interior Department would comment.

The use of detailees to augment the White House staff is a longstanding practice. The Johnson White House once had as many aides on detail as on the formal White House payroll. Even after President Richard M. Nixon vowed to end the subterfuge, scattered workers remained on detail, according to Bradley H. Patterson Jr., a senior staff member at the Brookings Institution who is writing a personal account of White House staffs. Patterson was on detail for five years from the Presidential Advisory Commission on the Office of Economic Opportunity.

Reagan's 349 detailees worked for periods ranging from a few weeks to the full five years of the study. On average, 56 departmental employes were working at the White House at any one time. And detailees from the Defense Department were not included because the study did not survey the biggest of the Cabinet agencies because of the complexity of Pentagon records as well as time constraints.

As a result, the nation's most famous detailee, Lt. Col. Oliver L. North -- the fired National Security Council aide who directed the Iran-contra operation -- did not turn up on the list.

Since 1978, Congress has required that the number of detailees be reported annually and that the "lending" agencies be reimbursed for salaries of persons on detail at the White House for more than six months or 180 days.

Employes were detailed from all 12 Cabinet departments surveyed, according to the report, but only the State Department routinely billed the White House for its employes working there. The White House told Congress in annual reports that it had reimbursed agencies $1.5 million for detailees, but, in fact, $661,013 was paid, according to GAO.

" 'You don't bill the boss,' " a Commerce Department personnel official told GAO.

"{The Department of} Energy often received telephone calls from the White House saying 'pick up this person by Friday; it's their 179th day,' " according to the report.

Officials at the White House interpret the law to mean that when a detailee changes agencies, a new six-month period begins in which the White House does not have to reimburse, the report said.

The secretary of housing and urban development approved a "hiring freeze exception" in 1982 for a 30-day emergency appointment "to be detailed concurrently to the Office of Presidential Personnel."

Later, HUD approved a "waiver" of regulations to promote another person on detail to the White House from a GS-9 to a GS-10.

In 1985, the White House requested that the Agriculture Department detail a specific individual to the White House as deputy assistant for advance administration in the Office of the Vice President. "The detailee was given a Schedule C GS-13 appointment as confidential assistant to the administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service, but performed no duties for agriculture," GAO said.

Administration officials told the GAO that many of the unreported detailees were assigned to the Office of Presidential Personnel.

White House officials said the functions of the presidential personnel office "were traditionally performed by the agencies concerned but were centralized in the White House by the current administration. They stated that because of this, the employes were furthering the mission of their agencies and thus not subject to the reporting and reimbursement requirements," the report said.