The Army overcharged its personnel for temporary lodging and diverted the money to projects like the renovation of a VIP house and two custom throw rugs costing $3,600, congressional investigators say.

The General Accounting Office, in reviewing the daily fees assessed to soldiers staying at special housing during training, found that from 1985 to 1989, two Army commands amassed more than $70 million from inflated charges assessed against the per diem allowance given soldiers.The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, estimated that the amount could rise to more than $100 million after calculating figures for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

"Some Army installations have overcharged soldiers for transient lodgings and . . . used the proceeds to subsidize Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities - officers' clubs, golf courses, arts and crafts facilities and lodging for visitors," the GAO said in a report released last week.

The agency blamed the problems on the absence of effective controls and inadequate management attention.

In one instance, the Army used the additional money to renovate a house for VIPs. Among the costs were about $144,000 for custom furnishings, drapes and carpets, including two throw rugs that totaled $3,600.