There can be no doubt that search engines are not just a commercial tool any more. It became the optimal starting point for any information research, especially in countries with no freedom of speech and an entirely corrupted media, search engines would be the last reliable resort of finding trustworthy information.
In the business world, tactics have focused on optimising “the right pages” in order to outrank the pages with harmful information (think about brand search queries where “Company X is a scam” is on the first page of results). This is already so common that arguing about the ethics is useless. When millions of dollars are spent on building the brand equity, any method becomes ethical by default. A few thousand dollars for an SEO company is a very cost effective method considering the potential harm bad reviews can cause the company’s bottom line.
However, when a government company is offering taxpayer’s money in order to hide their own mistakes it’s definitely over the top.